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The soft look your eyes once had

I was fortunate to have two Grannies when I was small.  In fact I had two until I was nearly 16 but unhappily one succumbed to dementia and was in a nursing home for nearly 8 years before her life extinguished.  So, at the time, half of mine was spent with her vibrant, outspoken and faintly outrageous personality, full of bell-like tinkling laughter chiming through her house replete  with rather exotic and eminently touchable artifacts and half with a shrinking fading somewhat pathetic reminder of whom she had been.  I remember being vaguely scared of her when we went to visit as she evaporated slowly away.  She was withered and bent and painfully thin with skin parched and almost transparent through which the vessels carrying her aged blood were defiantly visible.  Dessiccating.  She had the faint odour of care home and often didn’t utter a sound except the thinnest of hints of breath in and out.  When she did speak she had a habit of rambling in guttural spitty Arabic having lived in Egypt in the 1920s and 30s during the up-market tourist boom of that era when my grandpapa was chief accountant for Thomas Cook.  Sadly it was a relief to be sent outside to play with the nursing home dog – an unfeasibly large pyreneen mountain dog called Uggles who resembled Nana in Peter Pan and was similarly hard-wired to nurse-maiding children.  When she died at the age of almost 92 there were few left to mourn her so her funeral was tiny – eight of us including my cousins, my elder brother and I.  So feeble were our collective voices that the crematorium put a cassette tape of the Kings College Choir singing our chosen hymns to bolster us up.  Outside it was cold and damp and I realised my father was crying.  I realised my father was a son.  I realised my father was a feeling, emotional creature just like me.  It was a seminal moment.

As I’ve grown older I miss her even though I barely had opportunity to acquaint with her and I wish I’d had the moment to know her better.  I’m told I’m like her.  I take it as the greatest  compliment – she lost an arm in the First World War when nursing in France.  Gangrene.  Not carelessness, just caring for others in greater need.  When we were small children she used to swing one armed into a string hammock and then pull us all in with her, one at a time and read us stories under the lilac trees.  She also had a wonderful and positively enormous cat called Kim who resembled an overstuffed fur cushion.  She was, therefore Granny Kim.

This lady sitting in les Jardins de Luxembourg hijacks me, reverses time and  delivers me to a presentday now past and long forgotten yet seamlessly evoked.  A time I wish I had noticed when the then was now.  She knows nothing of her curious power of course as she casually soaks in the sunshine.  Behind her the children play, the lovers drift hand in hand, friends gossip on benches.  Every one of us growing older as time relentlessly moves us forward.  Carpe diem.

DSCF6904

I post the picture in response to The Daily Press Weekly Photo Challenge entitled ‘Time’ – you can see all the other, far worthier interpretations here

PS:  The title is from one of  the most touching and bittersweet poems I know ….

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

 

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

 

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

WB Yeats

81 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a superb post…you caught me up in that world that you knew.

    Liked by 3 people

    February 9, 2016
    • Thank you Helen …. I was talking with another blogger the other day about something entirely different and said ‘once it’s gone, it’s gone’ … of course that isn’t quite true because memory plays such a powerful part and although I didn’t have the chance to really know Granny Kim as I now would have liked to, it turns out that she left me with very strong memories of a time past and the world that was my little world nearly 50 years ago 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      February 9, 2016
  2. Pan #

    I guess it doesn’t matter if the memories and experiences differ, because your story made me cry bittersweet for my grandparents.. They are a gift that are sometimes under appreciated or maybe just taken for granted for the moment in our lives we share with them, for us who are fortunate to have known them at all..
    As always, a great and moving post..

    Liked by 3 people

    February 9, 2016
    • Thank you so much. I’m glad in a way that I know you will understand that it made you cry. I am absolutely firmly of the belief that the grandparental relationship is one of the most important we have. In part that is because of my own experience as a child and in part because of my experience as a mother – my daughter’s all have a close relationship with their granny and still grieve for their grandfather (Papa) thirteen years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

      February 9, 2016
      • Pan #

        When we are fortunate to have that generational love passed on the family tree, it’s a great testament to the values that are inherited by choice..

        Liked by 2 people

        February 9, 2016
      • THAT is perfectly put and so so true 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        February 9, 2016
  3. Pan #

    And of course I had to look up Carpe diem.. What great motivation in just 3 words !

