My grandmother was a fairly formidable creature. Nan Hefferan was the only one of our English relatives who made the move to New Zealand. “And, she made the move at the age of 79!” as my father is fond of saying.
Gran lived here for the last nine years of her life. For most of that time, I lived five minutes’ walk away. She was the only grandparent I had the privilege of getting to know.
I’ve always revered grandparents, I guess because I grew up far away from mine.
Where my older sisters had grown to the ages of seven and five in England, my brother and I were born here, and our only relationship with our grandparents had come through letters, and parcels at Christmas.
In person, Gran lived up to my every hope of what a grandmother would be. She was a truly exceptional, wonderful woman, who had achieved a great deal in her life.
I enjoyed getting to know her.
Born in 1901, she had lived through the last World War. Her memories were revelations of another era, and therefore, truly fascinating.
We had lunch every week, on a Tuesday, just her and I.
Mostly, she would talk. I would listen to all of the family stories I had never heard before. Through this precious human conduit to our family’s heritage, I gained glimpses of a different life. Gran told of a lost world: that of the past, and all the amazing things that had happened there, to members of our own family, our shared ancestors.
Being a writer, I had to ask questions. I wanted to know more: what else happened? Why? When? All she needed was a gentle prompt.
She had what they call, a “pre-nuclear age” memory, i.e. she could remember facts, figures, dates, and names with precision.
To my creative mind, her details painted pictures.
Gran was also a great cook. On every visit, there would be some humble, great lunch. Meat pie she’d made herself, right down to the pastry, served with gravy, potatoes, peas and carrots. Or her famous cheese and onion pie, so heavenly, her homemade short savoury pastry crust was divine. She would always make the dessert herself, a cake, or a sponge, or a steamed pudding. There would be custard or cream. And tea served in a teapot on a tray with china tea cups with matching saucers.
She liked to feed me until I couldn’t eat another bite.
After our delicious lunch, we’d take our tea and shortbreads, or chocolates, over to the comfortable chairs in the living room. There, Gran would start to talk, about her life and the stories of her parents.
She would talk all afternoon, and I would listen.
I could not leave my grandmother’s home without her saying something significant. It was to me, as if she lived so close to the veil, that any moment could be her last and she lived with that truth. No moment was to be wasted.
After giving her that final hug, I’d walk towards her front door, and Gran would say, “Remember, my dear, reach for that star and you will get there.”
“Remember, my dear, whatever happens in your life, if you look for the silver lining, you will find it.”
I’d walk home with those parting words. I took that sustaining, empowered, heartening feeling away from every visit.
I’ll be ever grateful to Gran, for having the courage after her husband died, to move to the other side of the world. She wanted to be with the family for the last part of her life. Our lives were enriched.
This week, I’ll be delivering my tenth speech for Toastmasters. The project title I had to tackle this time round was “Research your Topic.”
I decided to talk about my grandmother’s contribution to the war effort.
Gran inspires me to be a better person. It does bother me, that all the wonderful things she achieved during WWII boil down to a yellow newspaper clipping, which lives in a drawer at my father’s house. So, part of the theme for my speech, is to bring light to the lack of the female voice in history.
Have you ever asked your mother or your grandmother what she did in her life? The least we can do is to ask the questions and wait for the answers. Our daughters and granddaughters may ask us for the stories one day.
There is so much more to say. Talk to you later.
Keep on Creating!
Yvette K. Carol
What you do when you don’t have to, determines what you’ll be when you can no longer help it. ~ Rudyard Kipling
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