Vale

My Grandmother is not well.

I have 2 Grandmothers. One is a gambling addict who lives in the north with schizophrenia and an annoying, sheds-hair-like-a-caterpillar-sheds-skin Prince Charles. The other is, in my opinion (since there are a number of my older family members who think otherwise), a sweet, kindly English lady with all the grace, eloquence and lovely attitude you’d expect the Queen to utilise regularly when she meets young children.

The former is Grandma, the latter is Granny. I love my Granny. When I was sixteen I used to frequent her house, every now and then, just for conversation, lemonade and a sit in their big outdoor chair setting. My grandfather was there as well, thought usually he just went off and did his own thing. I spoke to Granny about my stories, my education, how I was going on with girl problems and friend problems and even, on one memorable occasion, my frustration with attempting to overcome an obstacle during one of Mechwarrior 3’s hardest levels – a subject that, needless to say, she didn’t really have much experience with.

Now that I’m twenty I don’t see her as often, due to a combination of a laxadaisacal attitude and my job, which at the moment gives me little time to see the more important people like my girlfriend or my uni buddies, let alone extended family members. Not that my job is even a legitimate excuse, since in the intervening years I could have easily managed a visit on my way home for an hour or two.

I found out this morning that she’s been officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

I’ve never been able to personally grasp the gravity of this terrible affliction of the mind. My girlfriend’s grandmother, living in Adelaide, is also a sufferer of this debilitating illness. She’s had it for a number of years, and there have been many times when Lonie (that’s my girlfriend’s name, for those who didn’t know) will tell me stories of how shot up her grandmother’s memory is when she goes to visit her. It rends her in two, having to repeat conversations after ten seconds and just witnessing her grandmother’s deteriorating mental state firsthand or over the phone.

Being the supportive boyfriend I am, I always tell her that it’ll be ok, that I’m here for her. I try my best to give her my all, even if I don’t fully understand the enormity of what she’s going through with her grandmother. It’s one of the few areas where I haven’t been able to fully comprehend what she’s going through every time she talks to her grandmother.

I think over the coming months I’ll be building on my own experience to that end.

Granny came over today, after having spent the day with Dad. Apparently they went off up the mountains to see a botanical garden, despite the atrocious weather. We drank mild sake and ate peanut butter and plum muffins that my mum made. If I hadn’t been told this morning about what she’s dealing with, I wouldn’t have guessed. She seems perfectly as sharp and lovely as always, and so far nobody has repeated themselves or anything like that.

I know it’ll be tempting fate by saying it, but I’m praying that it stays that way for a long time to come.

You know the song “Vale” from the Doctor Who episode “The End of Time”, the one where David Tennant regenerates into Matt Smith? I’m not talking about the song where he actually does go from 10 to 11 – that’d be “Vale Decem”, which translates from Latin to “Farewell Ten” – but the one that plays before it. It’s when he first steps out of the (spoiler alert) irradiated booth in the Naismith Mansion, after absorbing all the nuclear radiation. There’s a quiet theme that plays over his realisation that “It’s started”, as Wilfred hugs him tightly and the Doctor looks wistfully at the camera as he knows his life is about to end.

Point of this thought – as I look at Granny, laughing and smiling and speaking to her son and her daughter in law and her grandchildren, that song plays in my head.

Vale, on its own, translates as “Farewell”.

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