My Nana and Grandad, my maternal Grandmother and Grandfather were a huge part of my childhood. Nana would spend time decorating my head with flowers, teaching me how to arrange flowers, paint and bake. Grandad showed limitless patience letting me park my toy cars on his bald patch (I called it his ‘carpark’), he let me loose in his vegetable garden where I’d eat a whole harvest load of peas in one go given half the chance. I remember him showing me the fluffy inside of the broad bean pods as I popped them into my mouth. Nana showed me how to make corn dollies, Grandad taught me to plait and plaited my hair just how he used to plait his horses hair when he did his milk round with a horse and cart. They allowed me space to make mud pies, nature tables, woven bracken and poppy dolls. They demonstrated how to ping the seed heads of plantains and fire wild grass heads as darts. They worked so hard but there was always time for me and elevenses! work stopped at 11am for a cup of tea and some crackers and cheese with a home grown tomato dipped in salt.
As I grew up they were still there in my life, supporting and proud of my achievements. Exam results, first job, passing my driving test, all those little triumphs were made to feel so much bigger with their congratulations. My Grandad once had to pop in to my first place of work, I was an office junior, lowest of the low but when I came into reception to meet him he had tears of pride in his eyes. My parents, brother and Grandparents were all on holiday together when I took my driving test, and they all celebrated the night that they called to find I’d passed, my Mum later told me how proud Grandad was of me and that I’d be driving his old car.
Nana and Grandad had a great social life, loved a party and good food. They nurtured their garden and fed the birds.
Grandad passed away when I was 19, my first close up experience of death and it was devastating. Nana lived a long and full life despite having alzheimer’s for 19 years, she crammed in as many great experiences as she could, while she could, with holidays and friendships. She passed away in September last year, a sad loss for us but a happy release for her from the cruelty of alzheimer’s.
So they are gone. But so much of them remains within me. I find myself repeating the old suffolk phrases they’d use, or using one of the skills they taught me and passing them on to my children and I feel their presence in my life. Not in a ghostly, ‘their spirit is still here’ way but in a ‘Wow I gained so much from having them in my life’ kind of way. So many of my attributes and characteristics are reflections of them, their DNA and their nurturing, they don’t feel as ‘gone’ as I had once feared. To see my children having that same relationship with their Grandparents is a wonderful thing, a blessing in their lives and mine.
Wishing you closeness to, and peace with, those who are gone from you.