WALKING OUT AFTER 48 YEARS!

It had been a pretty big couple of weeks. 12 days of anticipation, one day of travel leading to, I thought one day of Sabbath! Pacing myself was going to be the answer.

These couple of weeks had been preceded by a couple of months of uncertainty, anxiety, health scares for Triple L – heart attack, pancreatic scare, hospital visits accompanied by the now permanent state of pain in the joints I celebrated receiving nearly three years ago and the recalcitrant pacemaker that wanders during the night.

The day before walking out, I made a trip to Sydney. For the entire week prior to that the country had been burning. Horrific bush fires everywhere. Port Macquarie surrounded. Anxiety about the family branch up there. Sydney surrounded, anxiety about the branch down there, Newcastle surrounded. Smoke haze that was blinding and throat catching. Heat – horrible, too soon heat. I had four fire areas on my phone, the three already mentioned and the Archery venue! The son who has just moved to the Dandenongs comforted me in his unique way by telling that what I was experiencing now in relation to worry about bush fires was a good preparation for February down south!

Trips up or down the highway at the weekend were iffy anyway but Saturday came and I was able to go to Sydney for the concert in which my grandson was a star and to see him post 7th birthday. The Port Macquarie connection came down for the great car race and arrangements were made for us all to meet on Monday, before they went home.

I had a lovely Saturday. A great trip down in spite of getting lost just before arriving at the venue. The concert was indescribable. “Dancing” – terrible! Music – too loud. “There’s a ramp over there Mum” so I volunteered to get the stroller down it but the incline was too steep and not being a mountain goat, I was terrified of going arse over turkey with all my replacement joints until a woman volunteered to take the stroller and I took the steps! The grandson was just wonderful. He is such a performer.Not sure I was particularly thrilled about him being cast as “The Bachelor” in one of his four stage appearances but he gave ME the rose and all was forgiven.

Seeing my grand daughter, who I have seen so rarely, was wonderful too. I was a bit concerned that she would be a bit reluctant to interact but I needn’t have worried. She is such a bright, happy little personality. Full of music and as I discovered in the lounge over a coffee “Oh yes, Mum, she jumps!” This was just after I had caught her leaping out of the lounge chair and into my arms!

I arrived home exhausted and within an hour I was in bed.

We – husband and I – had decided that Sunday would be a quiet day. His phone rang. It was 8.45am.

“Oh hello, how are you?……..

oh right. I thought you were going to the race…..oh it starts at 1.30.

Oh she isn’t out of bed yet? Oh well, they’ll all be on holiday time. Yeah, that’ll get her out of bed. No, we’re not doing anything ….sure come over whenever you’re ready. We’ll be here.”

WHAT!!!!!!

“Well, he (son in law) wants to leave early in the morning and they only have a couple of hours. The race starts at 1.30. They’re coming over sometime this morning. What was I supposed to say? Don’t come?”

Instantly I was aware of the great thumping in my chest and the strangulation happening around my vocal chords as I resisted (somehow) the urge to explode! The son had just woken up. I stormed off to the bathroom, almost frothing at the mouth, grabbing my bra off the towel rail – having anticipated not needing it for the day when I took it off the night before, grabbing my leopard print caftan exploding tin response to my poor half asleep son’s enquiry “Do you want some toast Mum?”  “I AM GOING FOR A DRIVE. I don’t know where I’m going but if I stay here I am going to kill your Father.” And I dressed and left – without shoes!

I went to the cemetery – visiting relatives who cannot answer back! I drove to a spot beside the river. Fortunately I found a disabled toilet that did not require me to walk over stones to use it. I listened to the roar of the engines of the bloody care race from the other side of the harbour. I had two missed calls ( which I didn’t really miss) from Long Lean and Loveable and one from my daughter who was at the race. My son sent me two messages “Darcy likes his birthday present” and some time later “they’ve just left”. I did respond to him – poor thing living in the midst of his father and me and finally I came home. I was MIA for about 3 hours.

