Happy Birthday Nan
8th June 2021
Today would have been my Nan’s 93rd birthday, it is the first time her birthday has come around since she passed over and I wanted to remember her in a special way.
It was my intention to pick a bunch of roses from my garden and place them by her favourite statue; a black and white, sorrowful looking spaniel being crawled over by three kittens as he tries to eat his dinner. But, life has a comical way of helping us remember our loved ones in ways that we don’t expect.
My Nan was quite fun loving and enjoyed a laugh, however, she was also a bit of a drama queen -especially if she had to take any kind of tablet. She would summon up the courage to put the tablet in her mouth, gulp some water and grimace, shutting her eyes as she gripped tightly on to the nearest solid surface ensuring that she did not faint with the stress of it all. Then she would predictably need a ten minute sit down.
Nanny also had quite odd priorities too (which growing up we took as normal but can now see that they were a bit extreme). For instance, when my mum was a teenager she had been taken poorly at work and her colleagues had taken her to hospital as a precaution. On hearing the news my Nan went to the hospital and when finding her daughter in the casualty department immediately enquired whether she was wearing matching underwear, as she did not want her daughter to embarrass her should the handsome male doctors carry out an examination!
It was these memories of my Nan that came flooding back to me today, not memories of previous birthdays or happy celebrations. As this morning, bleary eyed and barely conscious I sipped a cup of tea and took my herbal tablets (for women of a certain age!). One of the tablets became lodged in my throat, and I started throwing myself about trying to dislodge it, panicking and short of breath creating the same panic I had seen so many times before with my Nan. I called for my son who began thumping me hard on the back, eventually something moved but although I could breathe I was incredibly wheezy and after a few attempts of cajoling the tablet free with fizzy drinks and tea, it became clear that I would need help. I rang 111 (which would have caused my Nan no end of excitement as a trip to the doctors was a day’s outing for her), they advised me to go to the nearest A&E department which is at Basildon Hospital, ironically this was the same place my Nan was being sent to by ambulance the last time I saw her as I watched helplessly in the car park of her care home as she waved me goodbye.
As I telephoned my partner to ask him to come home and drive me to the hospital, I began to get dressed. As I reached to my underwear drawer I found myself looking at my Nan’s dog statue which is situated on a shelf in my bedroom.
Matching underwear please were the words I could hear ringing in my ears. I shook my head, annoyed that I was thinking so trivially when I clearly had more pressing matters to deal with and reached for the nearest pair of knickers and bra.
Don’t you dare! I heard as my eyes returned to the dog statue who was staring back at me with a knowing look on his face.
I put said clashing underwear back in the drawer and retrieved a matching set, as I did so I felt as if someone had patted me on the back because I had done the right thing.
And so, once appropriately dressed in matching underwear, a nice dress and a quick dab of foundation make up, I began a journey and subsequent three hour stay to the place where my Nan spent her last few weeks and, as my partner was instructed to wait outside due to social distancing, I didn’t have much option but to think about her and how much I missed her.
Thankfully, apart from a slightly damaged windpipe I have no lasting injuries and as I went home I imagined how much my Nan would have enjoyed the story of drama and a hospital dash, her only disappointment would have been that I was seen by a female doctor and not a ‘handsome young man’!
Within an hour of returning home, some flowers arrived for me – they were from my mum which was her lovely way of commemorating my Nan’s birthday. The flowers were beautiful red, orange and yellow roses much like the ones that I was going to pick myself this morning. I put them in a vase and went to put them on my sunny kitchen window.
Not there – the back of the house came the next instruction in my head. One of my Nan’s other oddities was to put any bouquets of flowers she received in the most remote part of her bungalow (instead of where she would get to see and enjoy them in her living room). Her reasoning was because they last longer in the cold and away from sunlight, and that seemed more important to her than looking at them we always surmised. So I moved my flowers to a windowsill not touched by direct sunlight, just as I was told, and feel that my Nan is now enjoying these roses too.
So in a weird way my Nan and I spent the day together on her birthday. Her peculiar habits and foibles have dropped into my conscious thought at regular intervals reminding me that our loved ones are always close by, even if we can’t see them. They find a way of sending us messages in ways we will know are unique to them – and the messages I got today were a bit silly and peculiar, but, then… so was my Nan.
Happy Birthday Nanny.