Expat Life Lately: Making Memories, Even If You Won’t Remember


I’ve really come to love my husband’s hopeless-romantic grandad. I don’t think ever a visit has passed that he hasn’t sung a song from the 50s or asked “hows your love life?” He is such a funny, charming character and I’ve always seen just a little of myself in him. In the past year or so his health and his memory have deteriorated. He’s had to go into a home because his nan with a broken hip and back just can’t look after him.

It’s been hard watching a couple who’ve spent their lives together be separated this way at the end. Even though his nan goes to see him nearly everyday she feels so much guilt in keeping him there and he keeps packing all his pictures away, ready to go “home.” He remembers who we are and can recall things from long ago but the day after our wedding he couldn’t really remember attending. His short-term memory is a bit like recalling dreams; sometimes he can and sometimes he can’t.

I know my man has found it hard as have I. Every time we visit home -Cambridgeshire, where my man is from- we go to see him in the home but it gets depressing sitting in his stuffy room, alarms buzzing and beeping always reminding you of where you are.

Three weekends ago, as we were taking his nan and his elderly cousin (who we lovingly refer to as our aunt) to see him on a particularly glorious summer day I decided that the sunshine was just too spectacular to miss. We packed them all up: his smart & thoughtful cousin with her walking stick, his hilarious and feisty Irish nan with her walker and his charming, forgetful grandad in his wheelchair. We all squished in our truck for what was a very cozy ride. I knew just the place a summer’s day would be best enjoyed.

We unloaded everyone (it was a bit of a military operation) and had such a laugh in the process. There were jokes about us being their carers and them looking like the three wise men. In time we made it to a round picnic table overlooking the river at the No Hurry Inn near Ely. It’s hard to describe how I felt as we spent the afternoon chatting, eating and reminiscing together except to say that I felt privileged to have been able to spend that time in such good company.

Near the end of the afternoon as we sat in a shady spot under a great willow tree he kept saying he wanted to go to Ely; on and on he went; he really had his heart set on going to Ely. When we finally asked him why he wanted to go to Ely he said “because it’s warmer.” We had such a chuckle over that and wheeled him into the sun to watch the boats drift by. “That’s better,” he said. I think he’d have liked to stay there forever.

It’s a memory I will always cherish -one I wouldn’t trade for all the world- and even though his grandad might not remember it for long, I know that in that moment he made a happy, new memory with those who love him.



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