As it turned out my anger extended to my son in law eventually. The bloody race did not begin till about 4.00pm. The need to change the arrangement from Monday to Sunday was to do with his desire to keep his wife, my daughter out of the shops. He had concocted a story that his father in law ( Long Lean and Loveable) had to be at archery at 1.30 – which she believed, which meant he could get back into town in time to do exactly what he wanted to do!

A day and a half later, conversation re-entered the “happy home” and my daughter contacted me. As usual I was ganged up on again when she said “Do you know what Dad said Mum? He said ‘ your mother had a very big day yesterday. I don’t know where she went to  but I know she will have some time to herself and then, when she is ready she will come home again. She will be alright.”!!!!!

I suppose you do get to know these things after 48 years!

 

 

Twice More I met this woman!

She came back! Poked her head around the door, impish grin through her smiling eyes behind her glasses.

” Hello!” Not radiating confidence but a definite improvement! Elegant long, black skirt. Hair with a bit of a lustre…shampoo. Still an intricately woven plait.

“Can you help me with my bills?” Details aside, I said I would. We rang the company. Again she was like the trembling little kid in the corner. We got through  to people who could assist. It took a while! Finally put through to someone who would hear her story. I could only go so far! She had to verify that I could represent her – all this info conveyed by a very understandable ( thank God) woman from somewhere in Asia. Finally she held the phone for herself! She was in control. When her hand began to shake, I held it. ” You  did that yourself” I said. ” But you were right beside me” was her reply.

That sorted, she had a healing oil massage!

She left beaming gratitude!

The next day she was back! Food to be collected but while she waited she sat and talked to other people! She said to me ” I made you something” and  carefully wrapped in a dainty gift bag was a crystal droplet. ” it’s not much. It’s all I could do” and I thought of the widow’s mite! ” I wrote about you” I said. ” can I see it?” Again from a distance I watched as she read my words. She wept. I moved to sit beside her….with the tissues. She did not stop.

Finally done she took a tissue and said ” that poor woman whose husband is dying” unadulterated compassion! ” You write beautifully” she said and I wondered what happened in her life that reduced her sense of how incredible she is, to almost nothing!

She’s coming back! Three times next week so far! She is in pain always. Her spine was shattered in a car accident years ago. Her lower vertebrae cannot be repaired, the metal pin that holds it all together causes her constant pain.

It’s  been a hard few days for me but I am lifted up by this gentle, vulnerable but resolute woman, younger than some of my children, who has reminded me that together, we will rise!

 

Yesterday I met a woman

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Yesterday I met a woman who had no food.

She had no food because all her money is spent on food for her animals.

Her hands shook, constantly, her eyes darted about as if waiting for something terrible to happen.

Like a frightened child, quivering and shivering in a corner in the dark. We talked, another woman made her a cuppa.  I asked if there was anything she needed. Holding tenderly her long, thick, carefully woven plait which hung down her side, over her shoulder. The top of her head covered by a beaded denim cap, her eyes filled  with tears and she replied “Shampoo”. ‘

I left her with the other woman and they emerged together after a little while. No longer was she shaking, no longer was she radiating fear! A broad smile, words of gratitude for the food, for the comfort of the shampoo and the offer of a healing fragrant oils experience in a couple of days.

Yesterday I met a woman whose beloved husband is close to death. The rapidity of his decline has left them both in shock. She welcomed me into her home. It was the first time I had met her. We talked for a long time. She looked so tired, worn weary by the rapid, agonizing journey. We talked of God. We talked of history. We talked of music and its power. We talked of my Mother and hers, still alive and soon to be 102. A woman of uncompromising faith. A woman whose hope remains and all the while her husband lying, dying in the front room. A dignified, intelligent, connected woman who even in the deep sadness of the reality soon to come for her and their children, could speak of life beyond – for him and for her.

