Saturday, 5 March 2011

Stuck together with glue

They warned me before I went - but warnings are just words. I wasn't prepared in any way for what I witnessed last weekend.
My Mum and I went to see my Grandad.
My Grandad lives in another part of the country close to my Aunt and Uncle - from my Dad's side of the family - and went into hospital in December having deteriorated drastically. We monitored the situation over the phone as the snow at the time made it impossible to travel the long distance to see him. They didn't think he would make it.
Since being in hospital, his condition has improved but he had to move into a home where he could get full 24-hour care.
We had lunch with my Aunt and Uncle before we visited him together.
"It's incredible," said my Aunt, "the ability of the human spirit to cling on - even when the body is at then end, that spirit still clings on." I nodded, not really understanding.
"It's awful where your Grandad is now", she continued, "Just old people sitting around waiting to die. They have no interest in doing anything except eating and sleeping. I couldn't bear it. I've already told my daughter, if I reach that stage, pack me off to Switzerland..." I had to concur completely. "I want to die before I'm 40," I said resolutely.
My Uncle laughed, "I remember saying that when I was 20 as well."
But I meant it and I've been saying it for as long as I can remember. I have tortured and abused myself for my ugliness as a teenager and a young woman 'in my prime' so there is no way I'd survive getting wrinkles, grey hair and saggy breasts.

As family often do, my Uncle showered my Mum and I with a flood of family photo albums. Neither of us could bear to look at the ones of us, it hurt too much to look at how happy our little family unit had been when I was young. There were photos going back even further, photos of my great-grandparents and both my Grandad and Grandma during the war years when they were married. My Grandad was incredibly handsome. In his prime I think he was a fair-haired version of Laurence Olivier. Dressed in his British Army uniform as he was in most of the photos, it's no wonder my Grandma swooned.

I visited him that same afternoon, and oh, how the years had passed. He was sat in the lounge with a number of the other residents, all propped up in great armchairs and cushions yet somehow remaining completely suken. Looking across into the kitchen I saw two men sat at the table bent over and drooping completely motionless in front of mugs of tea while in the living room the TV was blasting weekend breakfast shows to a deaf room of ladies staring into their laps or at the opposite walls.
Grandad didn't recognise me and my Mum when we first walked in, my Uncle had to prompt him.
"Oh! Ha! I though we were just having a visit from the Chinese!" Tears rolled quietly down my cheek and I couldn't fight them back. I prayed his eyesight was too bad to notice. I tried desperately to distract myself in order to suppress the need to run out into the corridor and cry uncontrollably. I had to sit there and choke. I could barely say two words when he spoke to me.
"What are you doing now then?" he asked me.
"I work in a school," I croaked, blowing my nose for the tenth time.
"You got a cold?" he asked. I nodded.
It was barely possible to make conversation, though my Mum and Uncle tried repeatedly. But there were still sparks of him, that dirty English humour, that dry laugh... he was still in there,
just a bit lost

And I was reminded of something I had felt once before. I was so fit and healthy, sitting in that room, my skin almost glowing and radiating with health that it make me feel self conscious. My stride was long and easy, my limbs where loose and flowing. My skin was warm and smooth, my face youthful. I, who was so healthy of mind and body - those two most precious, precious things in life - I had been hacking away at them, wearing them down to the best of my abilities, treating my body like an abscess that needed to be drained, my mind like a furnace that needed to be dulled.
Perspective is a wonderful thing.

a wonderful thing

* * *

I've been a massive drama whore recently. On Monday I sat through two films on my own at the cinema and on Tuesday I went to see the new production of Frankenstein at the National Theatre. It blew my socks off. Best piece of theatre I've seen, possibly ever.
The question of creation was particularly pertinent in this interpretaion; Frankenstein, an arrogant scientist who thinks himself so much of a genius that he can play God is obsessed with creating 'perfection' yet disgusted with what he finally produces.
Creature: "Why did you make me?"
Frankenstein: "To prove that I could!"
To prove that I could.
I have so much that I desperately want to prove to the world, to my peers, to the people I used to know at school and universtity, people I don't even know anymore... desperate to prove, to make a name, to...

a monster, The Creature, "But they pulled me out of the sack, And they stuck me together with glue"

Upcoming theatre trips include: Swan Lake and Aida at the Royal Opera House (cheapo bench seats alas), Matthew Bourne's Cinderalla, Hamlet at the Globe Theatre (splashed out on best seats for this as I've been praying every season it will finally come to the Globe!!) and The Cherry Orchard at the National Theatre... if you have any more suggestions please send them over!

Thanks also for comments on the last post - very touching - a special thank you in particular to those who don't have a link and I cannot post back to xxx

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