Friends that are no more

We drove to see our 101 year old grandmother yesterday. It was quite a sad visit, as she is no longer as able to move around her house, and seems as if she suffers. She can’t hear anything, so it isn’t really possible to tell her all the things she wants to know, like how the children are. I couldn’t take them with me, as Conrad was being so naughty I was slightly worried he would jump on her lap and burst the huge ulcers on her legs by accident, and Sebastian is generally a liability, and was teething. I hope we can at least take Conrad again in January, but we were both reasonably sure it would be the last visit. We let ourselves out of the back door, and remembered when the door handle was above our heads. It’ll be a relief for her to die; the sadness we will feel is more a mourning of the passing of time and youth. She has lived alone for nine years since our grandfather died, and is probably looking forward to meeting him again, as she believes she will. We walked past the window to the small sitting room, where she sits in her chair by the gas fire, her face lit up by the very bright reading light above her head. I feel sad for all the things she did not get to do with her life, for the fact that her life was so much smaller than my grandfather’s. His obituary was in the local paper. He had an entertaining framed caricature that had been given to him by his team to mark his retirement, showing him in his scholar’s gown, with a glass of his favourite wine. His secretary came to his funeral, and much was said about his time at Oxford, his dedication to his family, and his moral belief in the rehabilitation of prisoners, which is what he apparently did for the department of work and pensions. What would her obituary, or any woman’s born in 1915, say? That she was a good mother, a good housekeeper, a good wife; perhaps that she did work for the church and her community, but all of that was expected. She will not even have an obituary, because none of that actually counts to society. We pretend it does, but it doesn’t. She fades into the background; no memorable speeches, no demonstrative carving of roasts, no slightly mysterious war record (whatever “intelligence in Czechoslovakia” involved). She just made her family life nicer, and she will not be remembered for it. I was talking to someone about this at dinner recently, the challenge I have with staying at home, with the clear feeling that home life doesn’t feel so much part of the world, that the much harder task of bringing up children is so invisible, and the way that women will often fade from view. She disagreed, so maybe it’s just me that views it this way. I guess it’s why I work.

In the evening, Olga offered to babysit, so we went to see the new Star Wars spin-off, Rogue One. It was a predictable bit of familiar tropes of stormtroopers, scary Nazi-style uniforms and gleaming black platforms, but also a bit depressingly real in terms of its depiction of the politics and mechanics of every civil war, ever. Rebels, extremists, destroying cities, and images of children covered in dust, is a bit too much like what I try not to read about Aleppo.

The depressing bit was the trailer for the new Wolverine movie. I went to see one of the many Wolverine spinoffs with an old friend, many years ago, when we were both single and child-free. I remember it being pretty fun, and remember viewing Hugh Jackman as a young man. This was a gritty trailer about some old guy (Hugh Jackman) and his new young protégé, to the soundtrack of Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt. Who cares about the movie itself, it looks pretty dull; it was the lyrics to the song that played very clearly and made me so sad for everything that seems to have faded from my life, for those friends that are so far away and the person I no longer am:

Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here
What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end

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