Yesterday I read the words of a woman. Word that paralized me. Words that I allowed to paralize me with self doubt and hurt. Words offered as advice but words that I allowed to harm me. “A good leader does not treat people like children”and that set me to thinking.

How do I treat children? My own, my grandchildren, other people’s children. First of all , I love them. Secondly I learn from them – their honesty, their sense of fun, their lack of judgment when it comes to others, their inclusivity, their sense of wonder, their capacity to laugh at the little joys and break forth into gales of glee  at the shockingly hilarious!  Jesus said “let the little children come to me” and I don’t think it was because he wanted to correct them or reshape them or judge them “unless you become like these,  you cannot enter the kingdom”. That’s the kind of leader for me!

And today I met a woman whose words I recognised.  A list of dates . A chronology of events that occur annually for her. Joys and pathos, doubt and faith rolled into one, slightly verbose Facebook memory. I know this woman. This woman is a leader, this woman loves and is loved. This woman is me.

And like Maya Angelou – Today I rise!

 

The day before my Dad died 20 years on.

This morning I had an attack of melancholy. I checked my facebook memories and found images of my Dad that I have used on various anniversaries of his death since facebook became a communication tool for me.

Twenty years ago, in the afternoon I went to visit him after work. He had pneumonia. He was unresponsive. I stayed a while with him. They had moved him into a new room. One that was like a real bedroom. Quilt on the bed, his rosary beads hanging off the bed head, A couple of comfy chairs. I talked to him and sang to him.

As I was leaving a former school friend who was a nurse there said to me ” I don’t think it will be long now. If there is anyone who should see him, tell them to come now. I rang my older son. He was in Brisbane. ” no, Mum, I won,t fly down. I have no unfinished business with GrandKen”  I went home, had some dinner, spoke to my brothers, one of whom assured me that based on his experience Dad had days left, and I went back.

It was early evening. The staff asked me if I would be able to give him his antibiotics – a pink jelly like substance which he swallowed. All the while, eyes shut. I sang our family singalong songs – it’s a long way to Tipperary, Mademoiselle from Armentiers, pack up your troubles, the Irish Lullaby and every now and then he would hum a little. I sat with him for a couple of hours and then decided to go home.

I moved to the other side of the bed, leaned over his head to kiss him and he opened his eyes with such incredible strength it scared me to death! I took his hand and he squeezed mine. There were no words. Just this powerful few seconds of soul touching recognition and complete love. I kissed him. He closed his eyes.

As I left, my friend met me and asked if I was sure I wanted to go home. I needed to be with my son , aged 12. The phone rang around 4.00 am. The magnificent, forever Spirit of my Dad was free. What followed for the rest of the day will be my next tome!

But TODAY my Dad was as present to me as he has been every day of my life. I heard him in the Kookaburra as I left home this morning. As I headed for my car, my son’s voice behind me ” grab your coat and get your hat……..Dad always sing that!” An attempt to cheer me up ” yes, so did mine!””and he was with us both!!

Every day on my way to work (YES work) at Mums’ Cottage I think of him as Mount Sugarloaf ” changes” from one side of the road to the other as I head into West Wallsend. Sunday drives. Up the steep and bumpy road, into the car park, out of the car, up to the top. Dad conquering  his fear of heights with his beloved Bessematic Camera getting my to pose with the panoramic vista at my back.

Once upon a time I was absolutely convinced that Heaven is a real place. I’m not so convinced anymore but I do live in hope! What I am utterly resolute about is the eternity of the Spirit.

 

 

The Black Hills of Dakota

Four a.m wakes me again. I have a head cold and a tickly throat. It’s hard to maintain one’s decorum when one cannot breath through one’s nose! Awake for more than an hour now. The song from the musical Calamity Jane ricochets around my head! Waking up to snippets of music is not at all an unusual thing for me.

Outside, the sound of birds waking to greet the windy, possibly building into wild, if the weather forecasters have it right, day.

