I don’t tend to write many personal posts, however it has been a touch couple of weeks for my family and a few things have been playing on my mind as a result.
We have unfortunately had to put my Grandma (my Dad’s mother) into a nursing home due to a significant deterioration in her Dementia. We were dreading the day it would get to this point, however it really is the best thing for her now. My parents live 200 miles away and both they and my uncle work long hours and simply cannot be around 24-7 to look after her. She was managing okay with some home help, however she was gradually starting to become a danger to herself (i.e. putting the electric kettle on the hob to boil!). So, following confirmation of the Power of Attorney two weeks ago, we have had to make a few trips to Manchester (a 7 hour roundtrip!) to clear out her house so that it can be rented out to cover the nursing home fees.
Whilst sorting through my Grandma’s possessions, we found all nature of treasures (in addition to 55+ years’ worth of junk!) including my Grandfather’s first ever driver’s licence, a 21st birthday card from my great-grandparents to my Grandma, old photographs, old vinyl records and, most precious to me, a letter written from my Grandad to my Grandma just after they were married in 1951.
The job was a touch one and I will admit that the majority of what we sorted through was taken to the tip or to charity shops. there was very little that any of us wanted to keep for ourselves, mainly because my Grandma tended to keep a lot of ‘junk’. Whilst not a hoarder, she obviously wasn’t in the habit of throwing much away. However, a few special finds (an old National Identity Card fallen down the back of a cupboard and some old dancing medals that I never knew about) made me sit back and realise what an incredible privilege it was to be able to rummage through so many years of memories and look back on what she achieved and experienced over her lifetime. It is comforting to know that she has enjoyed a long, happy and fulfilling life.
Our task in clearing out the house prompted my family and me to discuss how the important things in life are not possessions, but rather memories. My Grandma had some beautiful possessions that she treasured dearly, however her dementia means that not only are they no longer of use to her but neither do they hold any memories for her now. She does not recognise those items nor remember why they were so special to her. That is what I find so heart-breaking about dementia. What good is life without memories? And why did I not think to ask her about those memories whilst I had the chance?
The whole situation really got me thinking about making memories with my own family before it is too late. I don’t need a new TV or a brand new car, what I need is a day out with my family, to try a new activity with my sister, to go on holiday with my husband or to actually ask my parents about their childhoods. Whilst at my Grandma’s house, I realised that despite having visited her there for over 30 years, I had never once asked my Dad which bedroom was his when he was growing up. How can it never previously have occurred to me to ask such a simple question?
If you ask my friends, they will probably say that I take too many photographs. However, none of those pictures are “selfies” taken for the purpose of collecting some ego-boosting likes on Facebook. Instead they are a reminder of the good time – where I have been and what I have done with my friends and family. A physical memory that I can hopefully look back on in later years and mistily-eyed say to my husband “Remember when we……?” I just hope that when we reach our dotage, we will still have the capacity to remember those special moments that have shaped our past.