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My Grampa

My grandfather was a coal miner who was a tall, handsome man who, it is realised now had Early Onset Parkinson’s. Born in 1865, he was a true Victorian Gentleman, so l was told, always smartly dressed, despite his job.There was no medication available in those days. Ldopa wasn’t licenced until the mid 1950s, so he had no relief. The doctor called to see him every Friday and have a cup of tea. From 1935 to 1958, when he died, he sat in his chair.

Little did I think that I would emulate him. I’ve been sitting in my chair since June 2021.



Every day the same for him: each and every day

Was spent in doing nothing. Just existing. In his way

He managed nicely, at least he seemed to be content.

But I was young and did not see how great was his torment!


I grew up becoming used to seeing him in his chair,

Whenever I called to see him, he was always sitting there.

His chair gave him no comfort: it was made of wood, and here

He sat for hours each day, each week, each month, for many a year.


His movements were so laboured. He could not proceed

at more than snail’s pace. He had to cling to rails. Indeed

The time it took to struggle to the bathroom without aid

Showed his strong determination which did not ever fade.


His days were always spent alone, my grandmother couldn’t cope

With staying home alone with him. She left him with the hope

That he’d manage to get by until she would return.

I wonder now, how did he feel. Did he for company yearn?


On the hob beside him, before she left she’d leave a pot of tea,

A cup, a plate, milk and sugar, cheese and bread and he

Would spend all day just sitting there: he had nothing else to do

Except read The Daily Herald, and he had his wireless too.


The programmes he would listen to on the BBC Welsh Service

Were often difficult to tune in, this made him feel quite nervous

For he’d have to twiddle with the knobs until the programme had returned,

But if he failed to get it, my, how the air about him burned!!

He rarely had a visitor, for they would find it hard

To have a conversation. Not only was he scarred

In terms of movement, he couldn’t speak a single word.

His speech came out as grunts: so embarrassment occurred.

Today you’d think this couldn’t happen, but I’m afraid it does.

For I’m one such who’s been contained in my own invalid chair

The difference is that I’ve more ways to spend long hours alone

I have my tablet, company, my mind may life atone.


When I’d go up to see him and take Welsh cakes for his tea

He’d be so pleased to see me - he was very fond of

If I took friends along with me, they’d often laugh and stare.

I thought that they were very rude, and I’d give my warning gla…

Is it likely this could happen today,? This happened long ago

when there was no medication to release him from his woe.

He died aged eighty eight, a man whose life was so unfair.

I will never forget my Grampa sitting in his wooden chair.

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2 Comments


Nigel Smith
Nigel Smith
Aug 05, 2023

Pleasure to read Valerie, the detail makes it for me.

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John Dallison
John Dallison
Aug 05, 2023

A wonderful memorial to a past sufferer. A great poem about anguish and love.

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