Monday, October 25, 2010

Grandmother Adventures: Volume Two

One of Granny Pam's greatest storytelling talents is that she manages to talk about all sorts of details about life in an earlier era that everyone else has conveniently blotted out of their minds. Everyone knows that back in the bad-old-days, all people who were not white were treated appallingly, women had far less opportunities and being homosexual was even more difficult than it is now. The minority group that very few people have ever acknowledged are those born mentally handicapped. They cannot tell others how badly they were treated in the past because they have no voice in a society obsessed with a high "intelligence quotient".

Granny Pam's story starts with a woman who was a friend of hers. Tragically, her friend's husband suddenly became ill and was rushed to hospital. It was discovered he had terminal cancer, and only a few more months to live, which he had to spend in the hospital owing to the nature of his illness. His wife had a violent dislike for people who are ill or infirm, and as a result, Granny Pam - on her visits to the hospital - had to placate him and tell him that his wife wasn't coming to visit.

He passed away, and the lady re-married. She fell pregnant again and gave birth to a beautiful little girl. Unfortunately for this little girl, she was born with a heart condition, a cleft palate and downs syndrome. Granny Pam's friend left the hospital without her baby, effectively disowning her. The lady's mother had the same distaste for "abnormal" people and would not have anything to do with the child. The lady's husband went to see Granny Pam, and begged her - the neighbourhood mother with her thriving nursery school - to look after their baby, as his wife would hardly acknowledge her existence.

Granny Pam knew nothing about caring for children with special needs, but took the baby back to her home with some helpful hints from the nurse. The baby's cleft palate meant she could not drink properly, and had to be fed with an eye-dropper. Her heart condition was such that she could be in trouble at any time and need to be rushed to hospital. The sign Granny Pam had to look for was the baby's hands turning blue. Granny Pam explains how she would wake up anxiously at all hours of the night and stealthily shine a torch toward the baby's hands to make sure her fingers were still pink.

The mother relented after Granny Pam had been nurturing the child for about six months and took her back again. She was always sickly, however, and some might say - considering the attitude of her mother and other people of the day - luckily, the little girl passed away when she was just two years old.

Much is made of standing up for those members of our population who cannot speak for themselves. There are animal rights groups, groups for abused women and children ("normal" children, of course) and groups for many other peoples who may be victimised. I wonder, though, how many people work for the good of those who society likes to stuff away in corners and slide their eyes past, learning not to see.

Luckily there are some people whose very nature it is not to be blinded and not to forget.

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