Grandmothers achievement day
When I was around 7 years old, I went on my first ever “sleep-over” to my Grandparents house. Freedom without my mum, dad or brother – just time alone for me to be the centre of attention – and I LOVED it and became totally addicted to visiting them.
I adored my “Nan and Gan-gan” on my mums side, and spent as much time as I possibly could with them. Every lunch time I would run to their home from school for a quick jam or cheese spread sandwich (standard diet at that time) before running back for afternoon registration (yes, at 7 years old we were allowed to go home on our own!). I would revisit them at the end of the day on the way home just to say hello again, and then come Friday evening I would be begging my parents to let me stay with them for the weekend. I loved the freedom of late nights, early morning walks delivering newspapers or milk with my “funny” grandad, and the obligatory visit to the smoky bingo hall each evening when I sat with the grown-ups sipping my coke whilst they drank pints. I would sit quietly in a “booth” and listen to their chatter over my head feeling like I was part of their circle – I felt at home. My grandma was feisty and strong and always shared with me her big opinions, big mouth and a big heart.
To this day I have always acknowledged and thanked her for the part she had in my developing personality and think of her regularly since her death almost 12 years ago.
Anyhow, my commitment to them had one obvious downside – I rarely spent time with my other grandparents and failed to ever make any true “connection” with them. Whilst they had loving relationships with the other three grandchildren of the family, I perceived them to be the “posh” side of the family and didn’t feel like I belonged with them (they wouldn’t have approved of bingo, beer and fags! – I ALWAYS preferred to walk on the wild side!).
I don’t honestly know if they ever tried to bridge the gap, they may well have but I most likely wouldn’t have been very receptive if they did. They were always kind to me and we spent some fun Christmas times with them at their home, Grandad made the BEST gravy on earth to go with the dinner he would cook up for everyone and Grandma always prepared us the most incredible Christmas stockings (actually they were pillowcases!) for the end of our beds – but that is probably the extent of my memories with them.
How strange then that just before Christmas I found myself sitting alone at grandma Tat’s bedside in hospital overnight as she was dying following a sudden stroke. She was unconscious, unresponsive and all medical support had been withdrawn and we knew she would pass quickly.
Two of her three children were abroad with not enough time for them to travel back. Her third child had been admitted into hospital that morning (bizarrely in the ward above us!) for an ongoing health problem leaving only my cousin to split her time between her poorly mum upstairs and grandma, whilst juggling the emotions of her own two young daughters that had a strong relationship with their great-grandma.
I didn’t go there for emotional reasons, partly I went back to offer a little “leverage” for my cousin to be there for everyone else that needed her at the same time.
Mostly I went back because I don’t believe that anyone should be left to die alone and so I wanted to sit with her overnight whilst my cousin took a rest.
I sat in the dark, held her hands, tucked her in, wet her dry lips and massaged her cold feet. I talked to her. I told her that each of her children sent their love and they were holding her in their hearts that evening. I reminded her of each family member and told her how much she was appreciated by them for all she had given to them.
And that’s when it struck me – What this woman had given to them – she had also given to me. Life.
Over 60 years ago she birthed – three times!!
She conceived, she carried a pregnant belly, she gave her body over to supporting and growing a baby inside of her (SO weird to think of her as young and pregnant!) and ultimately she birthed!! I don’t know anything about her birth experiences (of course I wish now that I had asked), but obviously they were vaginal births – because they just were back then!!.
She birthed three children, two daughters and my dad – she gave them life – they each arrived and breathed, and grew, and became parents themselves. Her son became a father – To me.
I sat in the dark and finally understood. I understood that no matter our lack of relationship, this woman was fundamental in my own existence – as was her entire ancestry.
I owe such an enormous amount to this woman and am grateful to be part of her lineage – because it gave me the opportunity to become mother to my own incredible children.
Each of us is so totally unique – completely individual, and if any part of your heritage wasn’t what it was, then you wouldn’t be you!!
It’s sad that I only realised this as she was dying, so I didn’t have the opportunity to discuss it with her – but I am glad that I learned the lesson – eventually. Who guessed she would be my teacher on something so intrinsic and incredible?
R.I.P. Grandma Tat May 1926 – December 2016