Grandma in her army uniform, war times
This post is a tribute to my beautiful Grandma who passed away, at 92 years of age, in May this year. I’ve been missing her for a lot of years now as her mind had been overcome by the horribleness that is dementia. Gradually dementia consumed my Grandma until she could no longer speak or move her body. Slowly we watched her slip away from us, this beautiful, strong, independent, hard working, devoted woman. Her funeral was a celebration of her life. It truly was a celebration. It was intimate, with only her closest relatives and dearest friend present. My cousin and I and my uncle spoke and my uncle shared the gospel. We sand two of Grandma’s favourite hymns and we laughed and cried over photos of Grandma throughout her life. It was truly a special day and one Grandma would’ve adored.
Here’s my tribute to one of the most precious women in my life.
Grandma and I at my UNE graduation, 1996
In March, 1972 Grandma became a ‘Grandma’ for the very first time. One after the other, her grandkids were born: Myself, Josh, Sarah, Tom, Rosie, Breannah, Ruth, Jed, Bethany, Isaac, Levi. Then 14 great grand kids.
A doting, caring, warm, loving, and yes, pretty strict Grandma. A Grandma who spent time with her grandchildren, nurturing them and getting to know them, treasuring them and making sure they knew that they were loved by her.
For a little part of my childhood, when I was around 5 years old, and my brother Josh was around 3, we lived in a shed house out the back of Grandma’s house in Pittwater Road, North Narrabeen. The same shed house that Grandma lived in while they were building their family home.
This time helped cement a beautiful bond between Grandma and I and it continued on throughout my life.
Grandma was one of those hands on Grandmas. She played cricket in the back yard with us and would even bowl overarm! She was pretty proud of that skill. She went for walks with us and took us to places that she knew we’d love to visit. Josh and I spent lots of our school holiday time in Sydney with Grandma and Sue. They would always make it a special time, all about us. Every day we did something fun and different. Adventures on the train into the city. Trips to parks and the beach. She’d take us shopping and to the movies and out to lunch to cafeterias, which we always loved. Getting to pick our own bits and pieces from a conveyor belt and being able to eat those hard jelly squares for dessert after our ham, cheese and pickle sandwiches. They were my favourite Grandma eating haunts. We’d collapse into bed every night, exhausted from all of the city adventures we’d had that day.
Grandma was a foodie in the sense that she loved food and feeding us. She comforted us with hearty, wholesome, homemade meals. Sometimes I can smell the cooking wafting over from my neighbours’ house or when I’m walking along the footpath of our little town and it reminds me of Grandma’s casseroles. It’s a lovely memory and reminder of her. Our plates were always piled with food and it was clear that Grandma loved to see us eat well. And I have to say I’ve kept up that tradition now, at 45, I know she’d be so very proud of the food eating ability that she so diligently encouraged in me.
Meals were always at a beautifully set table. Casseroles, soups, chops and veggies, simple, hearty meals. Icecream and peaches. Butterscotch lollies. Caramel jerseys. Licorice all sorts. Cadbury chocolate. Such lovely reminders. When we stayed at Grandma’s it went something like this: breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, dessert, a night time sweet snack. Every. Single. Day.
At the table Grandma insisted on good manners. I don’t ever remember having difficulties in that department but my brother Josh did. He’d murmur under his breath every time Grandma mentioned table manners as he ate his food in that funny left handed kind of way. But then she found him a splade and ditched the whole knife and fork thing and life at Grandma’s dining room table stepped up a notch as my brother developed the eating manners, with that splade, that Grandma so consistently instilled in him.
Grandma, Lew and I when Lew was about 4 months old
Grandma (centre) and two of her army friends in war times
Anzac Day was a special day for Grandma. Every year she would catch the train into the city of Sydney and meet her old army mates for the big Anzac Day march. When those marches became televised I would watch them, from my living room, on the edge of my seat looking out for Grandma and her patriotic, passionate waving. Lots of years she was on TV. She was so proud of her army days and would tell me story after story about her life as a young nurse in World War 2 times. Often, as a teenager and also as an adult, I would nod off as she shared her stories late into the night. Eventually she would notice that I was asleep and would say: Come on, off to bed with you darling. The next night would be more of the same.
