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Thursday, May 26, 2005

A year ago

This morning I - granny doesn't feel like writing this post in the third person, as usual - I woke up early; Beloved was already downstairs and I lay thinking about getting up myself - and other such random thoughts; as usual doing nothing about it. Suddenly in my mind was another image - of the last time I saw my old dad, dead, face upwards in the hospital mortuary. Along with it came deep grief. It was I realised suddenly exactly a year ago that he died, aged 96, after years of longing for it. How strange to remember it like that, though, so precisely. I hadn't thought about him in days, if not in weeks.

Last year, my brother rang around the same time that I lay there, this morning, remembering. 'He's dying,' he said. I packed myself up fast, shaking, Beloved took me to the airport, by midday I was in the air. Dad died not long after - the first I knew was when I called Beloved Son from the railway station at Luton, around 3 o'clock, hoping I wasn't too late. I sat on the train afterwards, tears pouring down my face, not caring who saw it.

It was the grief that surprised me - then and when I felt it again this morning. As I feel it now, writing this. He had been longing to die, and so for his sake had we all been longing for it too. He had outlived his friends, his life, his time. And now he was where he wanted to be. And all of us were free from our routine trudges to see him - distressing and thankless often enough. Who wants to see their dad, in a home which was nice as any home could be, but which he hated, in a wheel chair, with pressure sores, unable to walk, incontinent, sunk in depression? Even before he got so bad, the visits were hardly fun. He couldn't hear, he repeated himself, he kept on saying I want to die; and so forth. Every time too he would wave at the pictures of his great-granddaughters on his window-sill - 'Aren't they the prettiest little lot of little girls you could wish to see?' - I would be almost repeating the words, irritably, after him - they never varied. At the same time I was glad at least that it was the one thing still made him smile. Before he discarded his hearing-aid, I could sometimes rouse him, we'd talk about the past, both remembering things together; we had some good times like that. But once the hearing-aid was gone, he could never hear enough to make it possible.

And now he was dead; so why this grief? Hadn't he infuriated, bored, driven me mad all my life? - still, now, for all but one year of my life? And still, if I think about him, I feel that same rush of annoyance, frustration - you pig-headed old bugger I say to him in my head - not that I could ever have said it as plain as that to him; though he got versions of it from time to time. And yet...On 26th May last year, my youngest granddaughter - his youngest great-granddaughter had just turned 3. My eldest granddaughter - his eldest great grand-daughter - had just turned 8. Today, a year later, they've turned 4 and 9 - and Dad will have rotted to nothing more or less, in his grave in Kent, next to the bones of my forty-year dead mother, his wife. So life goes on. And I am still bemused by the grief I feel. 'Let go, dad,' I say. 'Let go, you old bugger.' But he doesn't. Nor would I want him to.

Forgive this mawkish stuff. Death does that to you. Put on your fishnet stockings, skeleton, lipstick your teeth, skull. Why not?

Outside it's sun. Temperature 32C, Back in England God knows what. My old dad has no more clue about it now than I do. That's one thing that's changed. He always kept records of the weather. English weather. The ones I keep are for much farther away.

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