Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Writer
Living in Greece

April 2013

 

A fortunate life is part of five generations, taking up the middle ground between grandparents and parents on the one side and children and grandchildren on the other. Judged by that standard, mine has been and is a fortunate life. I can remember the three grandparents I had with what now seems to be the most astonishing vividness, and even the grandfather I never knew has a misty form, carefully nurtured by his widow and children when I was a child, and by the sight of fading photographs taken nearly a hundred years ago.

Now I am a grandmother myself, a fact of life I regard with not a little awe and a great deal of gratitude. My oldest grandparent of the three I knew, my maternal grandmother, was born in Casterton, Victoria, Australia, on the 12th of February, 1886; Nikitas Raphael Bouras, her great-great grandson, and my eldest grandchild, was born in Sigmaringen, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, on the 5th of April, 2006. His brother Maximus was born in Chania, Crete, on the 3rd of April, 2008.

And now they have a cousin Orestes, who arrived on the 25th of February this year: like his father, he was born in Athens. The name means ‘He who conquers mountains,’ and as I recounted last month, this baby had an immediate mountain to climb: an operation on his malformed oesophagus, and a four week stay in hospital. A rib had to be broken as part of the surgery and the front part of his head was shaved in order to permit blood samples to be taken when veins elsewhere resisted invasion. None of it bears thinking about, really, and although Orestes can’t remember the pain, I wonder about the legacy of it.

He has been home now for a week, and my report is late again because I am up here, too, and doing Granny things. How well I remember my own mother’s efforts when I had my first baby, and how reassured I felt by her presence in those first anxious days, which were not nearly as anxious as those that Orestes’ parents have been experiencing: they claim they didn’t sleep a wink during the baby’s first night home, and I can well believe it. We are all feeling our way: none of us has had any experience of coping with an infant who has spent four weeks in a humidicrib and in an ICU. I worried about this lack of experience from the start: Orestes was intravenously fed and sedated for at least the first week of his life, so it was obvious he was going to be behind other five week old babies. In all sorts of ways.

Today is Thursday; I met Orestes for the first time, apart from two glimpses on the night of his operation, on Tuesday. He certainly seemed quiet, and one medical opinion was that he might be ‘slow.’ His concerned parents sought a second opinion, which was Granny’s first one, really. The poor little bloke has had hardly any stimulation at all at a very important time. The sensible doctor gave good advice that was the common sense that most parents know from the word go, anyway.

So Orestes is being talked to a great deal: at present he is hearing two languages. He can hold a rattle. (You’ve no idea how difficult it was to find a simple, basic rattle in central Athens: even rattles these days seem to be high-tech, state-of-the art objects that are rather too much for ageing ancestors.) Interestingly, the paidiatricians have said that television sets should not be turned on while very young babies are around, as it is now thought that the succession of brightly coloured and ever-changing images, along with the accompanying sounds, tends to overwhelm the developing nervous system.

One Granny thing is the singing of songs, and it’s amazing what relics float to the top level, as it were, of the ageing brain. Here we go round the mulberry bush and There was a crooked man seem to be the favourites with Orestes so far. But of course the Australian propaganda has to go on: I was both persistent and ruthless in this area with my three sons, and my three grandsons are now my targets. The biggest success so far has been with Nikitas, who is now seven: at 20 months he could recognize Waltzing Matilda. Now I’m giving Orestes a sporting chance to match this feat.

 

 

  

Gillian Bouras

 

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