Losing Her Marbles
‘Oh, Grandad, you’re up here too. It’s nice and breezy isn’t it and the sea’s looking all sparkly.’
‘I suppose the parade ground is good for roller-skating. They don’t do much parading round here these days,’ said her Grandad.
Rosie glanced down at her roller blades; she didn’t feel she should correct Grandad. He didn’t notice the difference between blades and skates and she didn’t want to argue with him. She knew he was sad these days. Rosie’s friends were across the other side of the parade ground. This would be their last summer together before secondary school, but she thought she would take this chance to talk to her Grandad.
She looked across to the lighthouse which everyone called Smeaton’s tower, at the far end of the huge parade ground.
‘Did you used to come up here when you were a boy Grandad?’
‘I did, I used to bring my old go-kart up here, we had races, me and my pals. That was before the war of course, before I met your Grandma.’
‘Yes, you met her after the war didn’t you Grandad? I expect you miss her now she’s gone.’
‘I do miss her Rosie, but not Grandma as you knew her. She had already gone before you were born, you know. She got that ‘old timers disease’ before she ever was an old timer. The grandma you knew was just an empty shell really.’
‘Is that why she never knew my name, Grandad? Because she had no brain – she was an empty shell?’
‘Well she didn’t exactly have no brain, but it had stopped working long ago.’
Rosie shuddered. ‘I don’t want to be an empty shell when I’m old, Grandad.’
‘No, nor do I Rosie,’ said the old man, ‘but there’s no point in fretting about it. Most people keep their marbles and I’m certainly intending to keep mine.’
‘Do you want to have a game then, Grandad, I didn’t know you still had marbles.’
‘Oh, I keep mine well hidden, I don’t play with them any more, I just look after them as best I can.’
Rosie looked puzzled. ‘Oh, I keep mine in this little bag here Grandad, see? We can have a game if you like.’
‘Tell you what, if I lie down like this on my coat and you do all the fetching, I will give you a game.’
A warm glow filled Rosie’s chest. This was the first time her Grandad had ever played marbles or anything else with her. Perhaps there were some good things that can happen along with the sadness when somebody dies.
What do you think Rosie’s Grandad might have been doing when she met him up on the parade ground?
Why was Rosie on the parade ground?
What did Rosie’s Grandad used to do on the parade ground when he was a boy?
How could Rosie tell that her Grandma wasn’t quite right when she was alive?’
Rosie’s Grandad said Grandma was like an empty shell, and that she had a certain illness that he called ‘old timer’s disease’. What is an old timer? Do you know the right name for that illness?*
How long might she have been ill for before she died?
What did Grandad mean about looking after his marbles?
Why do you think Grandad had never played with Rosie?
How do you think Grandad felt after his wife had died?
What was the good thing that happened for Rosie after her chat with her Grandad?
Does the story remind you of anything in your life?
* ‘Old timers disease’ is really called Alzheimer’s disease, or senile dementia.