This week, I told The Smalls, The News. I told them as best as I could (“Very soon, I won’t be living here any more, BUT you will still see me ALL THE TIME, and you can come and play round my house if you like, and I’ll still pick you up from school, and do your tea, and listen to you read, and do writing and dinosaurs and Doc McStuffins, and – Noah, it’s ok, there’s no need to cry, you’ll still SEE me, and I’ll still nag you to sort your stuff out, and tell you to pick up your toys! And I’ll still do French with you and stuff. Pardon Isaac? Yeah sure! Of COURSE there’s no need to cry, you get it, right? Sure you do. It’ll be fun! Yes, of COURSE you can bring Father Bear and your dinosaurs.”) and cried silently while Noah had a cuddle.
Because I have to be brave and strong for him, right?
I think, although the news sunk in immediately with Noah, he was pretty quick to understand that I’m not going far away. I’ve shown him houses I’ve been looking at online, ad have told him roughly where they are. He realises that I’m aiming to move, quite literally, up the road.
So…yeah. I’m moving out. And We have decided they will be registered as living with me. Originally, at the start of the week, they were to live here in their current home with The Mr.
And then I flipped my shit, because I realised that would pretty much make me feel like a nanny; pick them up from school, look after them until he returns, and then bugger off. Be their primary carer, without the title of primary carer. That didn’t sit well with me. So I had a minor rant, and verbalised with twitter a whole lot, and got some really fucking useful info. We can SHARE custody of The Smalls (I fucking hate the word “custody”, it feels taboo), and as long as it stays out of court (you bet your fucking ass it will stay out of court…) we can decide on shared custody in whatever way we please. I didn’t realise this before, though it makes me a lot happier now.
So, they will be living with me for the most part, though I guess they will do most nights in their current home.
I say that NOW, I have no idea how it will be once I’m out of this house.
SO THAT’S NICE.
I fucking hate being so goddamn lonely.
I think I was lonely all along, for aaaaaaages and ages, but deciding on separation kinda highlighted it. Which is pretty shit.
And then, loads of people are offering help and support (you really are fucking amazing, those of you who have offered or mentioned or whatever. Thank you). Which is lovely, but…I think because there’s SO MUCH going on, with a whole spectrum of family issues as well as Endings, I know I don’t yet feel there’s anyone I’m wholly comfortable with. I know that once I start talking, I probably won’t stop, and there’s just sooooooo so much built up.
So instead it comes out here. Into open posts, into photos, into private posts, onto twitter…it almost feels easier to spread the load, rather than try to talk to a small handful of people. I suppose it’s also weird because there are people whom I’m drawn to, to talk to, but can’t (for whatever reason). And then there are others so seemingly…desperate…maybe, to reach out. But I can’t let them near for whatever reason. The connections aren’t right, the vibes aren’t there, the words are wrong. It makes perfect sense to me.
In this last week, everything seems to be happening at a lightning speed, and yet I can’t get through this fast enough. Looking for somewhere to live, working out how I can support myself on practically minimum wage, wanting to get to the stage when crippling emotions finally start to lose their edge.
I’m that mom in the school playground, who hides in the corner not wanting to make eye contact, avoiding talking to people. The one you think is a stuck up asshole, too good to speak to others, but is in fact just trying to hold her shit together. Trying hard not burst into tears in the playground. Trying not to let others see her face because her eyes are puffy and horrible, and her face is already streaked with salt water tears.
I despise those moments, because they leave me exhausted, low, frustrated, angry – full of all the negatives. I won’t survive this if I’m full of negatives. I know there must be balance, I get that. But the scales are stupidly fucking tipped, and won’t stop wobbling.
I currently have no fear about where I’m going, or what I’m doing. I know it’s right, I know it’s meant to be. I’m ok with that. And I know that I haven’t got time to be afraid, because this is just the shit that I have to get on with. I’ve made my choices, including this bastarding path I’m on.
My feet hurt. I am tired. I’d like a Zimmer frame. I’m a fucking pussy, whining about shit all the time. Maybe I need a reality check. Maybe I need a break. Maybe I need to get royally shit-faced with friends and remember Life. Maybe I need someone to just stop, listen and hear me, genuinely.
Maybe I’ll just try to keep recharging, ready for the Next Shitty Thing.
