511 Days So Far.
It’s been 510 days since I first lost someone.
Which means that it’s 511 days since I last spoke to my best friend and saw her cheeky face.
Without getting too Sinead O’Connor about it, nothing ever replaces someone. As much as we’re told that things get easier – and some days they do – it takes very little for me to spiral.
I was very close to my Gran. Growing up we spent a lot of time together, sometimes just the two of us, sometimes with my brothers and my Papa. But mostly the best times were spent doing nothing, watching Eggheads and eating Blue Ribands.
We’d quite regularly have days in Byres Road when I wasn’t at Uni or working overtime and try out different coffee shops for coffee and cake. She liked carrot cake and red velvet while I always went for the most chocolatey option.
Sometimes we’d wander round the Botanic Gardens glasshouse, almost getting locked in on one occasion and stumbling over teenage embraces too many times to recall. We’d stop and gape at the fish and remark at the size of them, then if it wasn’t too cold we’d sit and watch people hurry past.
The chemotherapy got to her and she got cold very easily. So sometimes we’d nip back in for a cuppa to heat up again then have a nosy in the second-hand shops.
My gran always rummaged with real determination as though she knew exactly what she was looking for. If I asked she always brushed it off as just being interested, but I still occasionally wonder.
Then we’d get on the bus and head back to Clydebank, as she pointed out places from her past along he way. I regret now that sometimes I zoned out as I’d heard the tales before. I’d do anything to hear one of her tales again; from growing up in Maryhill, the Nuns that were awful to her and her classmates in Secondary school, and stories about my mum as a little girl.
She shared my fascination with times gone by, looking at the Georgian terraces and Victorian townhouses that make up so much of our city and wondering who walked those halls, who called it home all those years ago.
As much as my Granny liked to reminisce she wasn’t overly sentimental, she never was.
Even in her last days my Gran didn’t get particularly reflective.
That final Saturday she was appalled at the dryness of her skin as she lay in bed. She hadn’t left in a few days and she wouldn’t drink.
Each time we begged for ideas of what she might like a sip of we’d be dispatched to the nearest shops to find what she wanted.
Ice cubes, McDonalds smoothies, diluting juices and ice poles. Everything turned her stomach so we’d sit and watch the water droplets roll down the side of the cups and the ice swirl in the liquid until it melted in the heavy heat of her house.
So I massaged her arms and her legs with E45, I didn't get the short straw, as it was my mum who rubbed her feet when they hurt with the dryness or with the chill only she felt. as we chatted about everything and anything. She had a Jackapoo Archie, she thought the world revolved around him though he is a pest. We talked about other dogs, she was obsessed with my friend Sophie’s dog Gruff. We lay together in her bed looking at photos and as she dozed I wondered how long we’d have days like this.
Some days I can forget about this and remember the good times like eating chips walking along the front at Helensburgh, the time my Papa’s car broke down coming home from Dundee and we got towed home by a bright pink tow-truck – which was the highlight in my back-to-school ‘What I Did On My Holiday’, when we got her a personal shopper for her outfit at my wedding and then seeing her face on my wedding day.
Today wasn’t one of those days. As I got into my car outside of her house I glanced behind me and spotted a guy putting a kid’s bike into his car and noticed he’d come from the usually-locked gates of the health centre. As I drove off I made a mental note to tell my gran – she always knew the gossip. It’s a cliché, but I felt like I’d been hit in the chest with the realisation dawning that no, I couldn’t ask her – she isn’t here.
Later, I put on an old dressing gown of hers. It’s long lost her scent, but it’s retained the comfort of knowing it was hers.
When reaching into the pockets I realised they were stuffed with tissues and this time I didn’t only feel like I’d been hit, I felt like I’d taken a full-on blow to the stomach.
No matter what my gran wore she always had tissues stuffed up her sleeve, it’s a small thing, but I hadn’t realised its hold on me.
Sometimes I think I see her in a crowded space, but realise it’s just another old lady wearing a stripy top – I wonder whether she’s the reason I own around 17 primarily navy and white tshirts. Sometimes I think I can smell her perfume. She had no sense of smell but wore Angel because everyone else loved the smell of it. I always take comfort in this – I like to think that she’s here, she did tell me one day that she’d come back to haunt me when I’d been especially bold.
It comes to me at the most inopportune time, such as driving across the Erskine Bridge for the first time on my own, or having a flare up of pain while at work, however maybe it’s my way of coping; knowing that I can’t just pick up the phone.
I guess I was very lucky growing up in that I hadn’t lost anyone. I had all four grandparents until I was 23 and had them at my wedding.
But days like today make me wish I could have half an hour to show her what she’s missed and how I’ve grown in the past 510 days – what I’ve achieved.
I like to think she’d be proud.