To My Grandmother


November 2016

I’m just going to take a few minutes to talk about my Nana. The Thelma Estelle Stewart that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

For a woman who hadn’t ever left Australia, she really did embrace and enjoy my adventures and try to understand them. Every time I would tell her about my next trip she would humour me with awe and excitement followed by a “now make sure you be careful and don’t drink too much love“.

I will always remember Nana as a safe place. Not just Nana’s house but simply just being in her presence. Even when I was older and I was feeling lonely (or nursing a particularly horrible hangover) I’d often find my way over to Nana’s place to just sit and be and hang out.  I’ll always treasure the conversations and sense of humour we shared. I won’t embarrass her with the details of any of those here today but, those of you who knew my Grandmother will know that she could be quite cheeky for lack of a better word.

I think she put up with a lot from me.

The time the cat brought in a Turtle Dove and I managed to convince her that, not only did we have to care for it; in her bedroom; in a shoe box BUT I also needed the day off school to monitor its rehabilitation.

When I was taken to hospital with pneumonia and had two of the biggest needles I had ever seen (I was only small) and she cried as much as I did.

When I’d make her get down on the grass with me and play Dolly Tea Party.

When she allowed me to start cutting all 30 of my doll’s hair every Thursday and then I howled crying and demanded to know why they were all bald a few Thursdays later.

When I would ask her if I could help fill up the blow-up pool in the backyard, then I would turn the hose on her.

She also loved to tell people about how she would struggle with me every morning to get me ready for school in grades 1 and 2. I would squirm and try and wriggle away as she did my hair up in a quote “lovely ponytail“. Once it was done, she would drive me to school. I’d give her a big kiss goodbye at the gare and then run into the schoolyard. Inside the school gate, I would proceed to rip out the “lovely ponytail” she had struggled so hard to create and join the boys on the monkey bars. She would see all this from the school gate and just shake her head. She would always try again the next morning, only to have the same thing happen. She was persistent and I think she also secretly liked to see that little bit of her in me. Wanting to be different and a little bit sassy.

I hope I made up for all of this somehow. The look on her face and the tears in her eyes when I came home from London for Christmas and surprised her at the gate on Christmas day with a ribbon on my head tells me that to her, I was worth it all.

One other moment that I am always reminded of is Nana’s first ever Skype call. She was so proud. I was living in London and, completely unaware of the time difference, my laptop starts ringing at 4 or 5am. I open it up and answer the call and instantly I hear my favourite sound in the world, mid-sentence. My nana’s voice.

“Hello, oh what have I done here, Hello, Kel are you there love?” 

This along with Nana’s face about half a centimetre from the computer screen, trying to find me.

Once I explained to her the physics of “The Skype” we had a long conversation about my adventures in London, what I had seen and done, my upcoming trips through Europe, and how her life was back in Australia. As I said, I’m not sure she really understood my reasoning for being so far away and enjoying it, but she always tried to be supportive. This was further evidenced by the $50 Australian notes I would receive in the UK via post for my birthday and Christmas while I was away. She was still sending money in the post; internationally; and the wrong currency; using stamps. But she never missed one.

My grandmother taught me many things. Many I will remember for as long as I am. As a quite attractive young woman, whose first job was on a fishing trawler in the 1950s, you can possibly imagine the kind of women she has helped me become.

She taught me the difference between being defiant and being confident.

The difference between being rude and being appropriately fierce.

The difference between being simply dutiful and actually choosing to put the needs of others and your family first.

I hope to pass all of this on to my grandchildren.

If we all take something from my grandmother’s life then her passing can be so much more than just a tragic injustice. More than the life of a loving and selfless woman cut short…

So.. Enjoy your health while you have it, cherish the time with your family, love your friends like family, give without expectation. Do these things and you will make the world around you a brighter place, whether that is your intention or not. Because that is what she unknowingly did. Every. Single. Day.

These were the words I read at my Nana’s funeral. It wasn’t my last goodbye, although I thought it was at the time.

She came to me in a dream a week or so later. She gave me some messages for my father and showed me that she was not waiting around and was moving on to be with my grandfather. I woke up bawling my eyes out with joy and I couldn’t breathe. I cannot describe the happiness of seeing her face and hearing her voice one last time. And being with her as she moved into the light. I felt a feeling I’ve never felt before – of such magnitude, I’m not even sure there is a word to describe it. Such peace.

The passing of this amazing women even had the checkout staff at her local Coles Supermarket bawling at their registers when we told them. Unexpected. Unfair. Unbelievable.

I miss her. Every. Single. Day.

I think of her always and every time I have a Gin & Tonic (or a glass of cheap red wine), I pause and recount some of my best memories with her in her back garden, a few glasses deep, singing and telling stories. As she would always say “one more won’t hurt you”… so here is to you Nana, and just one more.

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