Last week, we farewelled my lovely, sweet Nanna, or Nanna-Belle as she is known to her great-grandchildren. Her funeral was a lovely celebration, as far as funerals go, of a long life filled with love, and centred around family. She was buried right next to my Pop, the love of her life.
Nanna was 93 when she died almost two weeks ago, and sad to say, not in the best health when she passed away. Before my Pop passed away, there were hints of a failing memory, which I know I put down to “senior moments”, like when I received three Christmas cards in the same week. After Pop died though, it didn’t take long for dementia to kick in, as happens sometimes.
My Mum cared for her until she no longer could, and while it was sometimes difficult to watch her declining memory and self-care skills, I always enjoyed the time I spent with her at Mum’s, and that my boys got to spend with her. After a while, she didn’t quite understand who the boys were, although she would always tell me what a “pretty little girl” Alex was (he had long curls at the time). By the time she had to go to a nursing home, she’d pretty much lost who everyone around her was. I do remember picking her up from a “senior activity” not long before that, and when I walked in, she was so excited to see me, even though she wasn’t sure who I was. She knew she knew me, and she knew she loved me, and she covered me in warmth and love, like she had our whole lives.
While the last few years of her life were clouded by dementia, it was barely mentioned at her funeral. Nanna has always been such a source of love and family, it didn’t really cloud all of our other memories of her.
Nanna was always so sophisticated, with perfect clothes and perfect make-up. Her hair was always curled perfectly, eyebrows drawn on, lipstick perfect. Being somewhat of a dork, I always wanted to be just like Nanna. She and my Pop walked every morning around their beautiful leafy suburb, getting their daily exercise and meeting their friends along the way. Nanna was always so confident and warm talking to people, and always seemed to make new friends so easily.
My favourite childhood memories are driving up their long driveway, past the “Aggie’s Pants”, her name for agapanthus, with Nan & Pop waiting to cover us in love and hugs. Their backyard was huge, green and magical. While the house has been sold now, I was pleased to see it hasn’t been redeveloped (yet), like so many of the properties around them in Wahroonga. There was the fairy grotto up the back. We played shuttlecock, and made a gigantic slip and slide. Nanna made us “special drinks” in the backyard, which was just milk and drinking chocolate, but that was such a treat for me and my sisters.
We celebrated Chrismases, Easters and birthdays in that backyard. We played on the swingset that Pop made. We lazily swung, and sometimes dozed, on the garden swing. They spent many happy days working in that garden, keeping it beautiful. Their house had such low kitchen benches, mainly because my Nanna was so small. The laundry had all of our measurements on the wall in pencil, starting from when me and my sisters, the eldest of their grandchildren, were little. It’s strange to think someone has probably painted over that by now.
Nanna might have been sophisticated, but she also had a bit of spunk. She was a bit naughty, for lack of a better word. She was renowned for starting food fights (someone once found food on top of their kitchen cupboards months later). She was legendary for starting cow pat fights when we lived on farms. (That’s dried cow poo.) She would start discos, and we would turn the lights down and dance around to Footloose and others 80s classics. It wasn’t shocking for them to pop down to the club and play the pokies at 10pm. I also remember a rumour that she’d gotten into trouble from the police when she was young for wearing a bathing suit at the beach. I always thought that awesome.
She introduced me to iced chocolates when I was 4. To me, it was the height of indulgence. I still can’t resist ordering an iced chocolate whenever we go to a cafe, and every time, I think of Nan. A REAL iced chocolate has ice cream in the bottom. Followed by a good splash of chocolate syrup. Next you want not-too-chocolatey milk. On top, a good swirl of whipped cream, finished with chocolate sprinkles. At Nan’s wake, my big sister ordered three ice chocolates from the cafe for us three sisters. ‘Twas a lovely and appropriate way to honour our Nan.
Nan had four kids, including my Mum, my aunt and my two uncles. Between them, there are twelve grandchildren, and us grandchildren have produced eleven great-grandchildren (I’ll be honest, ten of those are from me and my sisters). The extra-ordinary thing about our rather large family is that we all actually get along, and genuinely like each other. Everyone is quite different, but when we all get together, which is never often enough, everyone has a great time. I absolutely adore all of my aunts and uncles. Every single one of my cousins are excellent human beings that I love spending time with, and who I love watching grow up (my youngest cousin is only fifteen).
The point I’m getting at is that is that such an excellent group of people are a family because of our Nanna, and how she taught us all to get along, to love each other for who we are, and that family comes first.
Nan will always be the sound of bellbirds. Breakfast at the beach. Bringing salads to McDonalds. Dressing up as gumnut babies in the backyard. Opera. ABC Classic FM. Listening to me play piano. Her favourite was Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude. When we went to see her at hospital before she passed away, I put that piece on Mum’s ipad, and held her hand and stroked her soft hair and said goodbye, and thanked her for my 35 years of love and family.
We were all so blessed to have Nanna as our Nanna.