Saturday, December 20

Gran

My Gran was an amazing woman. She was born in Scotland in 1918 and although I'm sure those were difficult years between the wars she always spoke fondly of her childhood, her parents, particularly her father, and her brothers and sisters.

During the war my Grandfather was in the Navy, stationed at Scapa Flow, like so many women during those war years she went to work and did a job that in any normal circumstances (in those days) a woman wouldn't have done. Of course the men were all at war so someone had to do the work so she went to work in a munitions factory, driving a forklift. I remember the first time I heard that I was amazed and proud of her. She was such a 'lady' the idea of her driving a forklift was incongruous to say the least. Her whole life my Gran wouldn't even wear trousers because she felt they weren't feminine, when driving a forklift she had to wear overalls.

She had two children, my Mum and my Aunt. Here she is with them both, this photo is inscribed on the back 'To my darling, with all my love, Mary xxx'. It was a photo she sent to my Grandfather during the war.

Like many of her generation she had very high standards and strict rules about behaviour. My Mum and Aunt always talked about how strict she had been. She wanted the best for both of them and they were provided with a loving and stable home life, despite all the rules. This is my Gran and Grandfather, Mum (on the right) and my Aunt Marlene (on the left) attending a family wedding.

She mellowed by the time her grandchildren came along, I only remember her actually telling me off once...and since I'd just spilled the contents of a cod liver oil capsule all over one of her silk scarves she was probably justified. In every way she was the perfect grandmother, kind, loving and generous. We were very lucky. Here she is holding me...

As a family we spent a lot of time together, I loved going to Grans, partly because I knew I'd be spoiled the whole time we were there but always because she was such a pleasure to be with. Over the years I learned a lot from her, I can't make macaroni cheese without thinking of her, she taught me how to make a proper cheese sauce using a roux. I still can't make it as well as she could though.

In later years she was delighted to become a Great Grandmother, sadly - due to the distance - she didn't meet my or my sister's children but she did know some of her other Great Grandchildren and spoiled them just as much. This was taken at her 80th birthday party.

She had her share of sadness, the death of my Grandfather in 1986, then her youngest daughter, my Aunt was lost to breast cancer in 1987. She adored my father, her son-in-law, and was devastated by his death in 1997. I think the final straw was the loss of my mother, also to breast cancer. Gran never recovered from that and withdrew from the world and from life, we spoke on the phone and my sister and I both travelled to Scotland on a couple of occasions to see her and there were visits my cousins (who still lived near her) but it became obvious that she'd lost interest in life. She loved us all, but she had suffered so much pain and grief it was hard for her to keep going with any enthusiasm. She still lived alone and was determined to do that as long as possible, she wasn't interested in sheltered housing 'with all those old people' as she put it.

She had shown signs of dementia for a number of years and it was gradually getting worse. About 12 months ago she went into a nursing home, it was no longer safe for her to live alone. We couldn't speak to her by phone anymore, she didn't know anyone and the only person she was looking for was her own mother. We sent cards and gifts and she had no idea who they were from. Finally on 16th December at 7.20am she passed away. The distance and the lack of direct communication with her did not diminish in any way the love and connection that myself and my sisters felt for her. She was our Gran...still a vital part of our lives and the last connection with that part of the family, especially our Mum. The greatest comfort for me is knowing, absolutely, that she is now with her loved ones, reunited with her own children.

The best tribute I can offer is to share a little bit of her with you and to make sure that my own children know about her and the life she lived, so she will always be real presence in their lives too.

6 comments:

Dave said...

My last-surviving grandmother died ten years ago next month. So sorry this has happened to you at this time of the year, when I know you have all the expectations of those around you expecting you to enjoy Christmas.

Leanne said...

Caitlin, ehat a lovely tribute to a lady who obviously meant the world to you. I only had one grandmother, and she too succumbed to dementia, dying at 87 in a nursing home. She too didnt know us at all, we would visit, but she would look at us with huge dazzlingly blue eyes, full of worry and fear as shestared at us, there was no flicker of comprehension or recognition at all.

she is at peace now, as is your own sweet gran.

Leanne x

miss*R said...

(it is late but I just wanted to come and ask if you clicked the birds back on the Land of Mystery and Magick.. if you do, you are whisked to faeryland, will be back tomorrow to read this about your gran xo)

My gran died on my 10th birthday and then my nan died about 26 years ago. I still miss my nan so much, my heart aches.. sending much love to you as you go through the sadness and grief xoxo

Caitlin said...

Thank you all for your comments, I feel very fortunate to have such wonderful blog friends.

Z said...

Dear Caitlin, what a lovely and moving tribute.

Cathy said...

It sounds like your Gran was a beautiful person. May she rest in peace and finally find comfort. Distance is a terrible thing. My grandfather passed away at the beginning of this year...he only met me once very briefly when I was a baby. He never met my brother and sister. My mother hadn't seen him in about 10 years and a scheduled trip came too late. My grandmother still lives in Italy and we have never met her. She is very old and frail and chances are, due to our circumstances, that she will also pass without us ever meeting. It breaks my heart that that is how life mapped itself out...