Tuesday, 16 December 2014

My little Granny

Great Granny Amy (aged 95)

My Granny died on a snowy December day. She was called Amy. At the grand age of ninety nine (almost one hundred) her body had finally got too weary to carry on.

I saw her the week before, she was still of very sound mind and had moved into a nursing home after living independently at home until just a few weeks ago.

We chatted about memories of when I was little. We both remembered me sleeping on a camp bed in her bedroom, we used to chatter until very late, she would fall asleep, it was always her first, often playing a guessing game called 'Animal, Mineral or Vegetable'.

My bed was next to her wonderful foot powered sewing machine. It was not on display, but instead it hung, defying gravity upside down on the underside of its stand. Whenever I saw it appear for use I always thought it was like a magicians trick. Lying in my low bed next to it I could see it in all its highly decorative gilded beauty, it was like someone covered with amazing tattoos or one of those old waltza carriages, my arm would reach out of the covers and spin its handle slowly and quietly while Granny slept beside me.

Her hands had worked hard making clothes, she was a seamstress by trade. I can remember pretty dresses she made me with vintage lace collars, when the dress got to small the collar would come off and go onto the next, and so on.

Now her skinny hands were dry from the heating in the home, I gently rubbed them with her cream, her skin was paper thin and I could see each vein through it. My fingers fit in between her knuckles like deep trenches and her wedding ring, so thin from almost eighty years of wear, spun precariously on her tiny finger. It was touch that wasn't getting dressed, that wasn't being bathed, that wasn't being moved. I couldn't remember the last time I had held her hand, probably thirty years ago as a child, this time it wasn't to keep me but to keep her.

I combed her hair, she said it felt nice.

She was sat in a high back chair, making it almost impossible to cuddle her, which was all I wanted to do. I stooped down over the contraptions, the table laden with sippy cups, medications and an emergency alarm and wrapped my arms around her, she felt so tiny and frail. I stroked her back through her dressing gown "my little Granny" I whispered in her ear, she laughed and said "I know, I've been shrinking for some time". I told her I loved her, again I don't know when I last said that to her, and that she loved me.

As I left I looked back and whilst I hoped to see her again I knew in my heart that was the last time.

Friday, 17 October 2014

A grand plan

Sheep Count
I have spent the last nine months feeling absolutely not myself.

My mind has been filled with anxieties about Joel starting school. These started last summer and then they gradually worked up into this massive black cloud by this summer. It felt like I was losing him, like I was already grieving over our shared experiences as they were happening. Will this be the last time we throw stones in the river together? The last time he wants to go and watch trains? Will he stop saying "I love you"? It was all made worse by hearing other parents wishing the time away "I can't wait until September" or telling me how great it was that their kids were so tired that they were eating tea at 4 and then in bed by half past. I couldn't imagine anything worse, we want to still spend time with our son. One parent was even saying how odd mothers were who were sad about their kids going to school. The worst though was people telling me "You will want another one when he goes to school" as though I would want to replace him, shift that love and loss onto another.

It all sounds very over dramatic when I see it written down and of course it wasn't the last time we threw stones together, or did lots of other fun stuff. We put a plan in place. We decided to flexi-school. Half the week at school and half the week at home school. Most people don't realise that this option exists. Whilst the law here states all children must be in full time education by the time they are five, this doesn't mean full time at school. It is also a parents legal right to ask a school to consider a flexi school arrangement, but its up to the head teacher to decide.

The school he was initially offered a place at didn't want to enter into such an agreement, which is a common response. Schools don't always know how to accommodate the idea into their classrooms and systems or how to record the absence without it affecting their grading and Ofsted reports. It shows this wasn't the right school for us.

We successfully negotiated a flexi-school place with a much smaller school and have never looked back on our decision. The school has just twenty pupils with mixed ages across the two classrooms. It is idyllic with open views of the fells across the school play ground and a forest school down the lane. They go caving, climbing and have amazing free after school activities (though he's pretty tired by then so that's not for us yet) Joel loves it and can't wait to get there on his school days. On those three days I work and on the other days we do fun, interesting and exciting stuff together or with my mum. We still have our weekends too. Its fab!

I finally feel like I can breathe again.


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