Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Goodbye, Grandma

Hi everyone,

Well, on New Year's eve morning, my Grandma (Hazel Maud Cook) had a stroke. She'd been going downhill since October, when she had a fall in her retirement hostel. She was 93 and had lived a long life, and was really ready to go a year or two ago.
Grandma was my dad's mother and had a very wry sense of humour. She was very regal and dignified, and old age seemed to be packed full of indignities. It has really taught me a lesson about how society values it's aged population. These people have been through all that we have, but because they are frail and slowing down, we sometimes think that they're irrelevant. Nothing could be further from the truth.
After my Grandpa, Ken Cook, died from complications to Alzheimers in 1998, I decided that I would ring Grandma once a week to check in on her and inform her of my exciting single life. I became her Tuesday girl, and we scheduled our week around our calls.....only ever missing one or two Tuesdays because there was an event on at the retirement village. As she was living in Perth, I could call her later and she'd still be up. I gave her the edited highlights of my somewhat chaotic life, and loved her take on my life and the sense of perspective that talking to her gave me.
I am full of admiration for her. She grew up in the era where, once you got married, running the home was one of the only occupations available to you. Grandpa worked at the Bank of Wales (now Westpac) and looked after all the finances. When he fell ill with Alzheimers, she had to take over the running of the household, the finances, bills etc. It was a daunting task to take on in her early seventies, when she'd always relied on Grandpa. I am sure she had many lonely nights and days, a lot of fears and troubles, but I didn't ever see her as a victim. She was a strong woman who had strong opinions and who wasn't afraid to call a spade a spade. I loved that about her. When I told her about a man I was dating, who had a bald head, she was supportive....but when the relationship fizzled out, she said "Poor old xxxx, with his bald head. He wouldn't have looked any good in the family photos". hehe.
She hadn't had an easy road, she had an older brother called Frank Alexander (we did name Alex in part after him), who went off to the second world war and was killed. Her parents died and she had to deal with Grandpa's long, long illness. She was faithful, visiting him every day and telling him stories of their past. She always read him the 23rd psalm...the lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. She tried to find the humour in the situation and was always encouraging me to follow my dreams. She prayed every night for me to find a nice man who would look after me....I'm so glad those prayers were answered and she got to see me happy with Richard.
When I was very unwell with Post Natal Depression, in 2006 and 2007, she was a comforter and supporter. She would say to me "Deborah, darling, nothing lasts forever - good, bad or indifferent". How right she was.
I went over to Finley yesterday to sort out things for the funeral with mum and my sisters Jen and Angela. Jen had written a beautiful, touching poem for grandma and we've changed some of the stanzas to incorporate memories from Angela and I, and we're going to read it at her funeral on Saturday. I won't post the poem on here yet, but will post some of my memories.
The last time I saw Grandma before her stroke, Jen and Angela and I had just had morning tea together without the kids...we'd managed to foist them off onto our husbands...and we were chattering away like schoolgirls. Grandma sat back in her chair and smiled, her eyes following our silly exchanges like a tennis spectator. She wore an amused smile that told of extreme fondness for us all and happiness that she was with us.
The last time I saw Grandma alive, was a couple of hours after she'd had her stroke. One side of her body was paralysed but her eyes were still very much alive and alert. She was still there until the very end. I stroked her soft cheek and held her age-worn hand and told her how special she was to me, and how much I loved her. She tried to smile and mouthed "I love you" to me. I said to her "you have given us a legacy, Grandma...we all love books and that's because of you". I had a wonderful relationship with her and shared many special moments with her, but I still wish I could go back and have one more conversation with her. I know, that in months to come, I will think "I must tell Grandma that", and be sad that I can't. She made an adventure out of life, never complained about her lot, and inspired me to be well. She will live on in my heart and I will always miss her.
Goodbye, Grandma.
My memories of Grandma - an email to Jen, Angela and Mum & Dad:
The red driveway to Circie Circle....your beautiful roses and geraniums lovingly cared for. The park near your house, where we spent many happy hours during our school holidays. The walk to Dalkieth shops, you with your bag on wheels, taking us for a walk and a little treat. Reading with you in bed in the morning, practically pushing gramps out with 3 squirming youngsters all trying to get close to Grandma.
Your treasure box and how you always called me "treasure" . Hearing you tell the story about the time that I was afraid you were going to put me in your treasures box. The kettle is a -lowing.
The frosted glass doors closed and the airconditioner on, the cricket playing and another adventure filled school holiday
The spacious backyard with the red steps, the beautiful trees and flowers and plants, leaving presents out for the fairies that lived in the bottom of your garden.
Your sense of humour, the way you could find the fun in a situation. You listened so earnestly to us telling you our hopes and dreams and hurts. You made us feel like we were special. Your chicken liver pate and creamy potato salad. Your special pasties. Coming to stay in your unit and going for walks to the library. Losing myself in a book in your loungeroom. Telling you that any leftovers were a "line to be cleared". Making the trek across the village to the salt water pool. Counting every blessing and naming you as one of those.
Swimming in our above ground pool in Wamboin, with you watching us to make sure that nothing went wrong. Hurrah for Hazel.
Knowing that if everything went wrong, you were still in our corner. Playing long games of MahJong and you breaking up the inevitable fights between sisters!
Coming to stay and you had saved us all the kids pages from the West Australian
Being your Tuesday girl... sharing the edited ups and downs of the single life with you every Tuesday and loving the sense of perspective you gave my crazy life. Knowing that no matter how bad things were, that you would always have a positive thing to say..."nothing lasts forever, good, bad or indifferent"...and if a social function went wrong, well, it "was an outing". Your joy at my marriage to Richard. Telling me that you'd prayed for me every night to find a wonderful man who would take care of me. So many lovely cards and cheques, sent in your flowery writing. Little trinkets, jewellery and bits and pieces....little pieces of your life that you shared with us. Thoughtful cards and postcards. Your fighting spirit when you moved to Sydney....keeping your mind busy with a good book and a quiz. Doing exercise and one-upmanshiping the other ladies with your 10 great grandchildren.
Your important friendship and tales from the days when Dad and David were little. Never judging me and always telling me how you felt. If I'd had a fight with Richard, telling me "there were times when I could have cheerfully pushed Ken in front of a bus". Your support and love when I suffered from Post Natal Depression. Not letting me out of your prayers for a moment....always being in my cheer squad.
That you have seen me recover and be well and happy is one of the joys in my life. Pan Pero. The Pirate's whistle.
Gran....Grandma. Regal and dignified.....a woman who lived a lot of life. A wise, generous soul....a woman who I will miss and always be glad I have known. A woman I could spend hours talking to about life, love and the universe. Someone who was there for me when the chips were down and someone who I love with all my heart. I can't wait to see you in heaven one day. I am so glad you got to meet my son. I miss you already.

1 comment:

Kirsty said...

Oh Deb, thats beautiful, she sounds like an amazing lady, one who will be very much missed. I am so sorry:-(

Just hold those precious memories tight.