It was an unusual feeling but in November 2015 I seen my grandmother for the first time in approximately 10 years. There is no particular reason for not seeing her for so long. Life I suppose, in some unfortunate and selfish turn of events. I cant even use the fact she lives in Germany as an excuse – its only an hours flight away!
My wife and I took my mum too. She also hasnt seen her mum for 10 years. Truth be told, the last time we seen my grandmother was when she had settled in to a new care facility following a harsh stroke that forced her out of her home and in to long term care. Her husband, my grandfather, had died about a year before following many health deteriorating years. This was a direct result of the lifestyle he led Im sure. The disappointing part of all this was that my grandmother was just getting her life back after spending many years looking after her husband, that she too, unexpectedly, suffered the same fate as her husband. A major stroke closed the door on so many more able-bodied years and placed her in to a lifetime of care.
Over the first few years, we all kept in touch, but then somehow it all stopped without explanation. In this time, we understood my grandmother to not be in great shape. Whether this is just age related or consequence of her condition, who knows…
We had booked ourselves on to a early flight to Dusseldorf, a city we hadn’t visited before and a city I actually had no intentions of visiting. Not sure why, I suppose there are so many other places I would prefer to go to first. As it transpired, I was so glad we decided to spend our first night in Dusseldorf before driving to see my grandmother. The city really is the cosmopolitan stylish city I wasnt expecting. Lots of shops (too high end for me!), restaurants and bars, flash supercars around every corner. It really was quite the surprise.
The other added bonus was that it was the first weekend of the Christmas markets and no better place to buy a currywurst and a beer. That brought back some memories.
Well, the next day was all about my grandmother. We took off mid-morning and headed up the autobahn to a town I spent much of my childhood. As we got closer it was bringing back so many memories and I certainly arrived with a smile on my face.
Before we went to the care home, we went to my mums sisters (my aunt!) house. She lives close to the care home and was taking us there for our “introduction”.
When we arrived at the care home, I could see the face of my grandmother peering over a communal dining table. I could see she was looking at us quizzically and could understand why – 10 years is a long time.
As we approached, I called to my Oma (German for grandma), she looked up through her thick glasses with a wry smile opened her arms in readiness for a bug hug. A flood of memories and emotions washed over me, it was without doubt a homecoming.
Before we had arrived my aunt had told us of my grandmothers state of mind. In short, she is easily confused. She doesnt recall being told her youngest grandson (my baby brother) had died and after 10 mins of reuniting with her she didnt recognise me and only acknowledged her grandson Andrew as the person in the pictures hanging on her wall.
We left that day having seen the woman we loved very much. She was (is) the most amazing grandmother ever. But we left with a deep heart as we only seen glimpses of the woman we remember. She is someone her deserves better.
So whilst I/we achieved something, I left with disappointment and some guilt. I could have gone to see my grandmother sooner, I could have seen her when she was perhaps a little more “with it”. I could have perhaps seen more of the woman I grew up with, my Oma.
If there is something to be learnt it is this; dont put things on hold, thinking it will be ok until next week, next month, next year. Before you know it, you are 10 years down the line. Do it now, whatever it is. Tomorrow may never come.