    Liked by 1 person

    February 9, 2016
    • We should all have those words taped somewhere that we will see them at least once a day. If I have a motto it is ‘Seize the Day’ 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      February 9, 2016
  4. I enjoyed the details of the moment. I can hear Granny Kim’s “bell-like tinkling laughter chiming through her house”, and see the ease and joy with which she lifted the small children onto the hammock. What is it that makes some of our memories of Grannies so precious and precise?
    Thank you for sharing yours.

    Liked by 3 people

    February 9, 2016
    • Thank you so much for commenting, Arati. It’s an interesting question that you pose and one that I need to ponder. I think that the grandparental relationship, if we are fortunate to experience it, is entirely particular. Maybe it is less laden with issues than the parental one. A Grandparent in some way, being a step away from the anxiety felt by the parent is more relaxed and therefore we, as the grandchildren feel less pressured. Subtle difference but a difference nonetheless. I have adult children but no grandchildren yet. I will be mindful if and when they arrive of what it feels like to be a granny rather than a mummy and maybe that will give me a clue. What I do know is that my own daughters have benefitted immeasurably from having my own mother still living and suffered terribly when my own father died.

      Liked by 2 people

      February 9, 2016
  5. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. Aging and growing older have a different perspective when seen through the eyes of a child, compared to an adult.

    Liked by 2 people

    February 9, 2016
    • Thank you so much. Because in a sense I lost her when I was a child through her dementia, all my memories of her are as a child. It would be really interesting to understand how those memories would differ had she been fully present even until my mid-teens when she passed. My own daughters are all devoted to my mother and I think, even though the eldest is now 29 they still have the child relationship and find it quite unimaginable that she can be a very frustrating mother!!

      Liked by 1 person

      February 9, 2016
      • As I work in geriatrics, I have many thoughts on what you wrote. Of course, you will never know how things could have been. It is an unanswerable question.

        This experience taught you what dementia is, and the gift of giving unconditionally to someone who is vulnerable and unable to give back in the same way. To me, how we care for others who are vulnerable says more about us and our character than about the other person.

        Every experience has its own unique gifts and legacy. In the end, we model love and the beauty of family and connection for those who come after us. Your post was very loving and beautiful tribute to your grandmother. I am sure you gave her joy.

        Liked by 2 people

        February 9, 2016
      • Thank you. One of the things I am grateful for in this blogging world we inhabit is that I came across you and it turned out that you work in an area which I feel is often overlooked and yet is just as important as educating the young. Caring for the vulnerable is something I hold dear. I felt that my role as a mother was in no small part to teach and encourage my own daughters how vital it is to be someone who notices and helps and cares for their own and for strangers. You, dear lady are more of an inspiration than you know 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

        February 9, 2016
      • Thank you for your kind words. I feel that caring for the elderly is an opportunity to give unconditionally to others and an opportunity to polish one’s soul. It is easy to give when you can expect to get back. Much harder to give without expectations.

        Liked by 1 person

        February 9, 2016
      • Unconditional is rare and getting rarer which I firmly believe is a symptom of all that is wrong in this world of ours. But I also believe that we all can if we will and sitting back and being part of the status quo is not good enough. You shine 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        February 9, 2016
      • I have to believe that if we lead by example, others will follow. Our actions speak louder than our words.

        Liked by 1 person

        February 9, 2016
      • I also meant that old, when I was younger seemed like such a long way off and totally different from me. I could never see myself as old. Now that I am older, old seems like just a variation of life. It is not so foreign.

        Liked by 2 people

        February 9, 2016
      • Perfectly put 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        February 9, 2016
  6. Wow…what a wonderful post. Your grandmother sounds like she was quite a person and led an amazing life. It is difficult to see people who have been like that slipping away in later life. Life’s not fair that way, sometimes. But what a life she had led.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 9, 2016
    • Her mother was a suffragette and I am certain a critical influence on her. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Dementia is like watching someone slowly disappear. I watched Still Alice recently. Tremendous movie 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      February 9, 2016
  7. I wanted to share that one of my favorite poems about aging is “when I grow old, I will wear purple.” There is a certain freedom with aging. Hopefully, greater self acceptance and less need to impress.💜🚺💜

    Liked by 3 people

    February 9, 2016
    • I ADORE that poem! I love your choice. My mother and her sister-in-law made a pact when they turned 80 that they would no longer worry about what they say. Occasionally I have to remind her that she might be appearing a little rude but generally it is wonderful to see that freedom from the shackles of pleasing society 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      February 9, 2016
  8. Your story stirred memories from the deep for me of my maternal grandparents and those that were part of my life by choice and not blood ….thank you for that….painful but sweet memoires glad to have them back at the surface….xxkat

    Liked by 1 person

    February 9, 2016
    • I’m happy in the right way to have stirred those memories. Memory can elicit pain, of course and it can be hard as they resurface. I send you warm hugs as you embrace your own bittersweet 🙂 xx

      Like

      February 9, 2016
      • that’s what’s wonderful about those memories…reminds us of how fragile life is….sweet sorrow for sure….

