Getting older has plenty going for it – having grandchildren for starters! – but sometimes, [...]
A letter to … my grandmother, a small lady with a big heart (The Guardian)Created by Verity in Being You, Relationships
It is seven months since you died and in some ways I think about you more than when you were alive. I wear your ring, and my new piano, bought with inheritance money, is somewhat yours too. And in some ways I feel more your granddaughter now than before. At your funeral, I was so touched when friends of yours told me I looked like you, or reminded them of you. I read out one of your poems, written in 1938, and one lady said: “You were just Mary, reading that poem.” That made me glad.
So what were you like? When, as a family, we talk about you now, there is one thing we never fail to mention: your height. Apparently, you had once reached the dizzying heights of 5ft 1in, though those of us from the younger generation can never believe it. At your death, you couldn’t have measured more than 4ft 9in, and I remember shooting past you aged 10 or 11.
But, despite your diminutive stature and gentle manner, you possessed an iron will. If you didn’t want to do something, you didn’t argue about it – you just wouldn’t do it. This, I like to think, it where I get my particular brand of stubbornness from. You were incredibly open-minded for a person of your generation. You didn’t bat an eyelid at my Ugandan boyfriend; you nodded in approval – “He looks nice,” you said.
Born at the tail end of the first world war, your life had seen so much – and yet, even into your 80s, you were willing to learn more. I was so proud when you learned to use the internet, aged 85. You bought fantastic gifts. I still remember the packages you would send to me when I lived in Peru: pretty stationery, pens, fancy toiletries. Just what I wanted. How did you know?
For much of my life, you lived just round the corner. A two-minute walk, and I’d be welcomed into your cheerfully cluttered home and plied with the latest home-baked treat. Those, too, were the dog years, when any visitor to the house could be assured of being met by a slobbering tongue and wagging tail. In many ways, you were the picture-postcard grandmother: cake-baking, jam-making, pet-owning. When I was very little, you used to give me a gift on my brother’s birthday – just so I didn’t feel left out. That was you: thoughtful, gentle, unassuming, kind. Despite the hardships you had suffered – a lost baby girl, the death of a brother in the war, Grandad’s long illness and increasingly difficult behaviour – I never heard you say a critical word. I long to be as accepting as you.
Now we are somewhat bereft. Grandy has been taken from us, and our newly edited family is still taking stock of its loss. Grief steals upon me at unexpected times and I find, much as my mind assents to the notion of your having died, that my life and home still carry your fingerprints. But the pain is less and less, and I know I speak for all of us in saying we are glad you are no longer suffering. I am glad, too, that I had those 33 years with you: such a long time being a granddaughter, and knowing that, you always saw the best in me.
So I miss you, Grandy, and the tears are falling as I write. But I know you wouldn’t want me to be sad, and in many ways, I don’t feel like I’ve left you behind. Instead, I am thankful for the miracle of DNA that permits me a glimpse of you in myself. And most of all, I’m thankful for you.
Your loving granddaughter (Anonymous)
Found by Enid in The Guardian on the 2 November 2013