The Ship Passing In The Night (by )

The Ship

I think, though I am not sure as I am not good at dates and what not, but I think about 20 years ago my nan died in the middle of the night. Nanny Richards, my mum's mum with her halo of white fizzy hair and soft wrinkled skin. I was in secondary school, I was being bullied, my parents had planned a party for me, my birthday being on the 11th but then Nanny got very sick and it never happened, I remember thinking about how no one would have come anyway except Nikki, Helen and Karina - people who are still my friends and who were worth more than any incrowd but you don't know these things as a mid teen going through a mid teen crisis.

In the months leading up to my nan's death we had basically moved in, I slept on a lumpy thing we called a palias on the floor and was reading Nightmares and Dreamscapes - my first Stephen King and a collection of short stories. Some days I didn't go to school but stayed and looked after my nan, and made sure that my uncle who had downes syndrome got out to his coach on time.

The bullying at school was at about it's most intense as I was just starting to lick the dyslexia and achieve, I was winning awards and I got my first stuff published around this time. My nan had been really very sick for a long time by this point. She had osteoparosis or as we knew it - Brittle Bone disease, the bones in her spin were collapsing and she was growing a hunch. Apparently it was her wings, she always said it was her wings and is the reason the watch maker story/myth makes me meloncholy.

My nan ended up at the hospital, her lungs were being crushed by the humpy back and she had a cough, she had pnumonia, she was dying and her skin had gone thin, when I washed her it ripped or bruised. I didn't cry, I just cleaned the comode and told her it was ok when she kept saying sorry. And then me and my brother went to stay at my aunts - everybody including my aunt were at the hospital. The drs tried to send them all home, my aunt came home and that is the reason that she missed my nan dying, the others stayed. My family needs to be by the bedside, the modern nhs do not like this especially with the shear number of us - now we know to stick to our guns - back then we didn't, well not so much.

I had to wake my aunt up as I was asleep on the sofa next to the phone and heard the message from my granddad. She didn't get back to the hospital in time.

The next morning we sat round my nan's, I tried to be helpful, I knew it was going to be hardest on my little brother and he was little then, still shorter than me. I made teas and coffees and we read the horoscopes and prayed and laughed and cried - except I didn't - the horoscopes mentioned a the passing like ships in the night and we went and got extra copies of the newspaper and each had a copy of the horoscope reading. I'm sure this probably sounds very silly but I don't really care as it was an important thing to us, and judging by the painting I did, I would say it is obviously still important to me.

My nan wore fluffy track suits in blue and fake animal print, her house was always full of people and there were multiple freezers full of bulk buys that fed us all. Before she got too ill she would cook Sunday lunch for us and we would listen to my uncles djing often in competition with each other or there would be little mini guitars for us kids to play on or my great uncles would try to teach me the spoons.

I watched WWF wrestling and night rider with my nan and she didn't know how to cook pizza and always burnt it and washed the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher we'd all saved up to get her. She bought our school uniforms when the docs closed due to the Thames Barrier and various other things happened causing the jobs to disappear. My aunts and uncles friends would often be round and we'd visit my great nan who'd had to go into a home just opposite my nan, she died not many years before her daughter and that seemed so unfair to me. My great nan was robust but nanny, there towards the end - she was so frail - she was younger than my mother, younger than so many people I know and yet she looked so old, her skin so crinkled and worn.

I'd learnt to be gentle and not hug too hard, a vigerous hug could break brittle ribs. I miss her, I miss the point long pronged combs she used on mine and her's hair and the lady who came around to straighten her hair so that it could be curled. I miss her turning the TV over right at the end of the programms just to annoy my dad or because we would find it too scary (we all knew it was she who found it too scary especially Dr Who! and Paul Daneils!). I miss the fact that I could turn up with stray animals and she would look after them for me, everything from kittens to teripins to snails to my gold fish.

Around the time of her funeral the main bully at school pushed me too far and I hit her, I am sure I wouldn't have gotten away with it now, I almost didn't then. She whizzed across the changing rooms and then came at me for some revenge. I was normally erm... well... meek - this time I hit back because I didn't care. I also cut my hair short, it was a source of bullying, it was pulled, set on fire, had glue put in it, pens and more, I used to talk to my nan about it but she wasn't there anymore so I decided that there had to be a new me instead and so the hair went, in truth it wasn't gone for very long and I discovered frizz ease which helped alot.

I am not sure how accurate my rememberings are, I didn't cry about my nan's death until a long time later, I was mainly angry. Her funeral was amazing! There were I think 6 black cars full of family and over sixty follow up cars, she hadn't been a famous person just a mum, just a nan, just a neighbour and friend. She had known heart ache and loss and looked after those who needed looking after and kicked the rest of us in the bum - sometimes literally. Rainham was brought to a stand still, it was her village - before it was part of London but it was also the docks but she owned them too, it was her world and she had been if not the centre of it then a centre of gravity and of course she was related to the funeral director and he proceeded on foot even on the main roads.

Just missing my nan and thinking about how the world has changed and how in many ways it hasn't. I would say rest in peace but I think she would rather rest at a party to be honest, there would be hobnobs.

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