Reactive depression. This is the latest in my collection of health issues since retirement that I am now researching via Doctor Google. My beginning line of thought in relation to it is that perhaps a lifetime of enforced and chosen Active Suppression has brought me to this next  point of biting reality!  A trip to the Doctor for some blood test results, a bit of a yarn, the bursting of the walls of the dam that holds back my tears, my frustration, my anger, my hurt and I am off on a new adventure of ( hopefully) healing!

It strikes me that headspace is a quirky thing! In recent weeks I have congratulated myself on regaining some of my former independence. For the first time  in four years I made the road trip to and from Melbourne. Wonderful! Time with my son and his family. Sitting in their sunny backyard, just being. Diverting by little villages on the way back. Coffee and country food. Friendly conversations and connections with strangers. Enjoying the disconnection, albeit brief, from usual routine and self imposed expectations. Soul healing stuff!

The months of August and September are tipping points for me. Celebrations mixed with agony so perhaps it is no wonder that I begin this October day exactly where I am! The first thing I looked at on FaceBook this morning was a video of the funeral of a 16 year old. The celebrant invited people to get their phones out and to put two telephone numbers into them – lifeline and beyond blue. What an incredibly wise and wonderful thing!

On reflection, I realise that my ” health” – mental, physical and spiritual – demise has come about because of an insidious ingrained from birth unquestioning acceptance that I was born into ” this valley of tears” and I am just a bit miffed about all of that really!

But, it seems I could get over it! Like I got over my dodgy heart – 6.5 years of battery life left on the pacemaker! Like I got over the extent to which I was once horizontally gifted! Like the replacement of the original versions of my knees and right hip has made me more mobile. Perhaps, indeed no doubt at all it is the turn of my mind and my spirit to choose something other than active suppression!

My brother Peter used to say that the way he dealt with all that was dealt to him was to ” get better,not bitter”. He no longer has to grapple with that struggle but it was the manner in which he grappled with it all that made him an inspiration to me and mine and I will grapple on!

 

 

 

August 13 sets me to thinking.

I turned 67 on August 1st. I received a message from the only older sibling I have left, reminding me that 72+ is the goal. Neither of my deceased older brothers made it to 72.  This presents a bit of a strange novelty to us because in the generation before us, most of them lived so long, I wondered if they might ever die!

However, today is the anniversary of a beautiful boy I knew for a very brief time when he was in year 7 and this morning I received word of the death of someone the  same age as me, ovarian  cancer, I was also supposed to attend a funeral today. It meant a long road trip but a tummy bug after a 50th birthday party at the weekend put the kybosh on that! August 16 marks 6 years since my Mum’s death. All of this has set me to thinking!

The little boy was Josh. He was 12, in year 7. Funny, clever, just finding his feet and letting his teachers know he had ” arrived” in high school. He died on the way to school – an undiagnosed congenital heart defect took his life but saved his brother after he too was diagnosed with what had been an unknown thief of life until Josh’s death. My school contemporary was a teacher. We were not friends but we shared mutual respect for each other I think. Her Mum died recently – a long life, well lived and well loved although alzheimers took her essence before death claimed her body! My 50 year  old friend is a magnificent Aboriginal woman who I admire and love! Unlike so many of her family she has made it to 50!

In thinking on all of this I have come to believe that death is not to be feared. No one gets out of here alive – as social media reminds us! But when I do get out of here, I hope I will leave love and hope as my legacy.. I hope too that my words wil find their way to people’s hearts as my stories, told by my children and grandchildren, perhaps by some of the people I taught are told. I hope that the telling of them will elicit laughter and compassion, hope and empathy. And in all of that, I know that love will never die!

 

 

 

And then I just can’t be “Mary Poppins” like about it any more!

It’s 3.36am on Mothers’ Day and I am sitting up in my pjs having just made a cup of coffee. The dog is snoring away in his bed swathed in the multicoloured blanket I knitted for him. The windows rattle a bit as the wind  gives them an arctic blast and I am just about over it all!

