Saturday, 14 February 2009

Things my grandmother taught me

I've just returned from a trip to the north of England to visit my 93 year old grandmother. She and I both knew that this might be the last time we would meet, so it was an emotionally charged visit.

She's a wily old bird. She told me that recently one of her care assistants suggested that she should move into the house with her two teenage daughters to look after her. Gran said nothing, but knew of course that the woman in question was after her money and the comforts of her nice house. It hasn't been spoken about again. Gran tells me the carers often say she's "sweet" - if only they knew! Actually she was a fairly hard-nosed entrepreneur, and has eaten many men for breakfast...

She married my grandad six months before the declaration of World War II. She told me it was "the greatest mistake of her life". She didn't really have time to get to know him - her family moved about a lot - but he was kind to her, and she thought she was in love, so they got married and, having no money to speak of, moved in with her parents. When war was declared he was sent to serve in the desert, and she didn't see him for SIX YEARS. An awful long time to be alone (and here's me complaining about 5 weeks!) It was the making of her, though, really. Her father's business, a commercial bakery, flourished during the war, and she took charge of it.

"I took charge and made money, my own money, and I didn't answer to anybody - put that in your pipe and smoke it!"

(Not something I ever expected to hear her say!)

By 1945 she had enough money to buy a house and a car, and she says my Grandad returned from the war a different man - slightly broken, easily influenced, and in fact her polar opposite. Still, they made a go of it, and were married until my Grandad's death from cancer in 1978. They had two lovely daughters.

Whilst we were looking at some old photos she said "I bet you'll find some of my old boyfriends in there". None were found, actually, but I don't doubt that she had a few affairs, judging by later form. After my grandfather's death she set about finding another mate to share her large house, and marry she did, for a second time. After he died, she moved into her current bungalow and began visiting the local old people's home to cheer up the residents, which is where she met, in her own words, the love of her life. At the age of 80, she became engaged again. They never married, but she says the few years she shared with him until his death were the happiest of her life.

Looking through all her old holiday and family photos, she seemed to surprise herself.

"There I was thinking how I worked all the time, but look at this. I had some wonderful times. I had a wonderful life. It's just this last bit that isn't wonderful".

Her life is very sad now. All her friends have died, she's unable to get out of the house, and her ability to walk lessens every day. But she's still got a wicked sense of humour. As I got ready to leave, she hugged me, and said:

"Be happy, my girl. Remember life's about give and take. But more take than give, that's my motto..."


  1. That was a lovely post, and reminded me of my dear old grandma.

    I really miss her dearly. She was a career woman: worked for the BBC.

    She was also fun and fearless. She actually attempted to climb Kilimanjaro in her late 70s... Unfortunately she never made it to the top, she got about 3/4 of the way up, got altitude sickness, and bumped her way back down on her bottom! HAHA

    She was and is still the woman in life that I would call my role model.

  2. Sounds like an amazing woman after my own heart, you are very lucky to have her.

  3. Wow, how bittersweet. That teared me up. Nice to have such a great role model! Good Luck with your new venture.




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