Those stories, when I wasn’t falling asleep, taught me so much about her character as she role modeled to me the kind of person I’d like to be: loyal. She kept those army mates throughout her entire life. If you were a friend of Grandma’s you were a friend for life.
Dedicated and devoted. She served her country and those in her life with whole hearted dedication and devotion. She dedicated herself to her family and was always available to her children and us, her grandchildren.
My mum had cancer for the last 8 years of my childhood. Grandma would often come to stay to help out while mum was sick, going through treatment or recovering from an operation. When my mum died in 1990, Grandma spent almost a year of her life dedicating herself to my dad, Josh and Sarah and Tom (who were only 6 at the time) while I was away at uni. Grandma moved down to live with my Dad and the kids for that period of time so that he would have the support and care that he needed to be able to go to work and build the house that he and mum had started building before she died. I am eternally grateful to my Grandma for the sacrifice she made for the sake of my grieving dad and siblings. No one was more dedicated and devoted than Grandma.
Warm. Grandma oozed warmth. She had a fairly big bust in her younger Grandmaly years and a hug from Grandma left you enveloped in a whole body experience of warmth. I got so much comfort from those hugs. And her smile would light up a room. Even through her years suffering with dementia in the high care facility that she was in for quite some years, Grandma’s smile was there in the room lighting it up. Her mind struggled to remember who we were and where she was but that smile made me know that Grandma was still there, with me.
Grandma was strong, possibly one of the strongest women I’ve ever known. Yes, she could be strict, though I rarely got the brunt of her strictness, thankfully. My brother Josh seemed to get most of Grandma’s strictness, which was fine by me
She wouldn’t back down when it came to doing the right thing. She would make a stand on things she felt strongly about, regardless of the situation. Sometimes that would cause us a lot of embarrassment as teenagers. Like skateboarders on footpaths for instance. She loathed them and she never held back in expressing her upset over their behaviour. Their rude responses didn’t stop her one little bit. If anything it egged her on.
As teenagers, and country teenagers at that, Josh and I would cringe when we saw these kinds of moments about to take place. We’d lag behind her fast paced strides to reach them, cowering in the back ground we’d pretend we didn’t know her. Teenage angst of the 80’s. But in hind sight, I can see her good intentions, and now as a 45 year old mum of a teenage son, I could well stoop to such embarrassing interludes with riff raffy skateboarders polluting the city streets. Though, thankfully, for my teenage son, I do not have the strength and determination that Grandma had to follow through!
What I loved about Grandma’s strength was that she would stand up for the elderly and the parents of young children who needed to access those footpaths. She was definitely passionate about standing up for others, no matter the cost. And I think she was totally unaware that us, her grandkids, felt totally mortified by her strict interactions with total strangers.
Grandma was supportive. She supported me throughout my entire life. She always saw the good in me and everything I did made her feel proud. This was strange for me at times as I was well aware that she was a little bit biased when it came to her grandkids. I would many times think that I didn’t deserve the praise and support she so freely gave to me, but it really did help me cope in my life, particularly during harder times. Her praise always came with support and she never held back sharing her love and support and praise of me. I always knew I was loved, unconditionally by her and that was such a comfort to me, especially in my adult years without my mum to turn to.
This beautiful woman was an absolute treasure in my life and helped me in so many ways growing up and becoming an adult. She stood beside me through every part of it and she built me up when I would be feeling low or unsure. What a blessing to have had her as my Grandma, for all of us grandchildren to have had her as our Grandma.
A loyal, dedicated, devoted, warm, strong, supportive, positive and adoring Grandma who will always have a special place in my heart.
Thank you for everything you were to us, Grandma.
I love you xxx