Sometimes parenting requires you to find strength you didn’t know you had. One person who exemplified that word ‘strength’ was my beloved Grandmother who sadly passed away last Monday, just 10 days shy of her 94th Birthday.
When thinking about all the things that made Ma so special, so many things come to mind. Most of them tied up in memories of her that I’ll always have from when I was a child through to adulthood. That special way she said my name, the way she could spot a weight gain or loss of less than a kilo with the naked eye, her baking skills, her love of a good ‘yarn’, her dedication to fashion and most of all, her unwavering love and support . She was the quintessential family matriarch, the sun in which we all revolved.
Not long ago I found an old school assignment on favourite things that I did when I was about 7 years old. Under ‘my favourite place’ I’d written with a careful lead-pencilled hand “Ma’s House”. And that’s how it was always known – even though both her and pop lived there – it was always hers. Such was her presence and influence. I still remember my days spent with her as a toddler, of games of ‘fish’ on the veranda, of made up songs she’d sing as we’d wait for Pop to come back from town, of her chasing me and my sister through the house with her false teeth sticking out of her mouth chattering, the excitement of morning and afternoon tea time where it would be my job to call Pop up from the garden with a loud “Afternoon tea Time” which would be met with the call of “Righto!” echoing up from among the oranges or the vege patch. And there we sat with coffees and whatever Ma had cooked up on baking day Friday – patty cakes with pink icing, slices, chocolate cake and for the savoury element some saos with tomato. It was rare that any caramel tart – her signature dish – was left after the weekend’s onslaught of visitors.
As I grew up, every Sunday afternoon was spent at Ma’s as well as a few school holiday sleepovers where we would be dropped off with a McCain’s Bacon and Cheese pizza. For me, there was no place more exciting as we ran around the sprawling rooms, fed and milked the goats and helped Ma around the house feeding the different cats and dogs she had throughout the years.
Spending time with Ma became a salvation of sorts, a place where I could enjoy the simple things and learn about life from her.
Ma was a latter-day Facebook – dispensing family gossip with rapid speed to all interested parties. She was so proud of us all and our achievements, rejoicing in engagements, weddings and her ever-expanding brood of great-grandchildren. I am so glad she got to meet my son Jarvis, born last October, and though he will never grow to know her in person he will know her through the stories that live on with us. One of my most treasured moments is the last time I saw her, in hospital the day before she died, when we were rising to leave I lowered Jarvis to her and although frail she lifted her hands to his little arms and head to his face to give him a big Ma kiss. Looking back, I can’t help thinking it was a kiss that could last him a lifetime. And so it is. And in that moment the circle of life became illuminated.
I was lucky to have grown up close to her and she was my ‘child care centre’, my carer when my mother went back to work. Losing her has got me thinking of how important a role she played in my life and feeling a bit sad that we don’t live close to either of our parents.
What about you? Did you grow up with a close Grandparent role model? Do your children have a close bond with their Grandparents?