        Liked by 1 person

        February 9, 2016
  9. Ah, so many feelings conveyed in your beautifully chosen words. I had shivers down my arms as this caused me to remember my own Nan. Thank you for sharing a very special part of your memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 9, 2016
    • Thank you – as you know, I appreciate your compliments and regard them very highly. Our Grannies can be the most particular and important part of our lives. I have yet to BE one but I know it will be a delight and an important role if I am given the chance because I know the value of my own in my life and I have witnessed the value of my children’s Grands in theirs 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      February 9, 2016
      • It is true, the value of Grandparents isn’t easily measured, except in love.

        Liked by 1 person

        February 10, 2016
  10. Very moving and poignant. You brought back more memories of my own gran whom I’ve recently enshrined in one of my short stories – thank you for reviving the memories and for a beautiful piece of prose.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 9, 2016
    • I would love to read the story – is it something you have blogged? I’m delighted that you enjoyed my little offering. I hope that many have their own precious memories of Grands …. it is a particularly important relationship and those that enjoy it are the fortunate, I think 🙂

      Like

      February 9, 2016
  11. Beautiful. It can be so sad and yet so reassuring to soak in the memories. You worded this so well

    Liked by 1 person

    February 9, 2016
    • Thank you Posh 🙂 You are absolutely right about the double edged sword of soaking (great word) in memories.

      Like

      February 9, 2016
  12. Lovely writing Osyth, as always.

    I had not seen that Yeats poem for more years than I care to admit to, and that and your piece today reminded me of this, a sonnet poem by Christina Rossetti which I find soul-stirringly moving & which I am sure your erudite self will have chanced on at some time.

    “Remember me when I am gone away,
    Gone far away into the silent land,
    When you can no more hold me by the hand,
    Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.

    Remember me when no more day by day
    You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
    Only remember me; you understand
    It will be late to counsel then or pray.

    Yet if you should forget me for a while
    And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
    For if the darkness and corruption leave
    A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
    Better by far you should forget and smile
    Than that you should remember and be sad.”

    Liked by 3 people

    February 9, 2016
    • A perfectly timed reminder of another very favourite poem, Gill. Thank you . I wanted to read it at my father’s funeral but my mother was insistent that neither my brothers nor I were to say a word. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece and grateful that you took the time to share the poem 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      February 9, 2016
      • Interesting
        My mother took pains to keep us away from family funerals when we were small, as a result I never said a proper adieu to my grandparents and I personally think that is NOT healthy. I respect her views but I still feel somehow deprived.
        My children were actively involved with arrangements when my parents passed, and I have the precious memory of my quiet and unassuming daughter standing up at my father’s funeral, supported by her brother, and delivering an address so moving that even the officiating reverend said it was the most uplifting funeral he had ever presided over.

        Liked by 1 person

        February 9, 2016
      • I’m 100% with you. Bearing in mind that I was 42 when my father died and my older brother, well -older than me and my younger in his late 30s it was difficult BUT we felt that we had to respect her wishes. My brothers both know that I, being the talker in the family will put things straight when mother goes on her way and I plan to speak for them both (and probably the trees as well ….) I think the issue with my mother was that she lost her father when she was only 21 and was the at-home child helping her mother look after him in his last quite lengthy illness. I think it scarred her and that is very sad.

        Liked by 2 people

        February 9, 2016
      • My mother was similarly scarred by life. I didn’t realise this when I was younger and sadly it was too late to understand why she was this way and talk to her about some of the terrible experiences she had to deal with until it was too late to tell her that I understood and emphasised.
        That’s my sole regret in life.
        I doubt she would never have unbent…but I wish I had had the chance to say that I was ready to listen

        Liked by 1 person

        February 9, 2016
      • That is very sad to read. Her experience. Your regret. One of the double edged swords of getting older, maturing if you will, is that we see what we might have done or said differently. But you are right to acknowledge that it might not have made a difference to anything but your conscience. That doesn’t make it any easier to live with your regret, but it should make it more palatable. Hugs.

