My Nain would sit in her chair on a Sunday and wait… She’d read the paper, watch a bit of telly, do a few chores around her ‘Sheltered Home’. Sunday to someone who had been retired for nearly 30 years is just like any other day really, only it was a day that I would visit her. There was nothing regular, nothing set in stone, just that I’d visit her ‘most Sundays.’
Taid had died in 1993, she nursed him for over a decade after he survived lung cancer. A stroke got him eventually, ending a ten years of being in pain, but he, like my Nain lived for those he loved.
On the Sundays I didn’t visit, Nain would heave herself up out of her chair and peer out of the window every time she heard a car pull up. I know this because every time I drove up I’d see her head pop in the window and she’d give a wave. I could’ve phoned to say I wasn’t coming, but nothing was set in stone… Only now seven years on (or is it six…?), I still feel so guilty for not letting her know when I wasn’t going to visit. I was more afraid of disappointing her on the spot than I was of leaving her in hope…
The disappointment of not seeing her eldest grandson on some Sundays I guess far outweighed the enjoyment of my company when I did show up, and of course seeing her great-grandchildren too.
She’d ‘buzz’ the downstairs door open and I / we would run up to her flat, let ourselves in with a ‘Hiya Nain,’ and make her a cup of tea, or take her out for Sunday lunch. It was a couple of hours spent in great company for us both.
Our conversations covered a plethora of topics from family, work, the odd lady who lived downstairs, local history, the news, even football (Liverpool of course), and her desire to one day visit Venice.
Nain also moaned about how bored she’d get and seeing ‘You kids’ was the highlight of her days. She was blessed with six grandchildren and understood that as adults we all had busy lives, but we all did make the effort to see Nain as and when we could.
What did she do in between those visits? Of an evening when the Sheltered Flats were ‘locked down’, what did she do in the day? All those endless hours alone, with just the TV and the phone for company.
Nain was lucky though, even at 82 she was active and would ‘Go up town’ on the bus to do her shopping and I thought she’d live forever… Then the dreaded Big C caught up with her.
Cancer of the oesophagus, we watched her wither away over a few months, the cancer didn’t kill her; she died of thirst; they stopped giving her water… ‘She would only suffer more,’ they said…
And she died…
Sundays were never the same again…
Nain had the good fortune to leave this mortal coil with a loving family and all her faculties intact… There are old people who are left to rot in Nursing Homes, who are probably maltreated, seldom visited, senile, immobile and die without dignity or in pain or both…
Patrick Jones‘ play Dandelion broaches this subject and doesn’t pull any punches. It is set in a Nursing Home and around four characters (inmates) and their days, their thoughts, their memories, their hopes, fears and ailments as they fade away, rot away, fly away.
This is social commentary at its utmost best and far more striking than any Panorama documentary.
I’m at odds to give too much away and urge you see this hard hitting, challenging, yet humorous, thought provoking, inspiring and enlightening play. I went along with no expectations, I didn’t even know what it was about…
I left feeling I had been kicked in the stomach, such was the power of the theme and the strength of the characters played by Sharon Morgan, Anthony Leader, Olwen Rees and Lynn Hunter.
The very last line of the final scene of Dandelion is an absolute shell-shocker that had a collective whammy on the entire audience.
Incredible and heart breaking on many levels and for many reasons, both social and personal.