Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Nana





1955 aged 44

My Nana (grandmother) Iris Eleanor Young, June to her friends,
was to me a marvellous woman, a glamorous woman and a brave woman.

My earliest memory of her was when I was about five or six ,
I guess she would babysit me as I was often round her home and probably like most little girls,
I' d to love looking through her jewellery box and her cupboards 'n' drawers.
For some reason I remember I used to play with her box of rubber bands she kept in a drawer, of which there were many - I suppose she would save them or buy them so I always had them to play with. When I got to school age I used them to make french skipping bands. Her makeup and jewellery was a stash of glamour and I felt a sense of naughtiness playing with them I know not why! This memory has a touch of irony as it was many years later I would powder her face and pencil in her eyebrows, after she could no longer do this simple task for herself. Something I recall daily as I pencil mine in. Like Nana I cannot see my public or go anywhere without my eyebrows and my red lippy.

She had a huge loom installed in her home, probably by the social services or invalidity people, to help her keep moving her limbs. She would then have been about fifty - jeez my age now- and living with grandad (Harry see Moannie) I think I instinctively knew all was not well between them, but this post is about my memories as a child and he was always kind and gentle with me. He would bring home fish and chips for us all as he ran a fish 'n' chip shop and his fish and chips were always very tasty. I would sit and eat with them and watch Crossroads, a uk soap from 60's and 70's. He would give me threepence or sixpence or a small 2penny bar of Cadbury's chocolate, covered in blue foil, he'd tell me stories of how he lost some toes, or l'd marvel at his huge earlobes, which he told me had ha'pennies in them. This the man that was horror personified to my mother, so out of respect to her I won't post any images of him.

Nana would sometimes collect me from school in her three wheeled invalid electric car. She would tell me to get in quick and get down low as it wasn't allowed as she didn't want to lose her licence, the car was probably the only small amount of freedom she had left to her. I remember when I had nits and my long hair was cut off, my mum and Nana sat picking at each others locks. Often we would shell peas together or peel spuds.

It's weird what a young child picks up, I was aware of an atmosphere when my parents were around Harry, but I was never affected by it. Of course I now know of  my mothers childhood, of her unhappy time in the orphanage, how her mother could not cope, but I also know as an adult, wife and mother, it isn't really for me to judge, we all make our choices and our mistakes.

As her condition deteriorated ( I believe she was diagnosed in her late 30's)  she was no longer so mobile and unable to do things easily for herself and Harry. I'm not sure of the how and why exactly but it seemed to me Harry couldn't or wouldn't cope and she was of no further use to him.  Nana was admitted to a NHS hospital/institution for the old and infirmed - she was only in her mid 50's and she stayed there for 3-4 years . It was awful for my mother to see her in there, a woman who still had some use in her arms and hands.A woman who was still a vibrant force and character and only hospitalized because she was -a at that time- partially paralyzed, but couldn't take care of herself and apparently noone to take care of her. Awful for her also, as many of the women in her ward had dementia or worse. I remember my mother was always fretting about her while we were in Canada/Mexico, always checking the post hoping for a letter from her.

When we returned from Canada/Mexico and my parents bought a 'Home for Gentlefolk' .  It was here Nana, now 57, had her own large room, her own nurse and my parents could provide her with the care she needed. 
As I got older Nana and her room was my sanctuary, where I went when I was in trouble, when I wanted to have a chat or just to be some company for each other. Later, I rented a room in a house opposite - I didn't move far from home when I left - and I could see her room window from mine, it was the first thing I looked at when I woke up and the last thing at night and quite comforting. I would take me friends and boyfriends to see her and she would sparkle and even flirt a little, they were always moved and touched by her personality and apparent joy of life even in her circumstances. She enjoyed the cricket (!? go figure) Come Dancing, her gramophone and her books were still a passion. She was full of love and praise for my mother and always grateful to my father for giving her a home and she wouldn't hear a thing against them, though she would listen to my teenage moaning and groaning with sympathy. She was a confidante and she would regale me with her dancing stories, I do wish l had written them down. I remember her tales of her standing very still on stage, as she posed nude but for a flesh covered bodice, other times bare breasted but she couldn't move but for the Lord Chamberlain slapping a banning order and closing the theatre. She told me she was an early partner of Victor Silvester and she danced in many a chorus line.