        Liked by 1 person

        February 9, 2016
  13. Osyth, what a beautiful post and such a powerful bundle of memories. The feeling of loving someone lost, and wishing you had realised before they were gone quite how loudly that loss would ring. That totally resonates for me. Wonderfully written.

    Liked by 3 people

    February 9, 2016
    • Thank you Jenny. In a sense it was your own writings on your tinies time with their Grands that prompted the thought process so I must thank YOU.

      Liked by 1 person

      February 9, 2016
      • Oh my gosh, no, not at all! But thank you Osyth, that is completely not necessary but very kind.

        Liked by 1 person

        February 10, 2016
  14. Granny Kim is an amazing person and I feel I know her very well through your words. What a beautiful tribute and memory of this woman you have written here in this post. This brings memories for me about my grandmother. Thanks Osyth for sharing this wonderful memory.

    Liked by 2 people

    February 9, 2016
    • Thank you so much. She was amazing. Of course I didn’t understand that at the time but one of the things I am really glad of is that I took the chance to talk about her and my Grandpapa (who I didn’t know) with my father before it was too late. I’m glad to have stirred memories of your Grandmother for you … I hope her warm spirit might lighten your day 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      February 9, 2016
  15. Such beautiful words. And that photo is beyond beautiful ♥

    summerdaisy.net

    Liked by 1 person

    February 9, 2016
    • Thank you Summer Daisy – you are too kind. I love your name – two of the most beautiful
      Gifts in life 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      February 9, 2016
  16. What can I say; such a beautiful post that has touched so many and brings to mind all of our grandparents, now long gone but so often remembered. It’s always a joy to read you Osyth and with the added bonus today of one of my favourite poets. Thanks as always for enriching the day 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    February 9, 2016
    • Grandparents are a gift (you know this from both sides now) – there is something very special about that relationship which is hard to define. Of course Yeats is one of my favourites too – but you probably guessed that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      February 9, 2016
      • It’s added a whole new dimension to our lives. I think of my grandfather escaping Russia as a young man and starting a new life in Wales, never to see his family again. But it’s because of his courage and his journey that we now have a beautiful granddaughter now beginning hers. The cycle of life, how rich it is ❤️

        Liked by 2 people

        February 9, 2016
      • Wow …. That is the richness of the circle of life achingly demonstrated 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        February 9, 2016
  17. So gorgeous Fiona! I was there with you, this was full of memories and beautiful language! I love this!!! Please do another!

    Liked by 1 person

    February 9, 2016
  18. That hit me hard. I didn’t know my grandmother well, and I regret it to this day. I think I’m trying g to spend as much time as I can with my folks so I don’t make the same mistake again.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 9, 2016
    • It’s hard but we do have the opportunity to make it better and you are. YOu can only do your best. That is the most anyone can do and I know you do that. So don’t beat up. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      February 10, 2016
  19. Brings back memories of my own grandmother who spent the last few years of her life in the same way. Luckily I have a lot of wonderful memories – many of them involving trying on her magnificent hat collection on sleep overs!

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2016
    • A grandmother of magnificent hats! How wonderful 🙂

      Like

      February 10, 2016
  20. Lovely story, Osyth. Time waits for no one, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2016
  21. Ha! Finally I’m getting notifications of your new posts. I don’t know why it’s taken so long, but voila.

    What a lovely post, and how lucky you are to have such bittersweet memories of your remarkable grandmother. Loving the vision of her swinging you in the hammock beneath the lilac trees

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2016
    • I seem to lose people from time to time even though I am following them …. the inner nazi in WordPress, I expect 😉 The hammock is my favourite memory of her – I can’t get into one elegantly with two arms!

      Like

      February 10, 2016
  22. What an absolutely delightfully written memory Fiona. So beautiful.
    I had two Grannies, one was a bit miserable and did nothing with us because we were the English boys (Scots wahay!) the other loved us unconditionally and was as batty as a fruit loaf and twice as wonderful!
    I do miss her on occasion it must be said.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2016
    • Thank you Cam … I was much closer to my other Granny because she was hale and hearty and spoiled me dreadfully, I expect 🙂 Grouchy Grannies are quite splendid to others but not at all fun to be at the affect of as a child 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      February 10, 2016
      • Exactly true Fiona! My father never understood why we didn’t want to visit his mother until years later when it all came out in a big family argument. It was fascinating!

