Thursday, August 09, 2012


In moments of slight crisis in Grandson's life - of which there are not many (he is blessed so far with a sunny nature) - he sucks his thumb. His parents refer to his mood on such occasions as being "a bit thumby". This also describes my feelings since Daughter 2 left for London; and my thumbiness has increased with my mother's illness. When she improves, she's weaker and unhappier and more puzzled than when she was apparently unaware of anything, and naturally enough it's been very stressful to witness.

However, as I left the hospital last night, a nurse - while sympathising - said to me, "It's just part of life." And it was precisely the right thing to say to me at that moment. I did already realise, of course, that we all decline and die; but somehow I was still at the stage of feeling that I ought to be able to do something to improve my mum's lot. And when the nurse said that, it was as if a mist had cleared and I suddenly felt - well, sometime soon is my mum's time to go and that's just the way it is.

I can't necessarily be sure that this feeling of acceptance will be permanent (watch this space) but last night at least it also extended to some extent to accepting the loss in our everyday lives of Daughter 2. Again, I know intellectually that children leave home in the end. But I need to remind myself that it's "just part of life" and there are other, better, parts.

Such as Grandson.  We had him for six hours yesterday, without his parents, to start preparing him for the time when Daughter 1 goes back to work three days a week and leaves him with us. I did enjoy it! He's at the beginning of life and he's so cheering. Which reminds me of the celebration of babyhood - "A common-sense / Thumbs-down on the dodo's mode" - in Sylvia Plath's poem to her unborn child. The imagery in this poem makes me wriggle with pleasure:


Clownlike, happiest on your hands,
Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled,
Gilled like a fish. A common-sense
Thumbs-down on the dodo's mode.
Wrapped up in yourself like a spool,
Trawling your dark, as owls do.
Mute as a turnip from the Fourth
Of July to All Fools' Day,
O high-riser, my little loaf.

Vague as fog and looked for like mail.
Farther off than Australia.
Bent-backed Atlas, our traveled prawn.
Snug as a bud and at home
Like a sprat in a pickle jug.
A creel of eels, all ripples.
Jumpy as a Mexican bean.
Right, like a well-done sum.
A clean slate, with your own face on.


  1. you are making me wish I had a grandson... sigh.

  2. The Sylvia Plath poem is wonderful.

    How lovely that you will be having little grandson to stay for three days each week. He will be the perfect antidote to those difficult days when you too are feeling a bit thumby.

  3. we are having "just a part of life" this week too. A much happier version; a grandson starting kindergarten and a grandson leaving for college! The college grandson leaving is hard because it means he's not a little boy anymore :(

  4. Thank goodness for the wonderful nurses you have. They truly are unsung heroes.

  5. My thoughts are with you. It is never easy to know your mother is going to have to go. It IS part of life.
    Yes, the children are a joy to remind us of the continuity of life.

  6. I have been so enriched by my work at a local hospice, by seeing death close-up and realising that it is indeed an essential element of life.
    It's wonderful that you have grandson as the perfect natural balance.

  7. I believe that, when it comes down to it, we are still very elemental creatures - like plants and animals. When we examine their life cycles we see just that - cycles. Just because we have highly developed brains does not remove us from this pattern of life. You are going to really enjoy the next few years of grandson-sitting, and it will help to ease the pain. Good and bad, it is all "part of life" indeed.

  8. Somewhat thumby here, too, as Boy prepares to move away, leaving the nest well and truly empty. Understanding the life cycle of families doesn't really make it easier when you're experiencing those big milestones.

  9. Love Sylvia Plath poem - and the one about birth too. It's hard to get to the 'just part of life' stage of acceptance but it helps if you can. How lovely to have Grandson on a regular basis.

  10. Anonymous1:58 pm

    Ahh... that is what I am feeling - a bit thumby - with my oldest now gone. Good to know the word for it!

  11. Grandchildren are such a joy and comfort!

  12. Yes, it's a part of life. And some parts suck more than others. Sending you hugs and continued cheerfulness, although I am not bald and don't put my thumb in my mouth, so I may not be as good at it as some much smaller people. 8-)

  13. I don't know, I think he is contemplating some devilment. I can tell that you will have your hands full!

  14. At least when her time comes your mum knows the family is in good hands [grandson's....]Nurses are such angels, and SO sensible.

  15. Such is life, That's life, and so it goes. Due to the whole family getting the flu within days of each other, and all going down like the proverbial nine-pins, none of us had visited or spoken to MIL in weeks. When Ken finally felt well enough to phone her, he was scared she wouldn't know who he was. But nothing of the sort. "How are you,dear?" she said brightly. There was a time when she would have been screaming down the phone "You've all abandoned me here!" if one of us didn't contact her every day. But it's all just a blur to her now. Who wants to be a hundred years old...

  16. my youngest son (soon to be thirty) was a thumb-sucker ... i think he might still be, when he is feeling thumby, but i haven't caught him in the act in the past ten or so years ... all things being equal, i'd rather he sucked his thumb than smoked his cigarettes