I'm going to be totally honest.
My Muse has always been my grandparents.
We lost Nanny (half of my Muse) in 2013. I've been traveling to England to see my grandparents since (I could first afford a ticket) December of 1988. I know I could have asked them for tickets to come see them at any time, but that's not who I am...they taught me that.
From 2013-2019 my trips to see Grandad were to help him adjust to being a widower, to clean house and to take care of him. I looked forward to going to help him every year. We would usually do something fun, but I was mostly there to help. Often times I was planting seeds in his mind (like buying a new mattress to replace his 40 year old one, to try new things [he learned he liked espresso, but not a double], getting a house keeper instead of waiting for me once a year, hiring a gardener to trim his 10-12 foot hedges and giving up the car) and cleaning.
He and Nanny had the most beautiful hearts, so many adventures together and they shared their stories with me. I would sit and take notes and even encouraged them to write their stories. I would come back to America full of new story ideas. I compiled all my notes, interviews with them, their friends and other family members and started writing. They (other than my husband) have been the biggest cheerleaders for my life.
Covid stole so much from so many of us. I tried to cope with my lack of power to get to Grandad by sending him chocolates, toilet paper and presents at least once a week. I could tell he was slipping. He was a very social person and the isolation took a tole, not only on him but on his niece who (I admire so much) has been his right hand man since Nanny got ill and died. I was desperate to go and help her help him.
When I was finally able to get the second covid jab, I was on a plane two weeks later. My cousin had been trying to get him in to a doctor for six months...yay national health. I spent ten days trying to get him an appointment. No luck! Thanks national health! I stocked his house up, and replaced things to make it easier on the 75 year old beautiful lady who cleaned for him. His niece, beautiful neighbors and friends from the Platinum Club continued and keep an eye on him trying to keep him out of the car, but something had definitely changed in his health. I had to come back to the States for a doctor appointment and for the booster shot. Meanwhile, his other English granddaughter was turning her life upside down to move closer to him ASAP.
When I left for England at the end of January my husband and daughter knew my return date was not clear. My first night back with Grandad was wonderful, but I talked him into us going to bed by 11 each night, rather than our normal 1 or 2 in the morning because we had all the time in the world. The second night he woke me up in the middle of the night having a heart attack. I ran up and down the stairs for almost 4 hours until an ambulance finally arrived. Thanks national health!!! I got a taxi and followed him to the hospital. The reception nurse wouldn't let me go in with him. I stood outside pacing for an hour or so. When the staff changed at 7:30 I went to talk to the new nurse. She asked the doctors and they let me be with Grandad. They let me stay for about three hours. My cousins both came down that day and Grandad's English grandson came. We busied ourselves cleaning and organizing to make things better for when Grandad got to come home. My knees were damaged during the heart attack. Grandad's staircase was very steep.
The one positive thing I can say about national health was the amazing caring people who work in the industry, there just aren't enough workers. I couldn't believe the entire hospital had one doctor on call for the entire hospital on the weekends! The nurses and doctors in Grandad's ward let me stay with him up to nine hours a day. Most days I arrived at two and stayed until 9 pm. I sent the staff a huge basket of flowers in appreciation of their forgiving and kind care they were giving Grandad. (He tried to escape a few times and was not compliant until they figured out he had an infection that caused the heart attack and the adverse attitude. My cousins, husband and daughter gave me so much emotional support. I ended up moving to a hotel near the hospital because I was exhausted. I saw Grandad 37 days out of the forty days on this trip. My family back in the States really needed me as we had been through some big life changes right before my first trip. We (my cousins and I) thought things were improving and had a care home organized so he could leave the hospital. I was sitting at the airport (after covid protocol) and one cousin called and said the transfer had been called off because the care home had covid cases. Thank goodness we had made arrangements for her to replace me as his person at the hospital two days before I left. Everyone there said I needed to go home. I was exhausted beyond belief. I knew I would never see him again. He almost made it to 101!
I know the 50 days I spent in England were hard on me mentally and physically, but I'm so grateful Grandad chose me to be his person at the hospital and that he chose to spend so much time with me over my 56 years. I am blessed...