Sunday, November 09, 2008


Grumpy grandad has turned yellow.

I have mixed feelings about yellow. It can be sunny and jolly and once I had a study painted yellow because I felt it was very condusive to creative writing but in clothes, for instance, it's a big no no (me being a winter and all) and in my grandad's skin it's all wrong.

But then it is all wrong, all this, getting to this point.

It was diabetes in the beginning but now it's Body Packed it In Disease which includes dodgy bladder, numb legs, dicky heart, several falls and (perhaps) a half tumbler of whiskey a night to get to sleep.

As well as being yellow (not exactly sure but I think medical term is "his liver=fucked") it seems that he will also need to have his leg amputated up to the knee. That would be that creeping infection in the bone.

They do that to you every time, those creeping infections. Start off as an ulcer, hidden in a pair of bedroom slippers, casually whistling, don't mind me I'm just going to loiter around and...fester.

Give them two toes and they take a limb.

Two weeks ago my grandad was already feeling that life deserved the big finger after day after day of botched and buggered up catheter business. The old feller was getting more action than it had ever seen in his tours of duty, except of course having a catheter inserted and reinserted and readjusted and repeat is very fucking painful.

At the hospital I looked at my grandad, helpless and yellow in his hospital bed minus his clothes, and teeth and glasses. And two toes. He is scared. If he survives the operation he will be in great pain and the lodge where he has a little roomette of his own will move him into the high care facility, the nursing home.

"You only come out of there in a chute," he told us once.

He is a big heavy man my grandad. He won't be able to walk and he won't be able to put himself into a wheelchair so there will be hoisting required and cunning bits of machinery...but the staff will be busy, said my youngest sister K, a nurse herself, and so they will end up leaving him in bed.

I stroke his hair, picking little pieces of flaky scalp off as I do and letting them flutter over the side of the hospital bed.

I rub his arm and note how his tattoo, the one he got after D-Day and the Liberation of Paris, is stained with blood.

My stepmother has been given a book on death and dying and I looked at it before I went into visit Grandis. It is a very good book (and when I get back to Newcastle I will note the name) with some very good things to think about. I took some photographs with me to the hospital, of the family, of my long dead grandmother, of my younger smartly dressed grandfather.

Yesterday we came back to Sydney to pick up Byron Bay sister T who has flown in to see him too. Later today she and I and Tricky will drive back to Newcastle while C drives for 6 hours to Country Town where he is working on an exhibition. Life continues.

As does death.

He won't be able to recognise these photographs, I thought. His eyes have been bad for a while and he's not wearing glasses, he won't be able to see a thing, but I was wrong.

That's Alma Louise, he pointed out. My wife. And there's old Pickles! Our dog! Now she was a, that's it. And there's the girls when they were little. And there's us in Penang when we went to visit them...there we are sitting outside the Snake Temple...

Funny old photographs, faces long changed or gone, full of stories and memories of the past.

The colours had changed, I noticed, but they do that, old photographs. Too much time or maybe a reaction to the plastic sheets in the old photo album. And I saw how those long ago people, the woman in the hat and the smartly dressed man wearing glasses posing happily by a stone temple wall seem bathed in a sickly yellow light.


Anonymous said...

Listening. Poor fella.
Sad for you.

Anonymous said...

We're going through something similar with my grandfather and it's so painful to watch. *hugs*

Betty F said...

I'm so sorry. Your grandfather would be about the age of my father had he lived these last ten years. Part of the "Greatest Generation" It's hard to watch them like this. You're in my good thoughts and Prayers.

steph said...

I'm sorry, and will be thinking of you.

SassyCupcakes said...

I'm so sorry. *hug*

Maggie May said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. I have experienced this too often and it you remember....... the little book on death, the photos and the busy hospital.
I've never been too fond of the colour yellow.

Thinking of you and sorry that this is happening. X

Mima said...

OG I'm really sorry to hear your news, it must be really tough to go through, and so incredibly difficult for your Grampa to deal with it all.

I'm really glad that he knew the photos, I think they mean so much to us all, brining back such wonderful memories. My Grampa died recently, and Granny decided that she wanted a digital photo frame, so we have been scanning in some of her photos to put on it. It has been a wonderful experience for my Mum as Granny has been telling her the stories behind the photos - very special.

Sending lots of hugs and I hope that the operation goes well.

Grit said...

there is never a right time, a prepared time, a best time, never, never, but the ongoing strength or pure awkward obstinacy, the keep goingness, the always enduring, lasts ever, ever.

Linda said...

Ova Girl, I can't stop crying.

I'm thinking of you. I'm so sorry.


Anonymous said...

It's moving news, so delicately put, and i feel for you and family. But also, let me say today that your writing is exquisite and it brings me back here, time and again. It's transformative, amidst the sadness.

thank you

Rebecca said...

I just lost my Granny, fortunately without much suffering. It was her time, but I miss her. However it turns out, I wish your grandfather the same as she was lucky to have: a dignified and comfortable final act to a memorable life.

Dramalish said...

I've got a million and twelve things to do today, and I should be off doing them, but I HAD to comment this morning, because GAWWWD, you are a beautiful writer.

It's been more than 3 years since I experienced that slow process of losing someone aged/sickly. Her recollections from those days are precious to me.

Bless you, OG. And bless Grumpy Grandad.

Lin said...

Some things should be so easy. Birth and death...piece of cake, right? But it doesn't always happen that way and when it doesn't, he pain gets absorbed so deeply.

I am thinking of you, kid, and wishing godspeed to your granddad.

L xoxo

Anonymous said...

And here I thought this was going to be a happy post. Yellow is my favorite color.

Only not so much on Grandads.

Thinking of you OG,