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!