She is 95 (and a half, as my son tells me: he's at an age when this matters, as is Gran). Dad met me at the station and took me over to the home she now lives in. We found her in one of the communal areas, actually being visited by a young couple whom I didn't know. I greeted her with a bright cheerful, "Hello Gran!" There was a brief silence, then, "Oh, if it isn't Michael!" That is my father.
We went back to her room with her. A parcel had been delivered: a plant, a delightful Christmas present from her nephew. She sat in her chair while I battled with the box it had come in and then the hoover to clear up all the soil I had managed to scatter across her bedroom. She studied the card that had come with the box. "Happy Christmas, with love from..." she read slowly, deliberately, clearly. At the end she remembered who they were, but I had to tell her that her great-nephew was grown-up now.
She told us that the staff were on strike that day. There was no evidence of this: a very cheerful lady cleared away the hoover (I had left it as a health and safety hazard for the geriatric population) and brought us a cup of tea. The manager was on holiday and that seemed to be unsettling Gran. Then she told us that all the people were leaving. She told us that they were talking of shutting the home down. She looked around the room and said, "Well, I suppose this is my space. I suppose I shall be all right." "You'll be fine," I reassure her in a confident voice. I look to Dad in case there is any local news of the home shutting down but, along with the suitcase that is permanently laid out on the table by her door in case she has to leave, it is just another confusion in her mind.
She sits in her chair, white hair elegantly coiffured, tweed skirt and cotton shirt. I note her knee-length tights, a style that cries out 'old! old!' Her skin is paper-thin: when I visited in the summer my daughter had sat on her knee and, in jumping off, managed to scrape a large flap on her arm without doing anything untoward. It was the first time in twelve years, so she claimed, that she'd had to make use of the nursing care that is available to her in the home: they had to put a large plaster over the cut. Physically there is nothing wrong with my Gran, although in the last six months she has started to use a walking-stick.
On Friday, though, she turns to my father and asks how his parents are. Dad answers this gallantly: they have been dead for nearly twenty years. Gran says, "I wondered if they were..." then returns to her concern that the home is going to shut down.
I give her our Christmas present: a family photo. She recognises me, for which I am grateful, and can figure out that they are my children, but points to the strange man next to me (my husband) and asks who he is. "Do I know him?" Gran made my wedding dress eleven years ago.
Eventually Dad and I leave. We are quiet, lost in thought, as we walk to the car.
"Not one of Gran's better days," I say.
"No," he replies. A pause. "The funny thing is, despite all her confusion and forgetfulness, it is still uplifting to see her."
And he is right. She remains a very special lady.