Just over a year ago, my grandmother passed away, almost 6months to the day after my grandfather passed on. After she passed away, my sister found a letter in her purse that I had written to her more than 20years ago probably around the time that I had started school.
For as long as I can remember, my gran was very involved in our lives. We would visit her in Cape Town every so often and she and my grandad would come to Durban – he would walk into the airport with their bags (his probably packed a good week before their trip) and always with the same off white cooler box filled with fruit (fruit that we do get in Durban I must add which always perplexed my father!!), meebos (sugared and plain to be split amongst the various families) and sour fig konfyt. She would also always give us, just before leaving for Cape Town, a 10 or 20 rand note and on her visits, she would sing songs for us, tell us stories and teach us nursery rhymes and riddles. I’ll never forget one of her favourite riddles – it’s in mountains but not in hills, it’s in meadows but not in fields, it’s in men and women too, it’s in me but not in you!
When I studied at UCT, I used to visit her often. I’ll never forget how she always introduced Angelo to her friends as Jodie’s “friend” (heaven forbid he be my BOYFRIEND even after 6years of dating!!), how she loved her jelly and ice-cream, how she’d make sure that we left with fruit (yes, fruit again…maybe she didn’t like fruit and wanted to get rid of it?!), how she’d stuff Angelo’s pockets with sweets at the end of a visit and tell him not to tell me, how she loved her piece of jam and bread after a meal, how she’d only ask for half a cup of tea, how she loved having friends and family over for her birthday (and of course, the glass of penny lane that she drank every year on her birthday with all her friends), how she always asked us to sing and would ask me even as a grown adult to sing at birthdays, Christmas’s etc…I could go on forever with this list – my gran really was one of a kind!!
A few years ago, her eyesight went in her one eye. She was hanging the washing and if I recall correctly, fell and due to a vein/nerve being pinched, she lost her eyesight in one eye. She never regained sight in this eye, and a while later, her sight in her other eye left her in the middle of the night without any warning. Initially, she battled a lot as she loved reading the paper every day and loved her soapies and watching the cricket with my grandad but I think the hardest thing for her was not being able to see each and every one of us – when we’d visit, she’d feel us and still add her two cents about how we’d lost weight or how lovely and long our hair had gone! While I was still living in Cape Town, I had the priviledge to fly home to Durban with both my grandparents. As my gran was already blind at that time, I was quite concerned about how she’d handle the flight but that flight will forever stay in my memory. I wished that the two hours would have been twenty two hours as the discussion that I had reminiscing on the “old days” with them and listening to all their stories was absolutely amazing. Even without her sight (and I really think that the loss of her sight affected her more than one can even being to imagine), my gran carried on being her awesome self. She’d laugh, chat for hours with anybody who wanted to chat, love to hear people singing and still listen to her soapies.
After my grandfather passed away, my gran went “downhill” so to speak. I’m sure after being with somebody for more than sixty years, it was more the heart ache of being without him that affected her. She didn’t get physically ill but her mind started giving in. Over the months before her death, she started having more and more hallucinations and would sit quietly without saying a word or randomly start talking about things that weren’t even there or that never happened. It was sad for us to see her like this. She also couldn’t walk and was confined to a wheelchair when not in bed. She would lay in bed for hours talking to herself or staring into space. My mother (another absolutely amazing woman!!) looked after her at home in her “last days” and we knew it was only a matter of time before she passed on.
On the 6th of May 2011, she passed away in the evening at our home. Although we expected it and were already talking about funeral arrangements, I was devastated. The end of an era as so to speak and the loss of a wonderful woman. Over the last year, I have often thought about my gran – I have dreamt about her and I’ll often just be sitting and think about her. I miss calling her every few weeks just to chat or to update her on my life, work and family. Small things remind me of her almost every day – one of the most common being Stoney ginger beer, her favourite drink.
I am grateful each and every day that God blessed me with such a wonderful grandmother and I know that her memory will live on through generations to come 🙂 Miss you ma!!