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Another Tue Story

By litherlandb, Jul 1 2015 03:38PM


I once taught two children whose grandmother had the great misfortune to die five times. You might consider that unfortunate enough but this poor lady, who was only in her late fifties, managed to achieve this distinction over a period of only twelve months. She also remained very much alive at the end of that time, no doubt facing the unenviable possibility of even more fatalities.

Between these sad events she was plagued by a number of dreadful illnesses which would foster compassion in the heart of a robot. How she managed to endure these setbacks with such equanimity I shall never know. All I can tell you is that whenever I saw her between these bouts of death and illness she seemed a picture of rosy, good health. I admired her exceedingly. I wish I had the strength of character to face adversity with such optimism.

I first became aware of this poor woman when her grandchildren were absent from school for several days without explanation. We had failed repeatedly to make contact and were obliged to make contact with Social Services. The next morning (quite late) their mother appeared. I could see at once that she was greatly distressed. She looked as if she had only recently woken after a very few hours sleep and had been too distressed to wash or clothe herself properly. Her eyes carried heavy shadows and the pupils were like tiny, black dots. I suspected she had required medication to sleep.

The grandmother was suffering from dementia on that occasion; she could no longer dress herself or visit the toilet. She couldn’t cook, could barely manage to eat. Her daughter was understandably concerned for her welfare and, being a dutiful young woman, had stayed with her for a number of days. Unfortunately the children had been obliged to accompany her. They would return to school the next day. The grandmother would be going into a home where she could be properly looked after.

I am delighted to report that the grandmother recovered admirably from her bout of Alzheimers and very quickly too. She learnt how to do all the things she had forgotten and there was no need for her to leave her home. I know this because the very next term the poor woman had a heart attack whilst shopping in town. On this occasion the outcome was tragic. She died. The children were off school for several days for the funeral and then attended only sporadically, no doubt due to their grief. Their mother, for whom I was desperately sorry, was once more on some form of medication.

During the following term that poor grandmother died of kidney failure and then she suffered a lingering death from cancer. On the very evening of this last death her daughter’s car had its windows smashed and disgraceful messages were painted on the side. Some of the neighbours completely misunderstood the frequent number of sympathetic visitors to the house. They failed completely to comprehend the poor woman’s medical condition and her need for strong medication. They persecuted that poor family at the most trying of times. As if the poor lady hadn’t suffered enough. People can be so cruel.

A bout of bronchitis the next term required convalescent support for the grandmother but it proved futile because the following month she contracted a virulent flu. It was a particular misfortune for the lady because no-one else nearer than China had suffered any symptoms. When you’re down, you’re down.

Fortunately she had recovered from this fatality by the following week when she attended a concert at the school. I didn’t enquire after her health. It would have been unkind.

You may wonder where the father of the children was during these crises. I assure you we should not misjudge him. He generally worked nights (he was self employed but I am unsure what trade he pursued. Generally it involved parking in various parts of the town with his window down and trading with other people) and he slept a prodigious amount during the day, no doubt exhausted.

Eventually we felt such sympathy with this poor family that we offered them the support of a group of workers from the police, social services, education and health. We even offered the children alternative accommodation should the situation not improve. We also insisted that we should have regular meetings to ensure we were doing all we could to help and we arranged for people to visit them at home.

They were strangely ungrateful.


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