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 his pocket and a faithful deaf dog at their side. The kind that slips your a tenner when you leave and tells you they can’t wait to see again. But as everyone in her family 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 and finds a copy of The Racist Post. She grabs a copy of The Daily Rant as well 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.
Pride fist courtesy of aquarianshopowner Pixabay
Her grandfather thanked her for the grapes but then told her that he hated grapes, adding
“And why did you get me flowers, I’m not queer, and I’m not dead yet either!” Luckily, however, and as she’d predicted, he found the papers very entertaining. Alfred was not always a big talker, but he was a prolific moaner. Fuelled by the newspapers as well as his obvious contempt for the staff at the hospice, he found plenty to gripe about. Forty-five minutes passed before he had time to draw a breath.
Their last 15 minutes of the visit was spent discussing the lively gay scene in Brighton, although from very different perspectives,
When the Mother got ready to leave, he asked that the next time she visited, she’d bring some pea and ham soup and a couple of cans of Guinness. She promised she would. Even though it was against the rules. She was pretty many of her granddad’s activities at the home were against the rules.
Anyway, you had to admire a man who, in his mid-nineties, was still making plans for the future. It turned out fortunately, there was a next time, in fact the Mother made several more trips to see her grandad. However, in a strange turn of events, the final visits took place at a completely different home. For Alfred was perhaps the only person alive who had been moved to a Hospice and had not come out in a box as the expression goes.
Instead, unknown to him he was moved to another hospice, several miles away. Heavy sedated and wrapped in blankets Alfred was relocated during the dead of night in the back of an ambulance. The only witness were the moon and stars. It was unorthodox, highly unprofessional, and quite possibly illegal, but no one said a word. Everyone in the family knew why Alfred had been moved because everyone knew Alfred. No one could blame the staff at Daisy Lane for moving him on it was simply his time to go.
As for life at his new establishment well, his room was much the same, his pictures were hung in identical places, he continued to be fed his usual meals by a cheerful, but vastly underpaid black nurse. His lifelong belief that “They all look the same,” came back and bit him on the arse. Alfred never actually noticed that the staff had changed and was therefore completely oblivious to the fact that he’d been rehoused. Happily, Alfred spent his final years at Daisy Lane, at least in his head.
Alfred finally passed away just shy of 100, which was probably the only time he’d been shy of anything in his entire life. After living for such a very, very long time people couldn’t understand why he didn’t just hang on a few more days, to get to 100. The Mother knew why it was to spite the Queen.