When she was almost totally paralysed from the neck down, I would sometimes help with her 'toilette' and I was so amazed by the condition of her legs. They were a pure white, like alabaster, blemish free and amazingly toned in appearance and so long. Her feet were baby soft and her knees like little buttons. She had gained a fair amount of weight, as the then treatments were cortisone/steroid based, so her face was wrinkle free and her eyes sparkled with a naughtiness that would make me smile and very curious. Her room, from which she rarely left, as it was difficult to lower her to ground level, and then push this quite heavy lady around in a fairly basic wheelchair. It happened occasionally, but not latterly. I'm sure she wold have had more equipment and entitlements available to her these days.

There is one truly astonishing fact to tell about my Nana and that is I never her heard moan about her situation once, nor did I hear of it second from the staff. Itwas hard to understand why she had Multiple Sclerosis, but I do recall her saying she thought it viral and that was why it was difficult to understand it. She always said she had had her fair share of fun, frolics, love and drama and she said she had no real regrets. I think that shows incredible bravery, courage and a tough 'get on with it' survival instinct. That is something all my grandparents seem to have had in common and I'm thankful that I have it too!

 

20 comments:

  1. Your grandmother sounds like a fantastic person to have known. And it's true: I too wish I had written down more of what my grandmother told me, but also I should have asked her more.

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  2. Thank you once again for this very fair, loving and balanced tribute to your grandmother. Boy, would she be proud of you.

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  3. Thanks for sharing her story. She sounds like a great woman.

    Watching Crossroads at tea time - that takes me back! Funny, I don't remember liking it but it was something that you couldn't NOT watch!

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  4. That survival instinct is so important. That's a beautiful photograph btw.

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  5. What a wonderful, brave lady she was and such a terrible disease to have to bear. I have a friend with it too, rapidly losing her independence.

    You wrote a beautiful account of your Nan's life. I am sure you brightened up her days by visiting her and I loved what you said about seeing her light on from the house opposite to you and being comforted by that.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

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  6. they just don't make 'em like that anymore. What a blessing you to were to each other. thanks for sharing your stories!

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  7. It is obvious from the photo that she was quite beautiful, but you showed us her total beauty..inside beauty and a dear loving nana
    bless your mom and dad for caring for her
    you come from good stock my dear

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  8. Beautiful woman - inside and out. Glad she made such a positive impact on your life and that you have very loving memories of her.

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  9. How lucky you are to have/had such marvelous and glamourous ladies in your life and what a wonderful tribute to your Nana. I hope I leave such a valuable impression on my Grandaughter that she`ll be inspired to leave me something similar. You`re a very good Grandaughter.

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  10. My grandma would have been almost the same age. I was taken back to the clouds of face powder that hung in the air as she got ready to go out. She was so glamorous to me. Her name was Eleanor, though she got Nell a lot.
    Great post.

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  11. Puts in perspective that this happened to her at what we would now see as a young age.
    Very poignant.

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  12. A worthy tribute to a fascinating lady!

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  13. Terrific post. She was a very actractive woman. getting ol;d is no fun but you have to be positive.

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  14. Oh Saz, what a tribute to this amazing brave lady - with a grannie like this and Moannie as your mum, no wonder you have the strength that you've found to cope with this new life.

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  15. This is absolutely beautiful, dear Saz!!! What a courageous and amazing lady she was! Guess it runs in the family :-)) This really touched my heart! Your relationship with her reminds me of my relationship with my dad. Love you! Janine XOXO

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  16. Great woman by the sounds of it.

    Reminded of the lyrics of the Rush song Losing it.


    "Sadder still to watch it die than never to have know it"

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  17. Sax,

    That is so wonderful. I have very fond memories of my Mema. I feel is is because of her that I am the person I am today. I teach my own kids those very same wisdoms she taught me. This was very inspirational. Thanks for sharing.

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  18. Aw, just read the comment you left on Suburbia's blog and hope that things work themselves out okay
    x

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  19. it's really interesting to read this after reading a number of your mum's posts about her childhood. each generation has its own impressions of the ones above and below it. thanks so much for sharing your perspective on your nana. i couldn't help thinking of some of the parallels between your mum and her own and between your and your nana and me with mine.

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Thanks for stopping by!

Take the weight of your feet, draw up a chair and pour yourself a cuppa. Leave your troubles at the door and together we shall ride out the storms.
I will walk a while in your shoes...

Saz x