Oh my goodness! Where do I start? Do you sometimes have weeks that have you chasing yourself around in circles? This is what mine has felt like.
It started when my daughter rang to say that seven-year-old Rose had a high temperature. I was away from home, running a writing workshop, so couldn’t cycle round the corner to help. I do hate it when these things happen and I’m not around. It makes me feel so powerless.
When I get back the next day, Rose’s temperature is still going up and down. The doctor does a urine sample and there are traces of blood and white cells in it. I feel myself going into a cold sweat.
My children often accuse me of having an internal panic thermometer that goes from zero to ten in as many seconds, but I can’t help it. Sometimes I think I worry more about my grandchildren than I did about my own children when they were poorly. (“You do, Mum,” says my daughter when she reads this. “We were only allowed to miss school if we were really poorly.”)
Then Rose seems to turn the corner. In fact, she’s quite bright and bouncy. Phew! I speak too soon. The doctor rings with the result of the second blood test to say she has strep A and needs a new type of antibiotics urgently. It’s a Friday at 6pm. By now, our local pharmacy is closed. My daughter drives ten miles to the nearest late-night chemist and gets one item on the prescription. But the other is out of stock.
So I do a quick search on the internet for another late night chemist that does have the required medication. It’s a good hour away and it’s now dark. I hate driving in the dark. Do you? So my husband offers to take me while I sit in the passenger seat with my iPad and launch a Zoom call with some friends from school – we always do this every two weeks and I’d organised the meeting so I’m the only one who can let the others in.
I explain the situation to the “girls” (two of them are grannies themselves) while my husband negotiates the narrow lanes without streetlights. “We can’t hear you,” they say. “It sounds as though your voice is under water.”
It must be because we’re on the move.
So I leave my friends to continue talking on the iPad face-down (because I’m the “host”, I can’t turn it off or else they won’t be able to talk), while my husband and I get the precious antibiotics and take them round to my daughter.
Rose seems absolutely fine – in fact she’s bright and bouncy and relishing the attention. But my heart is still pounding. The doctor says she’s not worried at the moment, but we know that strep A can lead to complications.
I can’t help thinking how lucky we are to have access to such medication, compared with some countries.
The following day, I leave to speak at the South Hams Literary Festival. But there’s a problem on the line and the afternoon trains are cancelled. Luckily, I’d allowed plenty of time and the organisers came to pick me up. I was there to talk about my new novel, Coming To Find You, and the historical inspiration behind it. I love supporting festivals and talking to readers. But I do sneak off during the interval to ring my daughter and check that Rose is still all right. (She is.)
In fact, she’s well enough to go back to school and guess what? When I pick her up the following day, I find she’s won third prize in a painting competition. Everyone’s entries are being displayed in the village hall.
“I didn’t get a prize,” said George sadly.
“It doesn’t matter,” I reassure him. “Your picture is lovely!”
But I feel for him. Part of growing up is learning that you can’t always win. It’s not an easy lesson, is it?!
My feet feel as if they haven’t touched the ground but I’m off again. This time, to London (five hours away) where one of my cousins is having his 70th birthday party. He and his wife don’t have children, but they take a keen interest in their godchildren. It was lovely to have a family gathering. I wrote him a poem which is something I always do as a family tradition on birthdays and special occasions.
Then I get a surprise! My own godson is there with a bundle of letters which his mother (another of my cousins) had given him to pass onto me.
My goodness! That’s my small, neat writing from when I was a teenager! (I can’t write like that now because years of pounding away at a keyboard has changed the way I hold a pen.) In those days, my cousin and I would write to each other regularly. No mobile phones then!
As I read the letters – beautifully tied together with ribbon – I am filled with emotion. If I had known then how many ups and downs my life was going to take, I would have been overwhelmed.
In fact, I’m really glad I didn’t know what lay ahead. I it would have troubled me. Maybe it’s just as well we don’t have a looking glass into the future. In a way, this helps me to deal with issues which are troubling me now. I know that somehow (with faith and family and friends in my case) we get through.
There’s something else too.
If someone had told my fifteen-year-self that my sixties would be one of the happiest years of my life because of my grandchildren, I might not have understood.
But they are.
Life’s a funny thing, isn’t it?
If you’d like to tell us about your week, please email at email@example.com.
Ask Agony Gran
“My 15-year-old granddaughter recently came to stay for the weekend with me while her parents went away and I discovered cigarettes in her room. When I asked her about them, she begged me not to tell her mum (my daughter-in-law). But I feel I ought to. What should I do?” Name withheld
Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It’s not easy, is it? If you do tell your daughter, you risk losing your granddaughter’s trust. And if you don’t, your daughter-in-law might find out anyway and be upset with you for not telling her.
If it was me, I’d talk to your granddaughter about the dangers of smoking and what it can do. Then gently explain that her parents put you in a position of trust when they asked if you could have her overnight. So as a result, you have to tell them what you found.
Maybe you could tell your granddaughter about things that you had done at her age and why they hadn’t been very wise.
I’ve got to be honest. There are no easy answers to this one. But if you don’t tell your daughter-in-law and son, they might find out and then they might not trust you either. I’d be interested to see what other readers feel about this. Do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feedback On Last Week’s Column
“The story of the lady who has a new man in her life struck a chord with me. If he really likes her, that fact that she is a granny shouldn’t bother him. After all, he’s not put off by the age gap. My husband is almost ten years my junior. I wasn’t a grandma when I met him, but I am now and he’s taken on the role of grandpa to them all. I’d tell her to go for it. We have been married for 12 years on Sunday just gone!” Rose from Hertfordshire
“I’ve been helping my grandchildren to plant hyacinth bulbs in indoor pots for Christmas. We’ve been painting the pots with their names so they each know who grew which one!” Tracy
Thanks for this, Tracy. This is a lovely thing to do!
The Funny things They Say
“My husband (who is very tall) announced that he was just going out to stretch his legs.”
“Why?” asked our eight-year-old grandson. “Aren’t they long enough already?”
This one made us chuckle. Thank you! Please keep emailing us your funny family stories to email@example.com.
British adults care less about children being obedient than they did in the 1990s according to a recent study. Instead, they think it’s more important for children to work hard, be independent and have an imagination.
Where To Take The Grandchildren
Thanks to Linda and Mike who recommend this as a day out for the family!
Big Pit/National Coal Museum, Pontypool NP4 9XP. Phone: 0300 111 2333; www.museum.wales
Big Pit National Coal Museum is an industrial heritage museum in Blaenavon, Torfaen, Wales. It was a working coal mine from 1880 to 1980 and is now open to the public. There are underground tours and lots of exhibitions. A great way of teaching children about the importance of natural energy.
Children’s Book of the Week
There’s nothing better than reading with your grandchildren. Here’s my recommendation for this week.
Bear And Bird: The Stars and Other Stories by Jarvis. Walker Books, £9.99
A charming easy-to-hold hardback with lovely illustrations and stories. Perfect length for bedtime reading. Follow the adventures of Bear and Bird as they make up after a disagreement; and watch the stars.
If you’d like to pass on tips, share problems or tell us about your life as a grandparent, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jane Corry is a journalist and award-winning author. Her latest novel Coming To Find You is told from the points of view of Elizabeth who lived in Tall Chimneys by the sea during World War 2 and Nancy who lives in the same house in the present day. This Sunday Times bestseller is published by Penguin £8.99. Available in print, digital and audio.