        Liked by 1 person

        February 11, 2016
  23. such an impressive and emotional post, Osyth… you did touch my ❤ as I often miss my maternal granny, RIP. I also love Yeats' poetry… 🙂
    * * *
    you may recall my Latin motto @ my "about": memento mori, carpe diem et gaudeamus igitur! = remember you'll die, live up this day and therefore, let's rejoice! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2016
  24. Simply beautiful Osyth – goodness knows how I missed this post – I have just found it by accident while searching for something else – so glad that I did.
    There you go again ‘Clochette’ with your bell imagery….
    Your writing is sublime and your portrait of your grandma puts me in mind of Laurie Lee.
    Lovely photo of le jardin de Luxembourg – if I get a bit of sunshine next week, I shall take a book there in your honour x, made me feel homesick – I am in a strange place atm…..
    Love the poem also – made me feel quite sad.
    I hope that I have not missed any more gems like this, point me in there direction if you think I have
    Lindy xx

    Liked by 1 person

    February 11, 2016
    • You are so very sweet to me. I just write what I feel. Bells seem to be a recurrent theme at the moment – not sure why except I have probably always loved them. Laurie Lee is a favourite which won’t surprise you a jot. I am gathering you are in a less than comfortable place. You know, I would be very happy to chat to you – feel free to use my email. We have a little more than a lottle in common I think. I’ll be through Paris on 24th but just enroute to Clermont-Ferrand … no clue if we have any layover. Otherwise my email is right at the bottom of the page and you are very welcome to use it. I don’t know what else I have written that you might have missed – not a lot since I moved here and I am trying to kick myself in the bum to do a bit more (which has comedy value at the very least). Yeats is always worth dipping into – my favourite lines ‘cry that kiss you for I must own that I will miss you when you are grown’ – it’s a lullaby and I used to whisper it to the girls when they were sleeping. Now I whisper it into the aether and hope they might hear it across the ocean

      Liked by 1 person

      February 11, 2016
  25. So lovely and sentimental. I loved my grandmothers. One of mine passed when I was in college, and I had a wonderful French teacher, who loved her grandmother, cry with me. It was a beautiful moment. And so is the one captured in the picture 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    February 11, 2016
    • Thank you so much. Grandparents can be so special without even really trying just by being. It is one of the most influencial and important relationships we have if we are fortunate to have good ones 🙂 Your French teacher sounds like a really wonderful and empathetic lady too. The lady in the picture is adorable, I think 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      February 11, 2016
  26. I’m Ok – just identity crisis – love being back with friends and family and James Martin on the tv – plus VERY exciting potential job prospect that I will tell more about when more definite. but France has been home for 7 years and Paris 6 1/2 years, so all feels a bit odd – goodness knows how I will be next week when I am ‘home’???
    I come back here on the 24th, think The pool might be the best hook up point if you are over to see your daughter – going to be weird for you too – what complicated souls we are xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    February 11, 2016
    • Oh gosh it does have that affect – I adapt really well to the adopted lands but find being back is quite a double edged sword. The Pool it is … we can be odd birds together!

      Liked by 1 person

      February 11, 2016
  27. I love that Yeats poem. Beautifully evocative and poignant post. I am just catching up with your recent posts. I wish there were more hours in the day…

    Liked by 1 person

    February 22, 2016
    • It’s kind of you to take the time …. I don’t know where it goes – my daughters all think I sit around and drink rosé all day … the truth is far from that! The Yeats is such a lovely poem – I’m glad the post did it some small justice 🙂

      Like

      February 22, 2016
  28. Great post! Love your story, you have shared such an amazing moments!

    Liked by 1 person

    February 17, 2017
    • Thank you Agness … actually that is a favourite post of mine and I realise it’s over a year old. You have, of course deftly made me peak at your own blog and I have bookmarked it to take a closer look when I sit down to do my weekly audit of blogs I think I need to look closer at. Something tells me I’m going to like what you are doing a lot … it is pertinent to my life just now so probably you are kismet. Anyway, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment – it is hugely appreciated and I send you warm wishes from France

      Like

      February 17, 2017

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