My Granddad came back to the UK earlier this year. It was expected, but erm, still unexpected. So you know, that was a mindfuck to start with. And then he arrived, and I took The Smalls to see him. I was mildly freaked out by how much he had deteriorated. But at the same time, it really was ok, because I could start to say goodbye.
I’ve been doing that for aaaaaaaages. So it’s a whole lot easier now.
It’s not EASY, just easier.
I didn’t say anything, but he’s actually remained in the UK this whole time. He was meant to go back, but he got really ill. Like, hospitalised ill. Fits, seizures, pain, dementia – all the suff you would expect from someone who is 86.
86 MAN! WTF!
That’s like, nearly my current life, three times over.
And he’s not wasted his time, either. Dude has LIVED. He’s a bit epic, and has done all sorts of things for his (the) church and his (the) community, and a load more besides. He’s seen his kids, his grandkids and his great grandkids. He’s travelled a good deal of the world, and has spoken with many people in power. And he can belch like nothing I have EVER HEARD.
He’s been keen to get back to Jamaica, because he wants to tie up loose ends. I think he was hoping to clean up over there, then come back here for good. Here he has a better support unit, and of course, what’s left of the NHS (he previously spent most of his life in the UK, so has a good understanding of the system here). Personally, I thought that idea went down the pan the minute he was first sent to hospital. He’s gotten worse, and pretty bloody quick.
My mom called me up yesterday, Tuesday, in a blind panic. Granddad had another seizure, only this time he wasn’t responding, and when he finally did, it was WAY worse than before. I cried with her for a bit, then as she described what was happening, I felt an alarming numbness and paralysis, which REALLY threw me off kilter. Surely I should be in hysterics, like she was? Surely I should be freaking the hell out? My granddad is about to DIE, and there’s nothing I can do apart from sit back and await news, good or bad. Further news was that he was responding, VERY slowly, and that they wanted him fitted with a pacemaker to sort out the seizures.
A friend advised I get moving. Quite literally, get moving. Not necessarily go and visit, but I should sure as hell make myself mobile, as the longer I sat there the harder it was all going to become. I grabbed a notebook and pen, some useful personal effects, cleared my mind and got in the car. No idea where I was going, but thought I’d just go with it.
Ended up in a C of E church graveyard, in the middle of nowhere. At first I thought it was an odd choice, given I have no desire for religion at all. And then I realised Granddad had been a choirboy in a C of E church, and a strong adoration for the English countryside. Huh. I started writing, and realised I was trying to contact him, in a way I don’t care to explain right now. But it worked for me.
I have come to realise a number of things, which I previously hadn’t been able to explain. And now I can explain them there’s an even greater sense of calm.
You know how you have a pet, which has a great life, and is comfortable, and then gets Really And Incurably Ill in its last few years? And you do whatever you can to save it, including masses of treatments, drugs, and operations, feeding it special foods and making it as comfortable as possible, even though you know it’s in ridiculous pain? And you know that, if that pet had a chance, it would crawl under a rock/bed/cave/blanket and die peacefully and quietly? But because you love that pet so much, more than anything, you try to keep it alive as long as possible?
Well I feel like that’s where we’re at.
Only, I’m the only one who wants to let the pet go.
I’m the only one who senses the pain and discomfort, way more than I would feel the grief.
And it’s so hard…because while I know Granddad has a fight left in him, I wonder if – no. I actually think it would be better to let him go. As I type this post, he’s having surgery to have the pacemaker fitted. This makes me very uncomfortable, because I wonder whether his family have committed him to more years of unnecessary pain. The only advantage I see in him having this thing fitted, at the age of 86, with dementia, and degenerative muscle and bone complications, and arthritis, and God Only Knows what else, is that it may give him long enough to crawl under a rock/bed/cave/blanket and die peacefully and quietly.
Only this time, it’s the possibility that he may have JUST enough strength to fly back to Jamaica to pass away.
My truly adored Granny is buried there, and that’s where my Granddad belongs.
I cannot express how much I dislike him having the pacemaker fitted. I abhor the very idea. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t hate pacemakers, as I know that they have spared the lives of people who truly were not ready to go yet. But this circumstance, well it just doesn’t sit right with me. It doesn’t fill me with “the hope of him enjoying the rest of his life like a happy and comfortable person”. It feels like a selfish way of prolonging the inevitable.
