We have a very dear family friend who is like a third grandmother to me. She's the only person left in the world who remembers my mother as a baby, and she was great friends with my grandparents. Having no family of her own, she adopted ours, and has always taken a great interest in all of us. When we were little, she used to knit sweaters for us, and she was one of those adults you were never bored to visit as a child, because she was so loving and always found something for us to play with.
She's now 96, has osteoporosis, wears a hearing aid and is almost completely blind, but she still has all her marbles and is still as interested in the goings-on in our family as she ever was.
H is loved by so many people, and is full of compassion - one of her big current concerns is that one of her neighbours is going to be 90 soon and has nobody to celebrate with. H has talked about how our family made her 90th birthday so special, and how sorry she feels that her neighbour has no family or friends to do the same for her, so H will be going round to see her with a cake and trying to make the day special for her. She also accompanies friends (young spring chickens in their 70s and 80s) to hospital appointments and has been there to help several of them through their grief on losing their spouses or partners.
For at least the last 10 years, she's been telling me that she won't die until she's seen my children. This summer, one of my uncles came over from Australia and when I saw him, one of the first things he said to me was, "So, when are you going to make H happy?"
I knew exactly what he meant, and as we were waiting for our first appointment at the clinic when I saw him, I just said that we were working on it. My childless uncle, who was over 50 when he married, turned out to be the world expert on infertility and informed me that all I needed to do was relax, and I was probably trying too hard. If only he'd told me that earlier - we'd have been celebrating our baby's first Christmas by now...
Anyway, my mother has been telling me that I ought to tell H what was going on. She said H was not stupid and must have guessed that things weren't going smoothly for us - but knowing the hopes that H had for us, I didn't want to disappoint her. I suppose I was also hoping that I'd be able to tell her that our IVF had worked and that she would soon be seeing our baby.
Yesterday DH and I went to see H. She was on good form - usually, we take food with us and cook her some lunch while we're there, but this time she insisted on taking us out for lunch, and she ate like a horse.
When there was a quiet moment, I said to her, "You know we can't have children?"
I don't know if she already knew, but she's 96 - she's seen everything, and she must have realised there was a problem when no baby appeared after all this time.
She just nodded and gave my hand a little squeeze.
I said that since there was going to be no baby, she would now have to live forever, and she said, "A person gets tired, you know. All my contemporaries have died, so I made new friends - and now they're all dying too."
A bit later, she asked, "Is it definite?"
I told her about the two IVFs and said we would have one last try.
Again, there was a pause, and then she said, "You're the one I care about. It's sad, but you still have DH, and you love each other. I want the two of you to be kind to each other, and be happy."
And suddenly, I can't understand why I was so worried about telling her, and why I thought she wouldn't be able to handle it. She said a few other things in the course of the afternoon which I know were references to our situation, and as always, she just poured out so much love for us, and so much understanding.
Oh, and on the way home, I said to DH, "I'm not so sure that I'd want to live to be 96", and he promised that he'd do his best to drive me into an early grave, so there's another positive I got out of the day...