This post was inspired by
@Mrs_Pea68 who lost someone close to her recently. As she put it;
“My classy chain-smoking, schnapps-drinking, tell-it-like-it-is great aunt has died at 85. As my son said on hearing the news: good effort”
Her great-aunt, and by the sounds of it ‘great’ is truly the right word to use, sounds a bit like my gran, not in the chain-smoking or schnapps-drinking way, but in the rest of it. And it reminded me of how much I miss my gran.
Molly, my mum’s mum, was an amazing woman and someone I miss beyond words. She was born in Dungarvan, Waterford, in 1910 and died in a nursing home in Streatham in 1997. Two days after Princess Diana died in fact. I missed the national mourning thing as I was in a world of immeasurable loss, and feeling a pain I never thought possible.
This small person, my gran that is not Princess Di, was almost burnt to death in a fire at the age of 8, grew up in a workhouse, contracted TB, moved from Ireland to England, met her mum for the first time at the age of 25, worked crappy jobs and saved money to bring her younger relatives over so they could escape poverty and have a chance at a better life. And she felt immense guilt about leaving them, but did her best to save up as much money as she could, as quickly as she could, to honour the promise she made. She had her first child at the age of 36. Her second at the age of 40, and only found out she was pregnant at 40 when she was losing weight and thought she had cancer.
I was honoured to give the eulogy at her funeral. And I think she would’ve liked it. I praised her, fairly, told stories she told me about her life, and when it was time to say goodbye I spoke no more. My tears did all the talking. She wouldn’t have liked that bit as she didn’t like people being sad.
She was funny. Cleverer than anything. Warm, loving, tough but always herself. Here are some of the things I remember her saying to me as I grew up.
“Never eat anything bigger than your own head”
“I’ll always call a spade a spade, but when someone calls a black person ‘a spade’ I’ll tell them it’s wrong. Man, woman or child. I’ll tell them it’s wrong because it is wrong.”
“I don’t trust pizza”
“And I don’t trust pizza because I don’t trust tomatoes. Bastards. I hate tomatoes”
“Work hard, but don’t work so hard you’re indispensible. There are far too many indispensible people in the graveyard”
“Love your mum despite her faults. However you can. She’s the only one you’ll ever have”
“Why do so many people have so much faith in the church? You’ll never see a poor priest in a poor area and the Catholic church is richer than God. If there was a God he’d hate the Catholic church.”
“I hated Ireland and was glad to get out. But it’ll always be home.”
“I’m old Spencer. I’m taking up room. I’m taking up space. I don’t need to be here anymore.”
“Gloria Hunniford, bless her. I’ve never liked the Northern Irish accent. It always feels like they’re shouting at me.”
“If you walk past a nun, and they always go out in pairs, look at them and they’ll look back. Smile at them. Always smile at a nun because it’ll scare them and that’s fair, because the nuns scared the bejezuss out of me.”
“Talk to the butcher, the baker and the man who owns the vegetable shop. When you get old it saves you valuable time as they’ll start doing your order when you arrive and then you can sit down and have a cup of tea with them. And a laugh.”
“You get taller and more handsome every time I see you.”
“The best people were born in August.”
“I love that photo of your mum. The way the light falls and the shadows are over her face, it makes her look like she’s got a beard. And I find that funny. Don’t tell her though will you? Or she’ll tell me to take it down and I get a laugh every day with it on the shelf.”
“I fell in love with your grandad when I first met him. And I fell in love with him again every day after that.”
“So you studied Fantasia on your course? The film with Mickey Mouse in? And then get annoyed when people call Film Studies a ‘Mickey Mouse studies’ course?”
“That was a lovely cup of tea. I don’t know what you did or how you made it but it was the best cup of tea I’ve ever had.”
“I always say ‘wheesht’ as it’s gaelic, and I’m Irish, and it sounds nicer than ‘shut the fuck up’ but means the same thing”
“When I first came to England you’d get signs up at lodgings saying ‘No Dogs, No Irish.’ I got in because I said I was a woman, and they didn’t have a sign banning women.”
“No-one tells you how to be a parent. You make it up as you go along and have to trust your instincts. One day Spencer, you’ll be a dad and you’ll wonder how, and why, and what to do. And it’s all here. Inside you. You’ll be a good dad Spencer because, if you’re not, I’ll come back and haunt the hell out of you.”
“Nunnite. Sweet dreams. Always.”
Memories of a loved one. Warm and comforting. Words typed into a medium, the internet, something they would never understand. But this is something I’d like to share, purely because someone shared their memory of their great aunt in 140 characters or less. And she sounded awesome.
Much love to
@Mrs_Pea68 and I hope you’re doing okay.
Thanks for reading.