Yesterday I swapped our doona over from summer weight to winter weight. It was wonderful to snuggle under its warmth. Tonight it has been like sleeping under a corrugated iron roof, all bumps and creases and temperatures fluctuating between  meltdown and freezing!

My legs have decided that no matter where I position them, they will only behave for about two minutes and then my frigging artificial knees turn into metal bricks, my new hip reminds me that it HAS arrived, tempting me to roll over onto my side to see if I can reclaim my usual sleeping position. Like a fool I give into the temptation, roll into the position and then panic at the thought that I might have dislocated it.

I sit up on the side of the bed. “C’mon now” my Little Red Engine that could inner voice says to me ” you’re alright! Make yourself a coffee. Sit up for a bit. Do some writing” but it’s cold and I am tired and I rearrange the pillow and lie down again only to receive a wake up call from my bladder! BUGGER!

And then, complete with carpet bag of tricks, toes turned out to the point of being ridiculous ( DISLOCATION ALERT………you can’t do THAT after hip replacement) my Mary Poppins/ Pollyanna pain medicated affected, sleep deprived inner voice reminds me that in every job that must be done – including a 3.00am wee on a cold morning – there is an element of fun and Blue Beryle – my three wheeled walker – and I make the journey to the loo.

The kettle boils. The aroma from the opened coffee jar is like an elixir of sanity, almost. The dog continues his ostinato like snore, the house creaks a bit as the wind stirs itself awake. Coffee’s downed. Perhaps I’ll have another one.

As for Mary Poppins?  Piss off woman, the wind’s changed direction. Pop that umbrella and go fly a kite!

Funny how the moment takes me.

My recent acquisition of a new hip reminded me of earlier experiences I have had , comparatively recently as I have acquired new body parts, firstly my trust pacemaker, secondly my new knees. I don’t do hospitals well. The beds don’t fit, the painkillers stuff up my bowels, the ever present noise and eternal lighting are blooming nuisances and in a rather would destroying experience in rehab a year ago I was reduced to a blubbering hulk as infantile as a three year old courtesy of the NIGHT NURSE! I was eventually separated from my room mate at the time – we got on like a house on fire – they sent her packing and moved me to a private room so that I would no longer exert ” negative influence over other rehab patients”.

I did manage to do some writing while there at the time. It took the form of an 8 page letter to the hospital head of nursing, the chairperson of the board, my specialist and my own doctor. The head of nursing in the rehab ward was an ex-student, funnily enough, who, until the letter, referred to me by my Christian name and after the letter gave me my full title Mrs Roach ” out of respect” she explained!

The recent trip was to a different establishment, without the option of rehab and a three night only stay. The urge to write overcame me – rhyming verse this time. The first one at 1.47pm after being told there was a two hour wait, which became a four hour wait for the theatre. The second and third offerings were at some ungodly hour of the next morning in ICU. As I read them now, I am astounded by the fact that I was lucid enough to do anything!

But obviously it all caught up with me when I tried to fill out the menu before I was moved to my room hours and hours later. Lunch the next day arrived with everything I had ticked on the menu including the hot choice and the cold choice and DECAF tea and two types of bread AND assorted sandwiches!

I remember trying to scrawl a message to the chef to indicate that even I knew I was off my chops. I’ve got no idea what the text in the bubble was about but I did manage to get my being in a coma of exhaustion, I think I must be dreaming into something legible! I guess the chef must have thought I was just starving!

Just because I can!

I retired two years ago. My life went from flat out like a lizard drinking to almost dead from heart disease ( self induced because of my lizard like drinking) to unbearable pain and immobility. It’s been quite a transition.

