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Sunday, 20 October 2019

Ivy

Ivy aged about 18

An early memory. One warm autumn day (someone later said it was a Monday afternoon in October), Mum took me into town in the push chair. We would have gone past a cinema (since demolished), a post office (now a beauty clinic), a garage (shops), some bombed buildings (more shops), a school (a community centre), a flour mill (a supermarket) and a church (derelict), and turned into a leafy avenue of fifty-year-old trees (long felled). It is all very different now.

We went down a cindery back lane behind some houses. We stopped and Mum called towards the upstairs of a large building over a high wall, waving to attract attention. I was told I shouted too and stood on the push chair so I could see. Someone opened a window and spoke to us. Mum explained why we were there. Nanna appeared and waved. She was in hospital after an operation. My aunt took my infant cousin for a similar walk a few days later.

Heartbreakingly, the operation was what was then known as “an open and shut case” and Nanna died soon afterwards. How sad that one of my first memories would be one of her last. It was sixty-five years ago this autumn: longer ago than the entire span of her life.

I was told she had heard me shouting “Nanna, Nanna” outside the window, and how pleased she was to see me. That day aside, I have only vague impressions of her and wonder what might have been different had she lived.

Pancreatic cancer is an awful disease. It creeps up undetected and is hardly any more survivable now than in 1954.

28 comments:

  1. Hormonal cancers too. Don't think there is a family that hasn't lost someone to cancer.

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    1. Sadly true, multiple times, but some types seem do more bleak than others.

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  2. That is such a beautiful memory, I feel like crying. Of course children weren't allowed to visit in hospitals in those days. A very special moment in your life. xx

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    1. Thank you. It hadn't occurred to me until you said that I wouldn't have been allowed to visit. I'd always assumed I was just being protected.

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  3. You have also reminded me of cinder paths with this.

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    1. They were always dry weren't they. As one might expect, it was tarmacadamed in the sixties and soon began to deteriorate, and last time I saw it (and on StreetView now) it was an uneven pot-holed mess, but I suppose cindery paths depended on houses producing the cinders to maintain them.

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    2. Old boilers with cheap, slaggy coal produced cinders. Both were ubiquitous in my childhood.

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  4. What a beautiful woman. A sad story. My grandmother died a lingering death of colon cancer during the war and ( I think) hung on just to hear that Mum had safely delivered me, her first child. Grandma died three days later. Tough times as Dad was away fighting and Mum was looking after her 89 year old grandmother.

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    1. She would have been about 18 in that picture and those who remember her say she was indeed beautiful. Also kind and caring, and always knew what to do when things were tough. Your grandma's story is tragic too. Like me, you must wonder how things would have been if you'd known her. Colon cancer is another dreadful disease, but at least that's one where some progress has been made with detection and treatment.

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  5. A sad but important memory. Yes, pancreatic cancer is still a terrible scourge today.

    I too remember when children weren't allowed to visit in hospitals. I remember my Dad getting me all dressed up to stand outside on the lawn of our local hospital to wave at my Mom in the hospital window. She had just had my baby sister a day before or so.

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    1. I wonder why it is we remember things like this from quite an early age - maybe it's because they were not part of the usual day to day routine.

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  6. A sad story.
    I remember being taken on a long bus trip to visit my grandma in hospital. My mother was upset to find she had lapsed into a coma before we arrived but I was told to say hello to her as she may have known we were there. She died soon afterwards. I gather it was a brain haemorrhage. She was about the age I am now.

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    1. So that's interesting that unlike many above you were allowed to see your grandma in hospital.

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  7. So many of our relatives did not reach our age. My grandmother did get to the end of her nineties, though. My favorite uncle died of pancreatic cancer. It was the time we lost the last of generation before ourselves, in eighteen months.

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    1. All too soon there comes a time when you realise you're no longer young and trendy, and the oldest at the family gathering. But sod 'em. Oldies rule OK.

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  8. My paternal grandmother died when I was not quite four years old yet, and I have as good as no memories of her, since we hardly spent any time together (she didn't really like children, from all I have learned about her since). My maternal grandmother more than made up for that lack of love and attention. She died shortly before her 84th birthday in 2001. It was an odd feeling, that first Christmas that year with that entire generation gone from my family.
    When my sister and I were children (1970s), I was not allowed to visit her in hospital when she had her tonsils out, and vice versa when it was my turn two years later.

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    1. And it's very strange when you reach the Christmas you realise you are an orphan. Yet sometimes these days you hear of five-generation families.

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  9. Your Nanna was a beautiful woman. My dad (non-bio) died of pancreatic cancer in 1967. He had been a bit overweight in recent years and was so happy when he began to lose weight. He just kept on losing and losing. Also, he could not sleep lying flat on his back because of pain so he slept in a chair for months before he consented to go to a doctor. He ended up being hospitalised for exploratory surgery; they opened him up, looked, and sewed him back up again. He died five months after that and weighed about 90 pounds at the end.

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    1. Thank you. Two very similar tragic stories - extreme tiredness and backache followed by "open and shut" operation.

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  10. Ivy had a lovely face. There is a certain intelligence and yet an other-worldliness about it too. Thanks for sharing this precious memory.

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    1. Thank you. Of course, those qualities passed on to her descendants.

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    2. Mmmm... Highly debatable methinks.

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    3. You only have to look at https://www.taskerdunham.com/2016/02/back-in-time-for-weekend.html to see there's no debate about it at all.

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    4. Poor little blighter! Judging from those knees I guess he had rickets.

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  11. Thank you for sharing this memory, Tasker. It sounds like she was pleased by your presence below her hospital window.

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    1. I was told so, and also my cousin who was taken to the same place a day or so later.

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  12. I think I can picture this. I know the cinema, the school, the flour mill, the church and past Clifton Gardens to the Grammar School and Bartholomew Hospital. Took me back Tasker … thank you.

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    1. You're not wrong Jonathan, except I think you've walked a little too far along Boothferry Road.

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