Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

I wish I could do more for my grandfather

  • 1 Comment
We’ve always been so proud of my grandfather’s health. Three months off his 99th birthday, he lives independently and is generally well – and is determined to stay that way

But things are changing, and when I go to visit him he’s folded neatly into a hospital bed, nasal specs draped uselessly round the plastic armchair. His mind wanders, perplexed as to who we are and where he is.

Gentle attempts at orientation seem to work for a while before petering out, and Grandpa is left pottering around amid his bewilderment.

I wonder, as we sit round in a semi-circle on our plastic stacking chairs, whether Grandpa had noticed the date, some days previously. It had been my father, his son’s, birthday, and he would have been 64.

And I wonder if Grandpa remembers the day his son was born, at the tail end of the Second World War. Did he go to work and come home to find the drama already over, and my father safe in my grandmother’s arms? Or did he pace about downstairs, horribly mindful of that day in 1943 when their firstborn, a girl, was stillborn during the Blitz?

Does the venom of such memories fade to leave only a dull ache, or is one able to find bittersweet thoughts within the sadness?

I don’t know. But I wonder if whether the subsequent loss of his son had ever been acknowledged. Did he and Grandma mark the day quietly between them? Should we have done so the week before?

Or would that have contributed to the mix of emotions he must be feeling? Was he, in fact, unaware?

I kiss him goodbye and stack my chair neatly away. We walk down the echoing too-shiny corridor out into the freezing London night. And I wish I could make him better.

Arthur Penwarden died a few days after this article was written

Arabella Sinclair-Penwarden is a newly qualified staff nurse in Devon

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • This is so sensitively and beautifully written and conveys perfectly the sort of scenario that a lot of us have experienced with elderly relatives. It is also expressed in such a way that I think the writer will make a marvelously caring nurse, a gifted communicator and indeed a writer.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.