Some background on my Grandma. She’s a darling. But she’s also not one of those caricature sweet old Nanna’s. She is a very strong, funny and caring woman, and very inspirational to me. Even though she would choke on her Cream Puff if I uttered the word ‘feminist’, I suppose she’s someone whom I get a lot of those principles from. She graduated as a Nurse at the Royal Prince Alfred in Sydney before finishing off Midwifery at King Eddies here in Perth in 1954, married my Grandfather a year later, and had three children. They divorced when my Dad was in his late teens and Grandma never re-married so I’ve only ever known her as a strong and independent woman. In her later years she was a paid Carer for the elderly, and now she has retired, but keeps busy helping look after my younger cousins and of course, in her social circles.
My Dad was not very ambitious with his newfound independence after marriage, and his first and only home, where I grew up, was down the road from my Grandma, where he had grown up. So Grandma has always lived close to us, up until a few years back when she moved to another part of the same suburb. When my older sister and I were growing up, our parents had to work a lot to afford the mortgage etc., and there were a lot of days/ afternoons spent at Grandma’s. I often see her as a third parent almost, and refer to her as having helped raise us.
In fact, if we’re going to add a bit of drama to this, Grandma even saved my life once. True story. I fell into the deep end of the pool (oh remember the weight ‘the deep end of the pool’ used to carry. It was like the Gaza Strip) when I was 5 and couldn’t swim. All I remember is the bubbles floating up above me as I thrashed around, and then Grandma’s arms reaching down for me. Next thing I knew I was gasping at the side of the pool “Mummy!”, but what I really meant was, “Thanks for that Grandma, that was all about to go pretty pear-shaped.”
I literally remember the only time my Grandma has said stern words to me. It was something pretty uneventful, involving my eight-year-old self moseying into the backyard and starting to ramble on about whatever had perturbed me of late (nothing much has changed I suppose), not realising she was speaking with a contractor about something slightly more important. She advised me to go back inside. I always thought it was quite sweet that that was such a hurtful memory to me, only because it was the first (and only) time she had told me off.
However much I’d like to give an account here of Grandma’s life in full – aside from protecting her sweet identity – it’s occurred to me lately that I don’t really know all too much about Grandma at all. It’s often like that as the doted-on grandchild – it becomes all about you. I hope that in spending a bit more regular time with her over our lessons, this might be remedied.