A few weeks ago I received the inevitable but upsetting call – my grandma had passed away.
I was home alone on a Friday morning and I had no idea what to do with the news. I cried, I called a friend, I cried some more and then I just felt lost.
Because I couldn’t do anything. I was too far away to help my parents out, provide support or attend the funeral. The last time I saw her was 18 months ago. She was in relatively good spirits until the end, though had definitely been on a bit of a downward spiral in the last months. I felt better knowing that she hadn’t been too uncomfortable, had died peacefully in her sleep, and was probably more than ready to let go.
I skyped with my family but that’s no substitute for providing emotional support and physically helping.
And so instead of waiting alone in a big house on the other side of the world for my husband to come home and give me a hug, I went swimming. Because I couldn’t get my mind around anything else. And because it brought me joy. And I think my grandma would have liked that.
A few weeks on, I feel like I want to put some memories down on paper:
I remember going to stay at her house when I was a kid and just wanting to read. She would always try to take me somewhere, to the city, to the park or to the museum. Sometimes I would reluctantly agree, but if my memory serves me right, most times I would be happiest if I was allowed to simply spend the long hours in her lounge room with its sweet musty smell, trawling through the huge amount of books she had.
That’s where I read my first risqué book – Forever by Judy Bloom. I’m quite sure I read it more than once. I’m quite sure my grandma noticed this fact.
I remember her once inviting a boy around my age for a play date. I grudgingly played board games with him but I didn’t enjoy it. He was taking time away from my reading. Yes, I was and still am a bookworm.
With my grandma I undertook my first (and only) sickie, when she looked after us for 6 weeks while my parents were in England. My brother had been home sick and the day before he’d created some cool thing – from memory it was a paper cut-out tightrope walker (WTF, I know, but that’s what I remember). Obviously I wanted in on the ‘fun’ of being sick, so I got a ‘headache’ and stayed home from school. Pretty sure she was clued up on that one too.
I remember an extremely awkward moment when my brother and I were staying over and were watching something on TV about Michael Jackson. She spoke openly about the way he touched his crotch. My brother and I were horrified. We giggled about it for months afterwards and it made it into my childhood diary as ‘notable’ news.
My grandma was a generous, lovely woman who volunteered and selflessly helped many people. She attended a local line dancing group until she was no longer able to. She prepared Christmas dinner and put coins in the pudding for us to find. She cooked amazing shortbread and coconut-raspberry slice. Her mince pies were soft and crumbling and powdered with icing sugar, a fond memory even though I didn’t like the taste. She loved gardening and she even loved my dog. When he was facing an expensive operation as a pup she jumped in with half the cash.
I remember her often just being around when I was younger – at ballet concerts and special occasions. She successfully brought up 4 kids. She taught and helped hundreds of others in her career as a school teacher, and continued after retirement with adults and children alike in the local community who needed help with reading and homework. She often drove to my uncle’s farm to help out, pulling out thistles and probably keeping an eye on us kids. That’s where I did my first ‘wheelie’ on the 4-wheeler, with her riding on the back (complete accident, sorry Grandma). She lived alone until just a few years ago. She was almost 93 when she died.
Grandma, I’m sorry I couldn’t say a proper goodbye. I’m sorry I can’t be there to support my dad and family at your funeral. But I’m glad to have known you. I’m glad to have been your granddaughter. I’m glad my parents forced me to visit when I became an insolent teenager with little care for family things. I’m glad you had a chance to meet my husband.
And I hope you sleep deep and long. Rest in Peace Grandma.