My nan isn’t like any other nan. She’s always been younger than her years, and by younger I mean utterly wild, goddd love her! Knitting was never her thing, she prefers to sip on Chardonnay with a dash of soda, no ice. And she’s not one for niceties, she’s more about swear words & Superkings. That’s Bridget, and I wouldn’t have her any other way.
Without saying too much, my family have been through a lot lately and nan is, well, she’s really poorly. I can’t pick up the phone and call her anymore like we used to. I can’t run round to her flat and watch Coronation Street (she calls it crappy street) with fish and chips, and I can’t smell her Estee Lauder Youth Dew on my clothes anymore, a sign that I’d well and truly had a nanny cuddle. Some people have never been close to their grandparents, but my nan has always been more of a best friend to me and I count myself lucky for that. So she’s not the most grandma-ry of grandmas, but she’s mine and she’s irreplaceable. There is quite literally no one else in the world like her. There’s so much I could say to paint a picture for you but I’ll just say this: how many nans do you know that have had a slap-off with one of the other old dears (we’ll call her Cynthia) down the British Legion? Even writing that seems like it couldn’t possibly be true but it happened. She wasn’t even young and stupid, she was 73 and old enough to know better haha. This is the woman who also thought riding into a pub on a bike in nothing but her underwear was a good idea. I mean, it sounds like something I would definitely do!
When we were younger, nan, my sister and I were inseparable. We’d spend the whole of the summer holidays down the beach with her until we were wrinkly from the sea water. We’d raid her wardrobe and dress up as The Spice Girls, we’d set up office in her bedroom and pretend we worked for Customer Services. We would come home from school and watch CITV with a Pokey Hat – that’s what she’s always called ice-cream cones. We would put up paddling pools in the garden and make perfume from roses and AND we’d watch scary movies with her and then not sleep for 6 months. Thanks nan for reminding me never to watch The Birds ever again.
She has always been there for us, but now it’s time for us to be there for her. I didn’t expect it to be this soon but I’m grateful to be able to give her the love she so desperately needs and deserves. I’m grateful to be able to return the forehead kisses now, to tuck the blankets under her feet so they don’t get cold and to tell her that everything is going to be ok. Because there’s not one person strong enough in this world that doesn’t need to hear that when they’re at their lowest. I’m beyond thankful that I get to be there to wipe her tears, to feed her when she hasn’t got the strength and to show her exactly what the love she gave to us as little girls and as stroppy teens has taught us as adults. There’s been times throughout her illness when I’ve had to turn away from her bedside, frightened to show her how petrified I am of losing her – pretend I need to grab a drink when what I really need is to cry the kind of tears that make your whole face ache. But that’s not Bridget. She’s the life and soul, the smiler and that’s what I try to be – because if she sees a little bit of her old self in me then surely that will pick her up and enable her to keep fighting. She doesn’t need to see me breaking down and falling apart, that’s what the car journey home’s for – Michael Buble, you and your Christmas album have saved my arse. It’s heart-breaking to think back on times that were only a few months ago and see them as memories now. I don’t know what the future holds or what her recovery will be like but I do know this: she may not be able to move the entire left side of her body, her speech may be slurred and her eyes a little dimmer than before, but she’s still my nan. She’s still a mother to my mum and uncle and you know what, somewhere in there she’s a young girl who’s lost and scared in a body she doesn’t recognise anymore. I want so badly to nestle into one of her fuzzy knitwear cuddles once more, but that’s not possible right now. I hope that one day it will be, because I miss being able to feel the weight of her arms around me, more than I could ever convey in writing.
I don’t know what my intentions were for this post. With a subject so private and close to mine and my family’s heart, it’s hard to protect her dignity, all the while being the open person that I am too. I guess it’s turned into a post where I can be entirely honest and say you know what, 9 times out of 10 I am right as rain, nothing to report, everything’s dandy! But right now things are pretty sh*t. I want my blog to be a positive space, somewhere you can come and laugh at me and relate with me and on the whole it will be, but I’m not afraid to show you my lowlights reel too because life isn’t always a perfectly edited image on a grid. We can hygge all we like, light all the candles in the world but the reality is you can’t apply a Clarendon filter in real life and just Facetune over the cracks. It doesn’t work like that. I can be strong for my nan, I can be strong for my family but something’s got to give and I’m so glad I’ve found a space to let it all hang out if only for a little while. Now I’m going to pour myself a f*cking large glass of wine ‘cos that’s what Bridge would do. Thanks for being my shoulder guys. Love you bye.
Photography by Olivia Foley