She was seventy-five when she died; it was a Tuesday morning in 06 when it happened. The night before she had been where she always went during the week, which was down to her daughter’s (my mother’s) house after eight, where they’d stay and chat for hours, watching the soaps, having some wine, entertaining some visitors. It was ‘the usual’ for everyone really, she wasn’t sick, she wasn’t an ‘old’ lady in the way you would think of someone’s grandmother. She had auburn reddish / brown hair and green-blue eyes, and she was tall, for a woman, and certainly tall for the women in our family at five nine.
To some she seemed like a harsh woman, but I think it is because with hindsight and growth I now see it was because she had a harsh life, a tiring life filled with anxiety. She didn’t suffer fools, and she was as sarcastic as you’d like, hm, I wonder where I got that trait from? She was born in July 1930, the eldest girl and second child of six, five who lived. Her mother wasn’t a kind, tactile woman, and certainly disliked girls, for whatever reason, she loved her grandsons, and great-grandsons but as a great-grand daughter I remember her dislike of me and my female cousins. Her father was a baker, and a hard-working man, he was lovely and much kinder than his wife in personality – even if he had a thing about gross green jelly, which I HAD to eat, save being rude. She married a much older man, by today’s standards – she was 19, he was in his early 30s, and they had five children. He worked, she worked harder, which explains why she hit her grave in her mid-seventies, and he sits in the next room well into his nineties. She took on the burden of two hard working sons, and one with more issues than several popular magazines. The one son that caused the majority of her anxiety and heartache, and yet he was the one ‘spoiled’ one, to the rest of the family. It’s always the way, I think, in families, the better you are, the kinder you are, the less trouble you are, the more you blend in. You might be appreciated like her two daughters, but ultimately, it’s the troublemakers that earn the most words, even if most of them are in grief. My granny wasn’t a tactile woman either, but that was hardly surprising given her upbringing, I still remember one of the few times in my teen years that I felt brave enough to hug her, the sheer shock, surprise and confusion on her face isn’t something I will ever forget. She had given me a birthday card with a graduation card, plus money. I was eighteen it was awesome. I leaned in to hug her and afterward she asked with such shock, ‘what was that for?’
I remember I said, ‘Because you’re my granny and I love you’. The fact that this shocked her, makes me sadder now than most memories of her, it shouldn’t shock anyone to be told that they are loved, particularly not by family. However, it shocked her because we are not the ‘I love you too’ kind of people. I don’t know why, but normally, we weren’t. I myself am a very huggy, tactile person. I hug strangers if I’ve just met you, I’ll hug everyone in a greeting if it’s what you want. My dad’s side of the family are big huggers, I guess I get it from them. I wish I would have hugged her more, hugged her until the tense stance of her body fell away to comfort, but I was a teenager and self-involved, and sometimes her ‘crabit’ (Irish slag – angry/annoyed) nature was too much to take. But, she was bad-ass, and I see that now with hindsight, she juggled so many things in her life and kept everyone afloat and did it all without giving to herself, without ever having that peace that she said she so longed for. It makes me sad to think that she worked so hard for so long and never really got to fully enjoy life for a number of reasons. I mean there were good times, of course, don’t get me wrong, but it seems for her that weight of life weighed heavily and it was never something I noticed before it was too late.
The last birthday card she gave me was when I turned twenty, and it was a card with Happy 21st Birthday written on it, we laughed at her mistake and so did she before she rolled her eyes and said to me that ‘I might not be here for the next one’. To which of course we all told her to shh and stop talking like that, and of course, she would.
Her next-door neighbour of fifty something years died four days before her, I remember because the woman was the mother of one of my childhood best friends, she had cancer, and even though I was twenty, I think I was closed off. I told my mother I wouldn’t go to her wake of funeral because ‘I hate them’, looking back I think I was tempting fate maybe. Because after the neighbour, my Gran died, then my second cousin, then our other neighbour who we were all very close with and he was almost like a surrogate grandfather to all of us, and after that, two weeks later my grandmother’s troubled child, my uncle, killed himself.
When her next-door neighbour died, she went to the funeral with my aunt, she stepped out the plot beside her neighbour, she looked around the new graveyard and actually said to my aunt that if she had to be buried, she would have liked it to be right there.
Morbid? Probably. Or did she know something? We’ll never know, what we did know was four days later she was found dead in her bed, and three days after that she got her wish.
She was buried next-door to her next-door neighbour.
I don’t really know what purpose writing this all down serves, or what posting it brings me, but maybe it’s just something that I needed to put down, maybe it’s a reminder to hug the ones you love and tell them you love them even if it’s hard to say it out loud.