Tag Archives: old ladies

Gone but never forgotten!

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My ex mother in law Joyce, died yesterday morning. She would have been ninety on June 22nd and for the past few months has been deteriorating with what her G.P. described as  “a touch of Alzheimers,” as well as various other conditions.  She was a poor old thing when she slipped away and my immediate emotion was one of relief, no-one wants to see another human being linger when they are already struggling.

Joyce and I never shared a close relationship, in fact for two years of our lives we did not see or speak to one another at all and they were two good years for me, for Joyce was always so very critical of me, my lifestyle, my parenting skills, my skills as a housewife. I won`t list here the many, many times she undermined me and whittled away at my confidence because she is gone now and it was all so very long ago. Instead, I`d like to comment on the few occasions she made me smile and try to sustain those as my enduring memories of her.

We were walking together up Longbridge Lane, we`d been to the local shops for something or other. It was a hot summer day and a wasp started buzzing around my head.  Joyce began to bat her hand around my head in an effort to scare the wasp away. Suddenly she swatted the side of my head so hard, she bounced my glasses off my face and half way across Longbridge Lane. She collapsed in hysterics and laughed about it the whole of the rest of the way home.

Joyce`s little side swipes were always quite obvious to me however, not to innocent bystanders. For example, when I was leaving my marriage for the first time in November 1991 for my Christmas present Joyce gave me a bag which had “Bon Voyage” printed across the front of it.

I was quite a bit older when I started to take Joyce and her sisters Jean and Lillian out for meals from time to time. I don`t know why I felt duty bound to do this for Tony and I had been divorced for a lot of years and I`d had two serious relationships during that time although I did love Jeanie. (Jeanie also died, two weeks` ago and her funeral was just the other day.) I used to call them The Golden Girls and every meal I took them to, panned out in the same way.  They would mooch around for a table and sit down. Lillian would then complain it was “too draughty” and they would move.  Jeanie would then complain it was “too dark” to see the menu so off we`d go again. It was not uncommon to move at least four times before they were in agreement. Then Joyce would be imperious and terribly rude whilst ordering and say things like, “this glass is dirty (it never was) bring me another clean one immediately,” in hindsight she may have been in early dementia for some years and this could quite easily have affected her perceptions but at the time, I recall being deeply embarrassed and the numbers of waiters and waitresses I have apologised to over the years doesn`t bear thinking about.  Then they would bicker, like three silly children, all the way through their meal.

I was with Joyce on Thursday, a day and a half before she died. She was being nursed in a residential home and we all knew she did not have very much longer, she was so terribly frail and had stopped eating altogether. Like many people with dementia, Joyce was repeating a single word over and over again and the word she chose was “please.”

I know she wanted to go home but she was ensconced in her long term memory by then and probably didn`t know where home was. I tried distracting her which didn`t work and in the end I said to her, “You know Joyce you don`t have to say please, you could say another word….”

“Alright,” she said in a tiny little voice, “what word shall I say?”

So I continued and suggested, “well, you could say balloon, or tomato.”

“Or I could say shit.” She said to me.

“You could indeed,” I replied.

So Joycey sat there, like a little bird in her big bed quietly saying “Shit, shit, shit.”

When I left, I kissed her forehead and said, “Goodbye old lady.”  And she gave me a watery smile and I thought, she is still there, she is still Joyce underneath that haze of dementia.

RIP Joyce Inman.

June 22nd 1927 – June 10th 2017

 

 

 

 

Phyl Griffith. In loving memory…..

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I first met my little old lady in November of 2001. Her first name was Cissie but everyone called her Phyl. Slightly before I met her, I had become friends on the internet with her son Kevin who I went to school with and who we all called Griff. Griff had sent me a `hello` e-mail in September of the year I met Phyl and I have never fathomed out why, I had last seen him in 1970. If anyone had told me then that several decades later I would be living with him, I would have burst out laughing. Griff resided in Australia and he thought it would be a nice idea if I went to meet his parents Phyl and Owen who lived in Birmingham, so I did!  I met his parents before I met him.

I shall never forget Phyl greeting me for the first time. I was quite nervous but she opened the door and smiled at me as though I was a long lost friend, she gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek, she made me feel very welcome and we immediately hit it off. Owen was a grumpy old bugger but I grew to love him too. Phyl was a little woman hence her nickname, she was always slightly stooped as she had a curve in her spine which over the years became more pronounced and in the end, caused her some pain but we weren`t to know that then.

In her sixties Phyl had survived breast cancer and had a prosthesis which constantly slipped and usually sat somewhere around waist level because Phyl didn`t like wearing a bra and much preferred a vest. Quite recently I took her for her cataract operation and afterwards a nurse came to me and said, “Excuse me, does your friend wear one of these?” The nurse held the prosthesis in her hands Phyl must have dropped it somewhere along the way. She found this terribly funny and we giggled about it for the rest of the day.

