Chug chug chug the Mother’s train pulls into Brighton Station, The sun is shining, and the children are back at school. It’s a perfect day to hit the beach. But, the Mother is not going anywhere near the beach and is unlikely to consume any ice cream or jellied eels today either. The Mother is on her way to Daisy Lane Hospice, which is where her Grandad lives.
Grandad Alfred was not like other peoples grandad’s, You know the ones that always have a bag of lemon sherbets in their pocket and a faithful deaf dog at their side. The kind that slips you a tenner when you leave and tell you they can’t wait to see again. But as everyone always said, he was a bit of a character. But then again the same could be said of Freddy Krueger.
Just before the Mother gets to the home, she nips into the nearby garage to pick up some grapes and a bunch of flowers. Better get him something to read as well thinks the Mother. She looks for the most right-wing, racist newspaper she can find and is rewarded with a copy of The Racist Post. Better grab a copy of The Daily Rant too thinks the mother just to be on the safe side….
“Migrants take all new jobs in Britain reads the Rants headline followed by a story about how impossible it is to get a job in the UK if you are British. As well as this story there is a shocking article about those dirty immigrants coming over to the UK and scrounging off the state. “Fantastic,” says the Mother, but quietly. The newspaper will definitely cheer her grandad up and give him something to complain about. In fact, he’ll probably have so much to say about immigrants that he won’t even get started on the Nanny State, which ironically is now entirely dependant on.
As she enters the home, a nurse immediately comes to the door. She doesn’t look very happy although, for anyone who has ever spent any time at all with Alfred, that’s no great surprise.
“Can we have a little chat?” Asks the nurse, an elegant, well rounded black woman in her 50s. Oh, Christ thinks the Mother he’s not dead is he not after I’ve already come all this way. Not after I’ve shelled out £20 quid on train fares, still, there’s always the pier she thought.
(To date the Mother has had four little chats with the nurses regarding her grandfather’s death. All but one have taken place over the phone. The first call came about three years ago. The Mother could still remember that awful feeling in her stomach when she heard the bad news. A nurse had sensitively explained that Albert was very ill and probably would not last the night. But amazingly, he did last the night and the next night and the next night and the next.)
Perhaps reading her expression the nurse quickly adds,
“Oh no, god don’t worry he’s not dead.”
The Mother sighs with relief, well she definitely sighs.
The nurse visibly braces herself. The poor woman has clearly drawn the short straw in the games telling the family the bad news. Whatever she was about to say, has obviously been revised in her head many times but still, she cannot think of the right words. Finally, she opted for
“Miss Knight, I don’t want you to get upset when you see Alfred, but I must warn you, your grandfather is not himself at the moment then a pause.
“He is not in his right mind he’s getting very old now, and ill, and his mind’s starting to go” Go thought the Mother, what’s she talking about is mind went years ago.
“Sometimes, when people get very old, their character starts to change, they are not quite themselves, and they often say things they don’t really mean.
The Mother laughed abruptly,
“Ha, what d’you mean? Has he started being nice to people!” If only her dad, Alfred’s son, had been there, he would have found that hilarious. She was about to continue what the shouting started. Saved by the bell thought of the Mother or in this case the screaming!
“Get me a fucking nurse” came an old man’s voice from down the corridor
“and I don’t want that fucking pouffy one or the Paki one either.”
Strangely there was a kind of instant relief on both sides as the Mother asked
“Is that my grandad?” That was a question she didn’t even really need to ask.
The nurse nodded, then continue speaking. This time her words came more easily, ‘As I was saying when people get older….”
“Oh god no he’s fine,” said the Mother “well he’s not fine, he nuts but that’s not him getting older, that’s just him. He’s always been like that. In fact, that’s quite mild for him. You know it’s funny now, but when I first told him I was pregnant, he told me that…actually never mind”
Now wasn’t the right time, there had been enough obscenities for one day. The Mother started walking down the long turquoise corridor towards the screaming. Suddenly she stopped, turned around, and looked straight at the nurse.
“I’m sorry about my Grandad; he can be a…” this time it was the Mother who was lost for words
The nurse just smiled wearily. It probably wasn’t the first time she had heard listen to abuse and racism from a resident. It probably wouldn’t be the last, but no one delivered it quite like Alfred The Mother took a deep breath, turned, and continued down the corridor.