Friday, 20 February 2009

phone call

Just spoke to my grandfather. He's a cantankerous old bastard at the best of times; he was a cantankerous young bastard before that. Now his mind is going, and, worse, he has begun to recognise it.

He didn't recognise me on the phone; didn't even remember whose child I was. "You're one of the big ones, is that right?" he asked. Yes, Nonno, your oldest grandchild. Things came back, suddenly. "You're the university professor, and I think you should know that everyone in the family is very proud of you. You should be proud of yourself, it's an achievement," he began to pontificate.

I was calling to tell him that I'm trying to arrange to go up and see him. My grandparents live in skiing resort in the Swiss Alps, a ridiculously unsuitable location for two mentally-failing 80-somethings. Their closest family member is my aunt in Buccinasco, a suburb of Milan. Nonna is in a nursing home, recovering slowly if at all from a bad fall before Christmas. I'm going to come up next month, Nonno, and visit you both.

Oh, no, he said, I'm not sure about that. He sounds more Lancashire now than I remember. He explained that it wasn't that he didn't want to see me ("although you're practically a stranger to me now") but that it was inconvient, difficult, stressful... no, just no basically. Careful and repeated explanations were irrelevant. "You see, your grandmother's health problems are actually nothing compared to mine. In fact, mentally I'm in a worse state than she is," he said. True, perhaps, but no more welcome self-knowledge for that.

He begrudgingly conceded that "if you're in the area anyway, for other reasons" I could pop in to see Nonna in the home. He gave me her room number and her visiting hours. "Don't try to make a special trip," he said, "only if you happen to be in the area." (estimated distance from my home to hers= 815km). But as for himself, "much as I'd like to", it would be absolutely impossible to meet up. Under any circumstances.

Here I should insert some concluding philosophical point or emotional insight or consolatory message or suchlike but I don't feel like it. More wine, I think.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

go see him anyway...you'll both regret it if you don't

joejoejoe said...

Go see him. My older uncle is a bit of a hermit opposed to all visits and my mom, his sister, went to see him when he was ill and after a moment of awkwardness it was a quick pleasant meeting. They actually talk more easily on the phone since the visit so even a 15 second hug and smile has the potential to yield benefits to you both down the road.

Anonymous said...

Sweetheart, just go and sod him!when you get there he'll be a pussycat I bet.
Philly xxxxx

Martinus Scriblerus said...

Hey love - free to talk Sunday?
xxx
c

patcook said...

Go see him while he can still remember you with prompting. My pa doesn't even remember me with prompting, although he does nod and pretend he remembers me when i try to remind him.

Martha Elaine Belden said...

wow... this is so hard. i'm with everyone else... i'd say go see him (unless you already have, in which case, good for you :)

it's been a long time... i've been a terrible blogger lately. but i hope you're doing well. and i really hope you either saw or plan to see your dear grandparents soon.

when age manifests itself in these ways, i have to admit it scares me. it seems to be so painful for everyone. i hope your visit was or will be a beautiful time.

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