After reading my last piece She’s a Super Duper Granny (Life in the fast Lane) a friend (with no grandchildren) mentioned that HER mother swore she would never look after her grandchildren, quoting the old Irish saying above
It made me think.
Was I more involved with my own grandchildren than was good for me?
I decided to do some simple research on the matter.
I would look at the ‘old hens’ I knew who had grandchildren and see how their long levity was effected, and study one example.
My mother is 87.
An old hen by any standards.
And an excellent subject for my research, for not only has she survived her second clutch (all sixteen of them) but she is now on her third one of nine.
And it hasn’t killed her.
In fact I do believe it is what is keeping her alive.
Of course the triple bypass she had many years ago might also have something to do with the fact she is still with us, but only marginally.
She has been quite non compliant with her physio and her medications since that surgery especially her diuretics.
The downside of this is, every now and again she slips into heart failure and is shipped off to the local hospital to be treated.
The upside is, these annual trips give us a chance to sort out her belongings and in doing so I find the proof I’m looking for. i.e Her grandchildren and great grandchildren are very much part of her life.
We are mostly, with the exception of two or three, a family of procrastinators and ditherers. Doing things quickly doesn’t come natural to us. We like to talk about it in much detail first. So she has already been in hospital a week before one of us suggests that this is our chance. Luckily her length of stay is approximately two weeks.
I have a good excuse, having been busy producing for an art exhibition (see previous post), and coming from a creative family, this is a perfectly acceptable one.
I should mention here that my mother is an artist.
A creator, a dress maker, painter, knitter.
She can turn her hand to anything and she encourages her grandchildren and great grandchildren to do so too, as she once encouraged all of us.
It delights her to have a project on hand.
Most of the time.
‘What will I knit for you James?’
James lives in the west of Ireland and is the 9th grandson and is up on a visit. He is mesmerized by her flying fingers as she shows him how a ball of wool and a pair of needles, can produce any item desired
‘Can you knit ANYTHING Granny?’
She smiles and nods.
He thinks deeply for a moment
‘Can you knit me a cow?’
My mother doesn’t blink an eye!
‘One cow coming up’ she replies whilst rooting in her bag of wool and pulling out a ball of black and a ball of white. ‘but it will take a few days of knitting’ she warns, knowing how impatient a child can be.
The days go by. James is back on his small farm in the west.
He regularly rings granny for updates.
‘How is my cow coming along?’
Granny sighs (she is having trouble with the udders)
‘Nearly there James’.
‘Can’t you knit faster’
‘I’m trying James’
‘Well try harder Granny’ (Did I mention he was five at the time).
‘Have you dusted /swept /vacuumed behind those bags Greg?’
We are in ‘THE PROCESS’
‘No’ My brother shakes his head ‘I didn’t think they needed checking, they’re just her sowing/knitting /paper craft stuff.
His answer is enough to make me lean past him .
I haul out the bags which lie under a book shelf groaning with the weight of books on (you’ve guessed it) sowing, knitting, origami, bonsai, art history, patchwork and other crafts.
Ignoring for the moment the fact that the books need a good dusting I peer into the first bag.
Its full of old newspapers.
Pulling out a page, I am faced with the face of my other brother, complete with hard hat on some building project.
I stuff it back in and without checking the further contents, throw the whole bag into a bin bag.
The second bag is full of colored cardboard, glue and a scissors.
I put that to the side for the moment.
The third is full of balls of wool.
As soon as I pick up the bag, the balls fall out through a hole in the bottom and roll along the floor, leaving a trail of suspicious black dots in their wake.
‘MOUSE ALERT’ I shout
My youngest sister appears. She is busy working on a commission and has been excused from the clean up.
‘They are not mice droppings, they are Nigella seeds!’
My mothers terrace is noisy and busy with fluttering’s of gold crests, fire crests, chaffinches and bull finches landing excitedly on the five bird feeders hanging from various trees and shrubs and filled with tiny black oblong seeds.
and these seeds get dragged in on peoples feet.
‘Nope’ I shake my head ‘Can’t blame the bird seed’
I proffer the bag to her. She peers in at the shredded paper pattern and suspicious black dots entangled in the cozy wool nest.
In the end we throw out five black bags of rubbish and lay two mice traps
We put three untouched balls and needles in another bag.
She won’t notice the missing wool because it won’t be long before someone doing their own clear out will arrive with more. ‘Mrs Peppard loves to knit’.
You see, we are often at the receiving end of someone else’s rubbish and for some reason we are unable to refuse it.
‘I read an article recently on making an interesting fence using old bicycle wheels’ my brother is examining a couple of rusty looking old bikes lying on the driveway that weren’t there last week. I have to bite my tongue, only the week before the bicycles appeared, he accepted a pile of old timber from someone with the excuse that it would make a good fence.
Once someone even tried to pawn a goat off on us. It had been found wandering around the alter of our local church
So there you have it
The Old Hen aka my mom, is home.
The great grandchildren are already out to visit her.
‘Will you knit me a telephone?’ asks Simon (aged seven). ‘An old fashioned one?’ He has been rooting in a bag and found a magazine with a photo of an antique phone on the front of it and is waving it in front of her face.
I lean over my mothers shoulder to read the title of the magazine. ‘Antique trader’ and note the date (1990). How did I miss that magazine in the throw out.
Mom is already reaching into her newly filled bag of wool.
‘What color’? She inquires without raising an eyebrow.
But I know she is thinking the dial will be tricky.