Sat beside me was my Grandmother, Barbara who had reached her 100th birthday, and 101st year. The sharp smell of sparkling wine, sugary sweetness from an assortment of cakes and fresh paint (the home has been renovated recently) hit me straight away. We were in a care home that she has been living in for over 11 years. Teacakes, balloons and party frocks were all out; even a card from the Queen too. Later on, the karaoke machine strained with the hits from yesteryear; Doris Day, Abba to Ella Fitzgerald.
The event was to remind me how important the word ‘hope‘ is…?
Since Barbara became unable to live independently, my parents could not devote, manage or cope with the 24/7 physical challenge the situation presented. Dare I admit, they understand their limits and I understand fully.
I too confess visits to the home a challenge. I have been irregularly for the past few years. Partly because I want Barbara to remain the woman from my childhood, my Grandmother. One memory I have is one around her home playing hide and seek. Only to narrowly miss running through the freshly cleaned glass door. Her leading the hysterical laughter that followed.
Age has taken its toll, particularly on her senses. It has been several years since Barbara lost her sight (we are mere shadows and fantastical blurs), 95% of her hearing and comprehension of time.
For the grand event, we were joined by a lovely family, the local mayor, his wife and young family for the grand event. The comparison between a young 6 week-year-old and her breath-taking. It was a stark reminder of how fragile our lives, time and relationships are today. Moreover, the importance of our own hopes for the future.
Barbara was born during the First World War, saw the Great Recession, World War Two, the rise and fall of Communism, Thatcherism, the Information Age and much more besides. Perhaps knowing what the outside has to offer now would be too much, but I am sure she would take it in her stride.
As a woman in her 70s, she was such a personality. Pictures of her as a girl and young woman were an amazing glimpse back-in-time. It was not only the strange circle of life impressive, i.e. how we start out being cared for, then end up, potentially, in the same situation.
Scanning around the room, it was easy to forget where I was. A lady called Molly grabbed my arm and I never realised until I touched her arm how frail she was… She asked for the song ‘Green, green grass of home’ but insisted she could not sing because of her Asthma. I mentioned this on the microphone that started everyone off. We sang out of respect, affection and importantly hope, for those who lived at the home but also the incredible Staff. The people who work in the home were fantastic. They made my Grandmother’s birthday special. I hope she enjoyed her 100th birthday as much as I did.
My most cherished memory was a soft whisper of “I wish to be able to sing”. Happily, Barbara is still with us. This time with her and the other residents reminded me that we can still have desires, dreams and wishes even when our bodies fail us. For me, most poignant was a realisation that hope could be the only thing that had kept her alive.
Impromptu duet sessions on the karaoke machine with my Uncle, serenading the puzzled, captive and refined audience “Delilah”… Surrounded by individuals with amazing life stories, what a day.
Hope is so very human; an essential ingredient to bond us together and keep us alive.
Pictures to follow… Add your thoughts on what you believe hope is important for…
Edited some grammatical mistakes only.