This blog entry was meant to be all about my parents’ trip and how fast Mr Zachary had grown. Instead it will be very different. As my parents touched down at Heathrow airport on Feb 13th my Grandmother passed away in Belfast. She had had a fall while my parents were out here and was in hospital recovering as best she could before my Dad returned and he and his brother started looking for a home for her. Something I know she would have hated. Despite being 94 it still came as a shock when I got the news. I guess when you grow up with someone always around it seems strange to imagine you live in a world they are no longer in.
Since I won’t be making her funeral this is my goodbye and my celebration of my Grandmother and everything she was in my life.
I remember the day she taught me to spell. I must have been about 7 as it was in Ghana. I was stuck with my latest spelling list. The words were too long and it just seemed impossible. So she sat me at her feet in our air conditioned study and taught me how to split words into syllables and suddenly everything became so simple. I can remember thinking that she must have been the cleverest person in the world to have found such a sneaky way of spelling words. It almost felt like cheating. There isn’t a place in my childhood that I cannot remember her being at some point and she always had time for me.
When I was at boarding school she would write me letters every week, telling me all about a host of people I didn’t know so by the end of the letter I’d know all about who was dating who, who had a baby out of wedlock and who was thinking of selling and moving away. She always seemed to have all the gossip although as she got older it got a little more confusing when she’d skip from the lady two streets away to the latest Eastenders or Coronation Street event.
She was always very proud of the way she looked. She never came downstairs until she was in full makeup. In March when we were back in the UK and went to visit she let Abi put her makeup on, and made up Abi in return – I hope this is the last time I see Abi in full face powder, it was not a good look for her. On top of the makeup she loved to shop and visiting her was like entering a treasure store. When I was kid I can remember stumbling on all my Dad’s old famous five books, best holiday find ever. Then I got older and instead I would raid her makeup shelves, her shoe boxes and her cupboards. I never shopped before I went to Grandma’s and I packed light. I’d usually return home with some bath stuff, a new lipstick, moisturiser, nail polish and a piece of jewellery she had bought for me. Not that everything she bought was great, last time she visited while I was still living at home she left me a rather fetching pair of shiny gold slippers with matching sleep jacket. I will be honest, I did NOT keep those. She loved a bit of bling my Grandma. The shopping channel did well when she was watching.
My Grandma always spoke her mind, she didn’t hold back. I have never met anyone who could berate my Father quite as well as she could, it was an art form and their fights were both terrifying and awe inspiring to watch.
She also imparted words of wisdom on me. They are as follows:
- Grey is an old woman’s colour, I should not wear it.
- Black makes me look washed out, I should not wear it – this was when half my wardrobe was black. Actually I am pretty sure it still is.
- American Studies (my university course) was a candyfloss course, I should do something else
- Christmas is not Christmas without a Terry’s Chocolate Orange
- Of course you liked butter Rosaleen, you just didn’t know it yet.
The fifth one led to a visit which involved butter sandwiches but which also involved me spending the afternoon distributing said sandwich in various places around the house in between returning to the living room with a slightly smaller sandwich thus proving I was actually eating it. I am guessing no one was fooled, although nothing was mentioned. I would be interested to know how long it took her to find all the pieces of my sandwich.
The next time I can remember her making sandwiches was the weekend Jamie and I went with Emma and Glenn to see U2 in Dublin. We flew into Belfast to stop with Grandma for a night. She sent me up the shops to get some bread, asking as always if I needed some money before I went. It’s a matter of course that she assumes you cannot possibly have money to pay for things, it drives my Father nuts but makes me laugh.
‘No Mother. I am 64 years old. I can afford to pay for a loaf of bread.’
So as we packed into the car for a drive to the concert, she handed over a cling film wrapped load of sandwiches. On route we discovered they were grape and cheese. All I’ll say is don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, they’re not half bad.
The last time I saw her in March. She was getting a little more confused and tired but still sparky enough to take the time to berate Dad for things he did wrong. So I will remember that. I will also remember how patient and attentive she was to Abi and Jack and I hope Abi will remember her, if only a little. But I am sad Jack and Zachary will never know what a fabulous Great Grandma they had. I will just have to make sure they hear these stories.