I think the most precious thing about my relationship with Phyl is that we made each other laugh.  She liked to call me her little ray of sunshine and I have very many happy memories of enjoying funny times with her; in fact her next door neighbour Jackie said that she always knew when I was visiting because she could hear us laughing through the wall. We had a similar sense of humour, for example, we laughed until the tears ran down our faces when she told me the story about a small girder which Owen was installing into the kitchen ceiling, falling and skimming his body by inches.  He wasn`t hurt and I have no idea why we found this so funny.

Every year Phyl received an abundance of Christmas cards which arrived from all over the world. The most she had in one year was three hundred and sixty something. This was a source of great joy to her and she always felt and indeed was, very much loved by many people. When her son and I split up Phyl and I remained very good friends. Every other Tuesday I would go and see her and she would cook me a roast dinner. Phyl made the best gravy I have ever tasted, I could have existed on her gravy alone it was heavenly. She always hand wrote a menu on the back of an old birthday card. She headed her menus. “Phyl`s Restaurant” listing all that was to be eaten and concluding `Tea and coffee if required.` I have kept dozens of them. I`d arrive at her house at 6pm on the dot and she would peer round her open door, her snowy hair billowing around her rosy cheeks and say, “I`m sorry, the restaurant is closed…..” and shut the door again or I would say, “I`m collecting on behalf of the sisters of mercy and wondered if you would like to make a small donation?” We were both absolute fools together. When Phyl moved about her kitchen getting the dinner ready, she did those old people farts that old people do but cannot hear because they are deaf.

After dinner Phyl would watch Emmerdale and I would fall asleep, she used to say, “If I see you fall asleep I shall give you a good kick on the shin.”  The thought of this always made her giggle.  Before going home I`d make her a cup of tea and she always told me I made a very good one. To take away with me Phyl would pack a bag with two tea buns, one for me and one for a friend, a bag of chocolate bars, some hard sweets, usually Werther`s, some Sunbite crisps and two packets of mini cheddars, one for me and one for Alfie, my dog. She would also insist on giving me a fiver for my petrol, we had many an argument about this as I didn`t want it or need it but she was a stubborn old lady. I estimate that over a ten year period Phyl cooked around 250 dinners for me and had given me something like £1,250 in bi-monthly fivers the silly old biddy.

When Phyl hit her late eighties, unsurprisingly she started her decline. She seemed to shrink in front of me, losing both weight and height but this didn`t stop her from going out into Solihull shopping, or to Shirley every Friday with her good neighbour Beryl, she kept in touch with lots of her friends and family. I walked with Phyl through the loss of her beloved husband Owen, her sister Eileen who she loved very much, her oldest friend Elsie who passed away in a residential home, her next door neighbour Ron, the list goes on. They were all ancient and had known each other almost all of their lives so to Phyl, the losses were great.

A few months ago, Phyl had a fall and hurt her back. It triggered off her spondylitis and she was in a lot of pain but she came through this dark period and by August, was quite her old self. I was with her for dinner, my last dinner with that wonderful old lady, on Tuesday August 12th. She had cooked coq au vin and we had lemon sorbet for pud. Days later Phyl suffered a heart attack and was admitted to hospital in Redditch.

I visited her every other day and shared the visiting with her neighbours. Phyl declined to eat and became weak, very tired and fragile.  She reminded me of a little snowy bird all propped up with hospital pillows, she was tiny and we were expecting the worst at any moment. On the Tuesday of what was to be her last week with us, I sat with her for an hour. She was minus all the medical paraphernalia that had been supporting her and was being medicated with small doses of morphine. She had really perked up and like many people just before they die, she enjoyed a laugh with me, with Carol her niece and her good neighbour Sue.  She talked about how much she hoped she would `hang around` to see her grandson Tom, her two sons Kevin and Roy and her grandson Sion who had all booked flights to be with her as quickly as they could and that she hoped to `hear good news about Mel`s baby,` due on September 15th.  (Another much loved relative.)

Before leaving I offered to give her a good kicking to make her feel better and she laughed at that too. Nurses call this phenomena the “glow before you go” but I`m glad I had that time with her, glad I could kiss her cheek and say, “I love you Phyl,” and hear her say “and I love you.” What a lovely memory. Her beloved grandson Tom had come as fast as he could from Australia to be with her.  Very sadly, too late to talk with his nanny but I think Phyl will have known that Tom was here, she certainly knew that he was on his way and this cheered her up huge amounts. Phyl loved a lot of people, she was the least judgemental woman I have ever met and I aspire to be like her. I hope Phyl, that you are reunited with Owen now and all of your friends and family who have gone before you. I shall miss you a great deal and Tuesday nights will never be the same.

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Cissie Phyllis Griffith

April 13th 1923 – September 3rd 2014.