We each live in our own time but our spirit to make the most of what we have can be found back in our ancestors.
Last Sunday was Mothering Sunday here in the UK and, as usual I found myself in the privileged position of mother to my daughter and daughter to my mother.
With my mum living in Spain and my daughter working, the day was much like any other Sunday, but the absence of both women, my before and after, gave me a glimpse of my mum’s suffering that Mother’s Day with the absence of her own mother, my late grandmother.
My maternal grandmother was a very special lady who, unknowingly, had taught me how to cope with my fibromyalgia.
I had not known my grandmother before she had developed arthritis; I believe she was only 36 when she was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which was shortly joined by osteoarthritis. From my earliest memories, I recall her as a fragile flower to be treated with tenderness and care.
Every Saturday she would visit us along with my grandfather and great aunt (her sister). Every Saturday my grandfather and great aunt would play boisterous games with me, take me on long walks with our dog and to see the horses. We would run onto the railway bridge so as to be standing there when the ‘puff-puff’ rattled below. My grandmother would stay behind at our house and wait for our return.
But how I loved her! From her chair, a position of safety from knocks and bumps, her kind eyes held me. All knowing, all seeing and always with glances of wise reassurance and sparkling amusement.
I witnessed her strength when ever I stayed with her and Grandad for a few days. She never grumbled, although to me her pain was obvious. She had a clear daily routine of household chores culminating in the preparation of dinner for when Grandad returned from work. Her house was always neat and spotless. She was always neat and spotless, but with a poignant elegance that hinted at what might have been.
With all the chores completed we would play games, the kind that required very little physical movement. My grandmother taught me all sorts of card games from Snap to Rummy to Patience. We would play draughts and dominoes for hours. She taught me to play Solitaire. My grandmother said it was important to keep her brain active, which she did daily by completing at least one crossword puzzle. She always had a book of word searches to hand. She would watch quiz programmes on the TV and would have made a fantastic pub quizzer with her exceptional general knowledge. Her creative side was stimulated through the completion of numerous paint-by-numbers pictures. Apparently, she had passed the 11 Plus exam and been offered a place at a grammar school. Her father thought there was no point in educating a second born girl, and that was that. I often wonder how different her life may have been had she been allowed to blossom intellectually.
My grandmother didn’t have the luxury of the gadgets we take for granted today. I remember trips to the launderette and her difficulties getting in and out of the vehicles that took us there. In her later years she had a booster chair to assist her when standing, a walking frame, large buttoned telephone and an assortment of specially designed kitchen and eating utensils. Her ‘disability aids’, as they were then called stayed in her home. With the exception of her ‘wheelie’ or her wheelchair very late in her life, and the use of the disabled facilities, my grandmother would be the same as every other customer at the shops and restaurants we visited, all four of us grandmother, daughter, grand daughter and great grand daughter each and every Monday.
Bitterness at the thought of ‘what ifs’ didn’t interfere with my grandmother’s daily life. She raised two children, loved her three grand children and great grand daughter. She was her ‘own chancellor’ as she called it, refusing to hand control of her finances to the bank through the use of direct debits. Everything was accounted for and meticulously recorded.
She is my role model.
When I can’t move, I think of my grandmother and her stubborn refusal to use her ‘wheelie’ or wheelchair, or have someone cook her meals. I think of her stubborn refusal to use anything stronger than paracetamol to ease her pain. I think of her determination to go out each and every Monday with my mother, my daughter and me.
- She taught me to be considerate of those with disabilities long before experiencing disability myself.
- She taught my daughter, when she was only a toddler, care, empathy and tenderness.
- She influenced me to develop my P.I.E philosophy for living with chronic pain, that is to focus on my physical, intellectual and emotional wellbeing.
She is the mother, grandmother and great grandmother of daughters. She taught kindness, compassion and courage. She lives on in our memories and our actions.
Managing fibromyalgia guided by. . .
My beautiful, intelligent and inspirational Nana, X