I didn't sleep very well last night. At about 11 p.m. there was a phone call that my nan had died after a short illness. We're not a particularly close or expressive family, I should probably explain, but I was pleased that it got me agitated enough to make it hard to sleep. It was, at the very least, that I owed a woman who played a pretty significant role in my life. A recurring character in my life's ongoing sitcom scenario, if you will.
My nan was a tricky person for me to describe, and our relationship is hard for me to pin down without sounding grotesquely unaffected at this particular time. Her fundamental problem was that she married a man 14 years her senior, but never made any mental contingency for what she would do if he died first. He did, of course, in 1995. All the joy went out of her that day, and it never really came back. She would ghost around sadly but I think all she really wanted to do was be out of it.
Tragic though this is to say, she became something of a burden. It happened at a time when our relationship was already undergoing a fundamental shift, I was 15 but she seemed unwilling to accept that I was growing up. It became more of a drag than a treat to see her, and even worse I resented the fact it had come to this, simply because we had been so close when I was young and I had loved spending as much time with her as I could. Why could she not see I was changing?
Of course, I now realise that life is - and relationships with other people are - never quite that simple. It's a shame that this gulf had grown up between us during the last 16 years of her life, but I would say that we were still pretty close. She particularly doted on me, and was always so proud of everything - of anything - I did I have been told. People who know me will probably know my nan via any number of pithy remarks, but they probably also know me well enough to realise that's not the full story. If they didn't, hopefully this will provide some reassurance that I'm not quite the monster that I like to make out sometimes. I did love her.
In her last 5 years, she succumbed to Vascular Dementia. Dementia is a particularly unpleasant thing anyway, but the way it affected her was needlessly cruel. She spent much of the last few years in specialist care homes but in her mind she was being blamed for the war, being abandoned by her dad (his death when she was a teenager was something she never fully came to terms with), being accused to raping or murdering children, being poisoned by enemy agents. In the end, her passing was a relief, but more than that, the manner of it - peacefully slipping away in her sleep having been battling a chest infection - seems like at least some compensation for the suffering she had endured. She didn't deserve it.
In the end, history will show that my nan was born in Catford, died in Bromley and did little else but have two children in between. So I just wanted some record to say that she was a kind person, a loving person and a generous person. In the end she affected the lives of the people she loved and there's really nothing greater any human being can aspire to. Rest well, Nan.