Some sad news for those of you who know my wife, V. Her grandmother died on Christmas Day. She would have turned 97 next month. Because it's nearly impossible for V. to attend the memorial service in Jamaica (one of the problems of living in Australia), she wrote a few words that her brother will read aloud at the service. They appear below this picture of V. and her grandmother.
Grandma, as I knew her, seemed to be a bundle of contradictions. She was at once fierce and gently loving, spirited and laid back, enthralled with education and learning but also more interested in playing bridge than reading, both worldly and a homebody, accepting of others' shortcomings and yet quick to judge, hopeful and pessimistic, just as comfortable in fine clothes, well-presented as in old shorts and a worn top. She was NOT the type of granny of the picture books, in a rocking chair, wispy white hair, reserved, deferential, knitting. She was a character, given to dramatic turns of phrase and larger than life, more likely to be working with a machete in the bush with the men and talking loudly whilst making deals on cows and land. It is remarkable how much influence she has had in my life given the few short years she took care of me, the distance between us and all too infrequent visits through my childhood and adulthood. I attribute this to her larger than life, gregarious personality- .She provided such an important part of the foundation to my sense of self and inner world, for which I shall always be grateful. She taught me to read, to persist, to grab life by the horns and wrestle it. She was a woman before her time - born in the early years of the 20th century, she lived boldly- her version of feminism, self- belief and conviction. The legacy she left me was built more on a hearty cackle than a quiet chuckle.
I can easily capture memories of her through the years. Grandma at the sewing machine in the pink room praising me for threading a needle, proudly wearing the latest fashion and smoothing down her hair, talking Jamaican politics and avidly reading the Gleaner, listening to the cricket on the radio, inadvertently sitting on her glasses, which had just been purchased, explaining how childbirth was a series of ripples in a pool, carefully choosing a ring with me and mum for my graduation from high school, sharing bridge techniques and recounting stories at high velocity. More recently at her 90th birthday, she hosted a party for 20 people chatting with everyone with great verve and I have a photo of her laying on the bed- with her legs stretched up above her head, touching her toes. She was as I said remarkable, not an average granny at all.
She would say of anyone who outlived all her peers, "that would be lonely and pitiful....let them go for heaven's sake." I'm sure she would have seen her passing as a merciful release to allow her to join the plentiful people she left such an impression on over the years and especially her own mother. I hope she knew just how much of her lives on in us. As I watch her great grandchild William play in the warm climate of Australia, palm trees and bougainvillea in a tropical land faraway, I can so easily feel her presence in me as I try a build on the foundation she gave to me in the next generation.
Quite simply, I always felt she loved me and I loved her. I will miss her but feel like she has always been close to my heart despite the distance between our lives.