But today for the first time in about 10 years I was prompted to go for a walk – twice- just because I felt like it and the sun was out and warm and wonderful. No time restriction so I was not departing 15 minutes before the start of the next lesson so I could get to my classroom in time to get up the stairs, catch my breath and be ready to start the lesson on time. I was not looking down at the Tarmac all the way to check there was no trip hazard that might send me sprawling, an event that would have required me to feign death or at least unconsciousness until the paramedics arrived to collect me. I was not carrying additional baggage ( well physical anyway) so that I could attend an exec meeting at the other end of the school campus after my lesson and return to my office via the canteen in time for lunch! I was not worrying about gaining access to the school hall for the assembly after making some excuse to park my car next to the side entrance to ” mount the stage ” via the ramp rather than the stairs! So much energy put into ways of avoiding the fact that I was ill, I was physically ( and emotionally) disabled and I was in denial!

Maybe I thought no one ever noticed! IDIOT!

Maybe I was such an imposing, threatening, unapproachable figure, people just talked about me rather than to me. Whatever it was I was fooling myself while others fooled with and about me!

But today – post pacemaker, post bilateral knee replacement, post hip replacement I went for two walks just because I could. I wallowed in it and I will do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next day…………

 

International Grandparents’ Day

It does not surprise me that there is such  a day. However I was not aware of it until I received a Facebook post on October 28th informing me that the great day was occurring on October 29th.  The source of this information was a toy shop site announcing that in honour of the day, I could shop and receive 15% discount on my purchases.

My bud of calm blossomed into hysteria! Why not commercialise everything! Why not turn one of the most honourable, treasured, unique relationships in the whole of humanity – the one between a Grandparent and his or her children’s children – into something to be exploited by the money grabbers. As if Valentines Day, Easter, St Patrick’s Day,Mothers’ Day, Father’s Day, Halloween and Christmas are not enough! I was and I remain furious!

Of course there were lovely responses from others hailing this initiative. Your chance to show them how much your love them, a great thing for first time grandparents in time for Chrissy – how lovely. Not me!

I became a grandmother at the age of 46. She is now 19. I have 6 grandchildren and am awaiting the birth of the 7th. I am now 66, retired, a bit listless and trying to fill the spaces in my life after 40 years of teaching. My husband and I have developed a sort of early onset retired routine and my life is comfortable and safe. Health issues have presented themselves as they do when one is settling into the twilight years and bilateral knee replacement has been a source of pain and challenge. That continues! But one of the few things that has NOT changed is my relationship with my grandchildren. It remains one of the greatest sources of wonder, joy and love.

I never say “I am going to be a grandmother again” when announcing news of the impending arrival of another member of my family, two generations removed from my own! Instead I announce “I am going to be another grandmother!” Like each one of my children, my relationship with my grandchildren is different and the opportunity to get to know them, to watch them grow, to learn their quirks, likes and dislikes, their talents, their hopes and fear and to see them “learn”me is pure wonder! Of course my children work very hard to maintain the relationship too.  That is gift to me. I do not see that as their responsibility. From the time my children entered into life long relationships with others I have conveyed the following philosophy to them – none of them asked to be born. Their father and I were responsible for their births. We have a life long responsibility to love them and the fact that they invite us to be part of their relationships and their families is gift.

One of my favourite sources of inspiration is the book The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. In it is writes about children:

“Your children are not your children

they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself”

It is a wonderful piece of writing.

My grandchildren range in age from 19 to 5. I have one grandson who came into our family when his father married my daughter. There are three other grandsons and one other grand daughter and one more, soon to be born.

I was present at the birth of my first grand child. At the time I had a friend who had recently had the same experience. She spoke so passionately about how bonded she felt to her grand daughter as soon as she was born. Of course I expected to have the same experience. Present in the birthing room with me was my Mother aged 80 at the time. It was the first time I had heard my daughter swear at her beloved GrandPat!

