Normal service is resumed

I went back to work yesterday and Yorkshire Grandma came around at 8.30 to spend the day with Joshua. It was evident how much she had missed him while we had been away, which was lovely to see and he greeted her like a long lost friend too. She spoils him : he can have The Show on the television whenever he wants, whereas he has to share the TV with me, and he can eat constantly too. She took him up to the end of the lane to our local Farm where he watched children play and fed the animals. But it was cold, so they did not stay long and she took him back to her home, where he as not been since Yorkhire Grandad died last Autumn. She reported that he hunted around looking for him before he would settle down, which made me cry : he has not missed him at our house, but he was expected to be waiting at hers. This shows real understanding on Joshua’s part and he is often not given credit for having that much capacity. He is often underestimated, that because he cannot speak that he does not understand the world around him, but I have always said that he understands a lot more than he is able to express.

In the last 18 months, Joshua has lost his three grandfather figures in his life – both of our Dads have now died and also Yorkshire Grandad, who was always like a Grandfather to him all of his life. Joshua does not worry and tends to deal with the here and now, but he is  aware of what is happening around him. He now has three places where he will seek out their missing presence. He attended all three funerals but they are too abstract an idea for him to associate with, he will not have understood that the missing man has been in the coffin at the front of the church and to be honest, I have not really tried to explain that to him. I know other special needs children have accepted that the deceased person, or pet, is ‘in heaven’, ‘is a star now’ or is ‘in the sky’, but these are not images and ideas that I have tried to offer to Joshua. He will stop looking for them in their usual chairs and this will be the best way for Joshua to accept their absence I feel.

Joshua does recognise me and his dad in photographs and gets very excited when he is shown these images at school occasionally. Emulating their idea, I plan to create a photographic collage of all three grandfathers for him to look at and to keep their memory alive for him. Although we had such a scrap book when he was a toddler and it was one of his favourite activities to browse through it, naming the family members,but eventually it fell apart and vanished. Even though digital photography  now means that I have not got prints lying around anymore, it will be fun browsing through old images of the family. Uncovering long lost photographs is a great way to pass the time and take a trip down Memory Lane nowadays.So I will reinstate a phototographic tribute to his entire family, so that he can name them all and be reminded of them, whether he sees them regularly or not.

Farewell Grandad

I am really not sure if Joshua understood what exactly was going on yesterday , at his Grandad’s funeral, I guess we will never truly know. But he behaved himself impeccably : we were on the front row, right next to the coffin, but he did not try to grab out at anything thankfully. He alternately jiggled in his wheelchair, we sang some rousing traditional hymns that Grandad would have approved of, or rested with his head on his knees , as we had only had about an hour’s sleep the night before. I was very proud of how well he behaved both in the church and at the graveside, as both are stressful and emotional situations where the potential for a scene was huge. In fact I was the only one who caused a scene at the burial, when I fell over onto my muddy knees, while stooping to place some flowers next to his grave!

Each of his grown up children bravely spoke out, giving eulogies, explaining what their father had meant to them and giving us a greater insight into his life and his eldest grand-daughter read a poem. Joshua and his toddler cousins showed by their presence, all dressed up in their Sunday-best, what their Grandad had meant to them.  I am not truthfully sure how much any of the three of them understood, but they certainly appreciated that it was a family day that Grandad was missing from and they picked up the sadness from all of the tears that were being shed and they all tried to cheer their weeping parents up, each in their own way.

The loss of  a father/grandfather leads me inevitably to think of my own Dad, who is still sorely missed, and of course of our own mortality and my fears for Joshua’s future, when we are no longer here to protect and take care of him. Who will love him like we do and keep him safe through his adulthood? Who will explain to him where his beloved parents have gone and that they will no longer be able to look after and protect him? I find those questions heart-breaking to consider and so, I tend to push them away ordinarily, but days like yesterday mean that they cannot be ignored. Those questions have to be confronted, no matter how painful, and plans need to be put in place; we need to take as much care of Joshua when we are dead, as we do now, so that he does not need to worry about his future. Rather than expecting our son to take care of us in our old age, we have to take care of him in our old age.