Up, up and awayTuesday, April 19, 2011
Sunday was my granny's 90th birthday. To celebrate this momentous... er, moment, she had a party.
We decorated the communal lounge of her sheltered housing complex with garlands of paper flowers, balloons, a big pink sparkly 90. My uncle created an amazing slideshow filled with scores of old photographs spanning probably a hundred years of family history. My mum put together a party playlist, my aunt cleaned out Marks and Spencers' food department and my little cousins skipped about being adorable and getting crazy high on sugar.
Hair was set, party outfits were dusted off, sausage rolls were consumed, sherry was sipped, and sipped, and sipped.
I was examined with everything from confusion to astonishment. Is it really Kirsty? How can you be so tall? So beautiful? And a lawyer? The last time I saw you, you were [insert arbitrary estimation of height here]. Just milk, thank you dear, no sugar. Oh well, maybe a small sherry. Little bit more. (I was in charge of drinks. I can't imagine why.)
Aside from the fact that it was the hottest day of the year so far and the central heating was on FULL FUCKING BLAST, it was a really lovely party. I think my granny enjoyed it.
I have written about my nana before, but not very much about my granny, my dad's mum. Possibly because it feels somehow more intrusive to write about someone who is still (obviously) alive, and would have no concept of what a blog even is. Perhaps this is the best way to describe what she's like: she was made to leave our wedding at 10.30 because my great aunt was tired, and my granny has still. not. stopped. talking about it. She was horrified at having to leave so early and put it down to the fact that her sister-in-law is English and therefore clearly does not know how to have a good time at a Scottish wedding. If it had been up to my granny, she would have still been bopping away at midnight with the best of them.
In other words, for 90, she's pretty cool. A little wandered maybe, a little repetitive, and her eyesight and hearing make it difficult for her to always follow the thread of a conversation, especially in a big group, but she's doing pretty well. Hanging on in there. Happy birthday, granny - here's to your 100th!
As lovely as the party was, there was one moment that was so sweetly sad that I have carried around in my heart for two days, a little ball of sorrow and fear that I am unable to put down.
My mum and I were chatting to one of my granny's friends, a sweet, friendly, bright spark of a man. My mum asked after his wife. Oh, you know, he said. The same.
It transpired that his wife of many decades has dementia. She sits at home. She does not speak. She wanders off, stares into space, murmurs odd nothings. Her husband lives at home with her - together, alone - and spends most of his time caring for her.
In sickness and in health. Til death do us part. When you are young and healthy and taking these vows, all caught up in the giddy excitement of a wedding, forever is incomprehensible. Time stretches off into a hazy nothingness. But sitting there, talking to this nice old gentleman, all I could think was please don't let me end up like that. Don't let me become a burden on the people I love. And yet, what is the alternative? I was sitting in a room full of white fluffy heads, maybe three or four of whom at most still had living spouses. Endless empty days, with nothing left but the memories of better ones? No thanks.
Wow, this is all getting a little depressing. Hmm, how to turn this post around. Can't have you all rushing off to book your trips to Switzerland.
I know - have you ever seen UP? Oh, how I love that film. As I've admitted before, I am such a sucker for a sad film. Sitting in a darkened room quietly weeping to the strains of a Hollywood orchestra must be one of the most soothing experiences in life. So, a film where the emotional suckerpunch comes TEN MINUTES IN? Jackpot!
Seeing an entire relationship condensed into those ten minutes is an oddly profound experience. (I know it's a cartoon but, as with all Pixar films, it's so much more than that, so shhhh.) There is romance, there is heartbreak, there is tenderness; it's beautiful. And yes, it is short. Scarily so. But is it worth it?
I think (hope) it will be.