Today my paternal grandmother would have been 101. The telegram from the Queen would have been last year’s old hat, but the aches and pains and frailties of old age would have advanced for another 365 days, to accumulate another year on the grand total.
I remember her like that, it’s true. She died, after all aged 96, and there was a lot of sitting in the chair towards the end. Still, the end was unexpected, untimely even. Death was an unwanted side effect of a hospital stay for a bad leg. A stroke was an unwanted side effect of some medication for the bad leg. It was not meant to be that way.
I try not to focus on all that. It hardly helps. I remember her skin, as smooth as any nonagenarian you could meet just about anywhere in the world. I remember her interest in life, her family, the lives of her family. I remember her cooking, and how, in the last years of her life she just wished for a nutrition pill that would save the hassle of standing in the kitchen, when standing in the kitchen became not just painful, but downright hazardous.
I remember the doorhandles, the polished dark floor with the deadly rug that was finally carpeted over for health and safety reasons. The big black phone at the bottom turn of the stairs and the long mirror you could not avoid looking in when you were making a call. The sunburst quarter lights in the leaded windows. The faded ladybird clip on the telephone notepad… the days when the London telephone numbers all started with 01.
I remember the dogs and stories of the cat, Chopsy. The podiatrist on his moped – the cleaners and Mrs Barr with her chocolate stocking selection at Christmas. The cosmopolitan troupes of visitors: Salime and Letitia, Maurice, Dora & Ernie, Maxie and Dixie, the neighbours we used visit who moved to Devon.
Toasted grapefruit with a jelly tot on top
Chocolate roulade at Christmas
Silver trays of sweets
Turkish delight, which I never did like but now I do, curiously
& sweet tea in the morning in the Magic Roundabout mug
I remember. And I am terrified I forget.