I guess I could say that, as I’m only his granddaughter, it’s different from my point of view. He isn’t MY OWN dad. (For the record, if this were my own dad as I know him now, I would still feel the same. And I know that for a fact.) I know I can’t call any shots on this; I am not one of his children.
But it does feel wrong. It does feel selfish.
It does feel like we’re asking far too much from the family pet who is ready to go. It feels like we’re asking someone, a person who has given so much already, to give us a little bit more.
Who are we to dictate? Who are we to decide? We’re his family, that’s who. But now there is a divide, and it’s not good. I suspect I’m the only member of our family who actually feels this way.
Granddad deserves peace. He should get that. It’s his time.
It’s just that. It’s his time.
“It’s a long way back to Eden, Sweetheart, so don’t sweat the small stuff.”
– Stephen King, Insomnia
Today, The Smalls and I went to go and spend the day round my mom’s house, with my Granddad and Auntie Vie.
Ok, honestly, never even thought I would say those words, let alone type them for all eternity.
I packed a massive bag of food for The Smalls’ lunch and tea, threw all manner of chalk, scooters, bubble mixes, waving wand stick things and other stuff in the boot, and just about every instant film camera I own (with film ready to go) in my car. There was method. I wanted to spend the day and not have to worry about leaving early because I forgot something. I wanted to spend time.
I wanted to take time.
I was shitting it. I was fucking nervous as hell, because I was very aware of Granddad’s deterioration. I knew he wouldn’t be the dude I’d remembered so well from years gone by. I’d already seen how much he had changed in the last few times I had seen him. Both mentally and physically. When I saw him in 2006, he was still climbing trees and very on the ball. In 2008 he was kind of active and reasonably on the ball. In 2011 I didn’t actually see him move much, but he still seemed on the ball.
Today, in 2013, at my mom’s house, he was nearly immobile and, well, he knew who I was.
That was hard. That was soooooooooo hard.
The dude (yes, dude, because he is/was SUCH a dude) who was sharper than ME most of the time, and more physically active than I could remember, was not there.
Or, he was, but not all the time.
He is now using both my crutches, because his walking stick is not enough. He is in extreme pain moving anywhere. Doing anything.
I have to be realistic and understand, that, he is old. Dude is like, 87 years old EIGHTY SEVEN. He’s nearly seen a WHOLE CENTURY, wtf. Can you imagine carting around nearly 100 years worth of memories? I can’t.
He struggled to remember that, where he was today, was actually Birmingham and not London (where he spent the majority of his last years in the UK). Actually…looking back on today…that’s nothing. Ok, he kept thinking Noah was in fact called Moses (I bloody love that idea), and didn’t realised for a long time that he had never met Isaac (c’mon; they’re his GREAT GRAND KIDS. That’s a lot of descendants to remember) but…he remembered me without question, he remembered that these boys were his great grandchildren, he remembered I played cello, he remembered random things. So many random things.
I have to remember that.
I didn’t like that he looked so old and frail. Actually, I just didn’t like that he looked so frail. He was wearing a shirt, shorts and a pair of socks, and I couldn’t stop thinking of PUSA’s song Old Man on a Back Porch. It was weird, but he was oddly alert at really random moments, but his body seemed to be letting him down.
And the odd moment of old age seemed to be letting him down too.
I am tired, and I know that if I ever read this post, it probably won’t make much sense to me. However. Over the last few weeks I’ve been going mental with polaroid film, and I know a ton of people have been telling me to cut the crazy shit out. “Ohhhhh hahah Jay bought yet another camera and more bloody film geeeze Jay time to calm that shit down eh? Hahahahha” NO. No it is not, it is NOT time to calm that shit down.
There’s been method to my madness. There is always method to madness.
I learnt this from my Granddad, if no one else.
See, despite being in denial of Granddad even arriving in this country, I understand the importance of certain things. So, several months of learning to accurately use a polaroid camera have paid off. I shut my mind down to the idea of ever having Granddad around me, or The Smalls. But with this one last chance, I knew I had to make something of it. I know I won’t get stuff printed; I never seem to validate the time to do so, or even FIND the time to select the digital files. But, to be able to take a photo of The Smalls, and be able to give it to Granddad straight away, just seemed logical. It seemed like, given his ever dwindling memory, the one way which might help Granddad remember who is who. Who was who doing what. It’s too easy to forget. SO easy.
