The Girl is at primary school and regularly brings home books along with a parental notebook which is supposed to be filled in, to keep track of her reading. Myself or Husband, or occasionally The Boy listen to her picking through Camping Adventure, or Birthday Adventure and then fill in the book with comments like: Brilliant Reading or Read Well or in the case of The Boy, Rubbish.
I looked through the book yesterday. My mother had looked after the children while Husband and I were in Singapore. I saw mum’s handwriting: Exemplary reading from my clever granddaughterr. The day after she wrote that, she travelled home, and while standing at the top of her stairs, had a cerebral hemorrhage, fell down the stairs and sustained serious brain damage. She won’t write a word like exemplary again, or say it. She won’t sit up or walk or look at us and have a conversation. She won’t cook or snap at dad or send me cuttings from the newspaper about osteoporosis, cancer, or other illnesses to brighten my day.
Mum is being sent to a nursing home because there is nothing more the hospital say they can do. For the last couple of months, myself, my dad and my sister have been ringing, arguing, asking for a second opinion and trying to fight our way through NHS bureaucracy to get her the best possible treatment. It’s like knitting fog. Speaking to the same person twice in a row is almost impossible, so I’m used to hearing phrases like: Sorry I don’t have the notes – I wasn’t at the meeting – I’ve only just been assigned to this case – I don’t know – I don’t know – I don’t know. I ring the hospital switchboard and it has this bizarre system of you speaking the name of the department or person you want to talk to. It goes something like this:
Hello – you are through to the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother switchboard. Which department or person would you like to speak to?
You say loudly and clearly,
The machine replies,
Putting you through to Dr Klalid Abdullah
It’s funny the first time.
Mum isn’t technically dead but the woman who brought my sister and I up, fed us the home cooked food that has given us a lifetime of good health and stable weight, been a brilliant grandmother who sent parcels and letters to her grandchildren, and once asked: Is Freddie Mercury gay? (Is the Pope Catholic? replied dad) is gone for good.
I miss you mum.