Diary of A Modern Gran | Bedrails & Half Term

Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

The What’s App video pops up just as I get in a train again to see my 99-year-old dad

“Hello, Gan Gan,” beams Rose with George at her side. “We’ve been swimming!”

Their excited faces warm my heart. So too does the glimpse of Spanish sun in the background. My daughter, her husband and my grandchildren have just flown out for a well deserved half-term break.

I was meant to have gone with them but then my dad went into hospital two weeks ago (as some of you might know) so I cancelled.

Of course I miss not being with them. I had offered to do some babysitting as well as having a bit of a rest myself on the tennis court.

But it was the right thing to stay behind. Part of me was always worried that although it sounds like a great idea for a grandparent to go on holiday to help out, they also need time on their own as a family.

Besides, I couldn’t leave my dad. Thank goodness for my sister and brother-in-law. It’s at times like this when families need to work in tandem. In last week’s column, I wrote about our dad being in hospital. He was moved to three different wards (for medical reasons) and each time, he got very distressed.

At the moment, my sister and I are taking it in turns to make the six hour journey from our respective homes to stay with him for four days and then go back to our homes for three. “Don’t go,” he begs each time.

It reminds me of the stage that George, now five, went through when he was two. He would cling to me when we went to playgroup or nursery and I wouldn’t be able to put him down. It put one of my hips out but the irony is that when the virus started, I desperately missed that clinging.

Now my heart is breaking as our father does the same.

But there has been a development. Daddy is ready to be discharged from hospital but he can’t go home because he is too frail. The only answer in our particular situation is a care home. My stepmother will be joining him in two days time.

As I write, Daddy moved there yesterday. Apparently he promptly declared that he wanted to leave and announced that I would come down and take him back to a home near me. This had been an option but he now has a brain bleed so a six hour journey by ambulance over bumpy roads might not be sensible.

So instead, I’m in my way down now to be with him and explain this in person.

Last night, he had a fall when he got up in the night. The home has a sensory mat so that if someone gets out of bed, an alarm goes off. I wondered why he hadn’t had bed rails but apparently these have their pros and cons for the elderly. When I Googled it, there were several examples of older people who had got trapped in the rails. It makes me shudder to even think of it.

This takes me back to the time when my grandchildren had bed rails. They were more sophisticated than the kind that my first husband and I used for our own children. Once more , it strikes me that there are many similarities between the elderly and the very young.

As I sit on the train, I remember too all the journeys I made with my children over the years to visit my father and stepmother.  We would go by train once a month and I have many memories of my youngest (never one to sit still!) who would pass the time by swinging up and down down the train aisles despite my entreaties to stop! He is now a radio journalist and, like all my children, has lots of ‘get up and go’ which I’m very proud of.

And now it’s just me, making this trip.

Isn’t it strange how life evolves? I have to say that in the last year, I’ve begun to feel my age which is something I vowed I’d never say…

But wait. There’s a toddler  who’s just got on the train. The young mum is having trouble keeping him still. I can’t help it. I start making funny faces and he begins to giggle.

“Thank you,” she says, “I’m off to visit my mum and we’ve got a long journey ahead. I’m not sure how we’ll manage.”

She could have been me, thirty years ago.

What lessons would I pass on if I knew her better!

But instead, I give her a warm smile. “It will be worth it when you get there,” I say. “I expect your mum will be pleased to see you.”

We chat for a while until she changes trains. “Thank you,” she says.

“Thank you for your company,” I say.

It’s almost – but not quite – taken my mind off what lies ahead.

Buying A Senior Railcard

I don’t like moaning or criticising. But I felt like tearing my hair out last night when I tried to buy a senior railcard online. Mine had run out during the virus but the train company I always book with when visiting my dad, had a special offer on for a three-year card. All you had to do was put in a code.

But it didn’t work.

It wasn’t as though this was a code from a source I’d never heard of. As I said it was from a reputable train company.

So I tried to ring them. But there wasn’t a number. At least not one which I could  see on the website. And none of the email options seemed to cover this problem.

In the end, I gave up and bought a one year card without a discount. Maybe by next year, I’ll have a code that works. I’ll also be able to change my photograph which I’d had to do as a selfie (never very flattering in my experience) and then Download online. (At least I could do that, thanks to tuition from my children!)

I then emailed the press office for this train company, asking them to reveal the mysteries of the code that doesn’t appear to work. I’ll let you know what they say. Meanwhile, I’d love to know if you’ve had a similar experience.

Ask Agony Gran

Thanks to Lin for sending this in.

“I don’t want to sound like a spoilsport but I don’t like Halloween. It really spooks me out! I live on my own and I get quite scared when the doorbell goes. When my children were little, we would play bobbing apples but we didn’t go round the houses like children do today. Have you got any suggestions on how to  cope on October 31st without looking like a spoilsport to the neighbours with young families?”

Jane says:

I think you’ll find that many readers will identify with this, Lin. I’m not keen on Halloween either! However, before  the virus, I would buy in some little treats like mini chocolates. Last year, I did the same and found that no-one came! If you want to dissuade anyone from knocking on the door, I’d suggest leaving some treats on the doorstep, along with a polite note asking them not to knock or ring but to just help themselves. Many families now contact neighbours in advance to see if they’d mind a visit. I suspect this is what will happen in future. I’d also look out a good film and distract yourself for the evening! Good luck.

Do your grandchildren go trick and treating? Are the neighbours welcoming? Do you let them know in advance? Do let us know by emailing moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

You Tell Us

Thanks to Albert who emailed after reading last week’s column on wills.

“I don’t have a lot to leave but I recently used some of my savings to buy premium bonds for my grandchildren. I’ve told them that this is their inheritance and that they’re getting it early!”

Grandparent News

The average age of becoming a grandparent is 63, according to latest statistics.

The Funny Things They Say

Thanks to six-year-old Millie whose granny sent this in.

“What do cows watch they they go to the cinema?”

“A moo-vie!”

This made us chuckle.

If you’ve got a howler, please send it to us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk

Children’s Book Of The Week

The Wise Robin book coverEach week we’ll recommend a great book to enjoy with your grandchildren.

Thanks to Vicky for suggesting the following books.

“I was – and still am – a huge fan of the old Ladybird books. I loved The Party (totally iconic with its ‘Can you spot the thimble?’) and Going Shopping. Amazing for what you could get for just over a shilling! I also loved Ned The Lonely Donkey who finally found a loving home and The Wise Robin who made a Christmas truly magical for one family.

“My own brood discovered and enjoyed my Ladybird collection one summer 25 years later. With the glorious randomness of childhood, they took them outside to read in a secret spot in the garden. It shows that some books are timeless.”

If you’d like to suggest some children’s books, either old or new, please email us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk

Family Secrets

Do you have any family secrets you’d like to share? They can be anonymous. If so, please email us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk

My latest novel is about three generations of secrets. It’s called WE ALL HAVE OUR SECRETS (published by Penguin) and is set by the sea. Available from bookshops, supermarkets and online. Hope you enjoy it!

Janes new book and QR code to order