Mum was a bit of a Catholic in the same way as the Queen is a bit of a Royal! She had been giving a running commentary by way of groans and moans and “oh dear”s throughout the process. Having reached her limit, my daughter sat up in the bed, eyeballed her and roared “GrandPat! If you don’t   bloody well shut up, you are going to have to go outside! Stop it!” My Mother who would have normally made a comment about the inappropriate use of offensive language, just shriveled back into her chair, got out her rosary beads and silently prayed her life long mantra!

I watched my daughter in awe. She surrendered herself completely to what her body was intent on doing. No pain relief. No sound. She was amazing and when my grand daughter was launched into the world by that final incredible push I was overcome with love and admiration for my daughter. My focus was her – not my new grand daughter. And then it struck me! The woman in the corner with the rosary beads did this six times and endured a miscarriage as well. I had done the same thing eight times, four live births and four births ( all daughters) the result of deaths in utero. How magnificent!

My mother lived to meet five of her great grandchildren. She died three months before the birth of her sixth great grand child. My Dad lived to meet his first one only. My Dad had dementia and at the end of his life he did not know who he was or any of his family. My daughter and I took the then beautiful bonny baby, a vision in pink and frills, to see him not long before he died. She was about 4 months old. Dad had been a newspaper editor and every day in the nursing home he would receive a copy of the local paper. He would read out the headlines and then drive the staff mad by spelling them out loudly, editor style, to check their accuracy.

Patricia placed Gabrielle on his lap and he said “And who is this?” I replied “this is your great grand daughter Gabrielle, Dad.” His response? “Gabrielle…. G-A-B-R-I-E- double L -E… is that right?” Flabbergasted I told him he was correct. He repeated his enquiry three more times and each time we said “yes”. And then came “Gabrielle… B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L”. Relationship established forever. A story repeated across the years of her growth which she hopefully will tell to her grandchildren. You can’t buy THAT at Toys R Us with a 15% discount!

And what of her? Intelligent, strong willed, fights with her mother like her mother fought with me and I fought with mine, the difference being her generous use of expletives. Environmental warrior, brilliant photographer, trusted and valued friend to her peers, reliable, responsible, trustworthy. I love her and she loves me.

I knew each of my Grandmothers. My maternal Grandfather died when I was 3 and my paternal Grandfather died before I was born. My maternal Grandmother came to live with us on my 9th birthday. I loved her. She was an impressive build of a woman and what she said went! When  first came to live with us she had long pure white hair which she wore in a bun held in place by a hair net as fine as the most intricate cobweb! I spent hours brushing her hair while she sat on her bed and I knelt behind her. Sometimes when I was practising the piano she would sit in her chair in the lounge room, rosary beads in hand – she was a bit of a Catholic like the Queen Mother was bit of a Royal.

In 1971, when I was 19 and had to watch my Mother tell her that I was 7 months pregnant, her response was “Pat, Louise is a good woman”. It was the first time in my life that I have been referred to as a woman. It was as if I had received a certificate in maturity!

My Dad’s Mum was a tiny little woman. I called her Nana. Her name was Euphemia, a fact I did not become aware of until my Mother’s meeting with the undertaker in preparation for Dad’s funeral. But that’s another story. She was a wonderful knitter. Dad would take us to see her each weekend. Her home was like a treasure cave to me. She had beautiful glassware and nicknacs. She made delicious shortbread. She had a holly tree in the back yard which we raided every Christmas and unlike my Grandma she was very, very funny, never stern – this impression would have been coloured by the fact that I only saw her once a week while I had Grandma 24/7!

I do not remember ever receiving a “store bought” gift from either of my Grandmothers. However, two of their possessions have found their way to me, my Grandma’s wedding ring and Nana’s gold bracelet. But gifts received? Well let me think – love, joy, wonder, hope, time, security, support, story, music, family, connection, self knowledge, self belief, common sense, resilience, wisdom to name a few. These are the gifts I hope I am giving to Gabrielle,Joshua, Oscar, Eliza, Darcy , Jacob and as yet unknown third Grand Daughter and I  can’t buy them at a 15% discount at Toys R Us!