Bah. My mind is a mess of all kinds of stuff, and I’m in no state to process anything else. After Corinne’s woodland wedding on Saturday, and the realisation that it’s Isaac’s birthday on Sunday, and trying to remember everything in between…well, I don’t think anything makes sense right now.
BUT, I know THIS. I know the importance of completing my memories. I know how important it is that I capture what I can while Granddad is with us. I know that. Amongst the madness in his mind, there is method. I see it. Probably because I do it myself. And I wanted him to see this normality. I wanted him to be able to go back to Jamaica with a head full of madness but with a sense of normality.
I would never get round to printing anything I take on the dSLR, because I know what I’m like. The perfectionist in me would never send off images to be printed without first being edited, and checked again, and then edited some more…just because that’s what I’m now trained to do. And yet, annoyingly, I would never find time to edit the stuff to send it to be printed. So I took control in a different way; screw the editing, take instant prints. I would hate 3/4 photos, and even worse, many wouldn’t even be valid photos. BUT, I knew it would mean that I could guarantee, somehow, that Granddad would have something to take away, something to remember.
The hardest thing about today was the realisation that, with madness there is method. With method, there is often madness. Granddad seems to consist of both. He grasps the reality of his surroundings, by using method. But this method often makes him sound mad. Thing is, that’s not the stuff I should be worrying about with him. What I should be worrying about is whether I’ve given him enough to tick him over until The End.
So I took the photos. I took many polaroid photos, on various formats. Photos of The Smalls in my mom’s garden, photos of my granddad giving my son his first birthday card celebrating his 4th birthday (he’s the only child in my family to have a birthday card from a great grandparent), photos of The Smalls with their Nanan; the sort of things I want them to be able to look back on many years down the line.
I’ve looked at enough printed photos, and pine for my own. I have masses of files on machines, some barely viewed for a total time of 1 minute. I wanted my polaroids to be spot on, because I knew this would be my last chance. Granddad, though in the UK for another 5 weeks, will not be back. This feels like my last chance to give him something back. This feels like my last chance to thank him for my AMAZING memories, by nourishing the last of his diminishing memories. He’s alert, but not as I remember. He knows what’s what, but it takes effort.
Even though it’s a long way back to Eden, even though the Small stuff might not seem like much to some, even though there are sometimes bigger things in life to consider…well. Sometimes, the small stuff is bigger than anything, and needs to be sweated over.
Sometimes, perspective, method and madness is all it takes to know what you should be sweating over.
There’s a lot of method and madness in my head right now. I want it to pass. But not too soon.
Not too soon.
I’ve been bottling this up for months.
Ages ago, my mom told me my Granddad would most likely be coming to the UK. He’s a reverend, and has a convention here in the UK where they want to honor him.
He’s pretty “high up there” in the church circles, both in the UK and in Jamaica.
In March/April 2008, The Mr, myself, and 3 month old Noah flew over to meet him and my “Aunty Vie”. She’s my grandmother in law by marriage, adopted the title Aunty since I just couldn’t comprehend having a “replacement granny”. She’s not a replacement, but – whatever. It doesn’t matter.
I just remember that, during that visit, I was VERY conscious of how Granddad wasn’t quite as sharp as I’d remembered him for all those years. And hardly surprising, dude was in his early 80s after all. Yeah ok he was still climbing trees, and driving hundreds of miles every week, but still.
In October 2011, I, without My Boys, flew to Jamaica with the rest of my immediate family for a massive and surprise reunion. I wrote about the moment, the surprise moment, and it was one of the hardest posts I ever wrote. I didn’t do it justice.
It was hard to write, because in all honesty, I had flown to Jamaica to say goodbye. As far as I was concerned, I would never see him again, and The Smalls most definitely wouldn’t meet him. He was so tired and frail; in my mind I couldn’t see him lasting another year. Morbidly I spent much of 2012 waiting for That Phonecall. It never came. And then Mom said “he’s coming, with Vie, to the UK.”
Since then, I’ve been smothering a deep, horrible fear. A fear that it wouldn’t happen. I’ve been in straight out, no holds barred, plain old denial. I refused to believe it.
Every time I’ve spoken to Mom, I’ve asked the same words, again and again. “Is he still coming?” And every time, I’ve refused to believe her.
Today, this afternoon, my Granddad landed in the UK.
He’s here, in the UK for approximately 6 weeks.
He will get to meet My Boys.
My memories will be complete.