Here is my tribute to Nan. I wanted to bring her back to life for just one more day.
My Nan was a special person. She was witty, she was quirky, she was one of a kind, and she was incredibly kind and compassionate. Nothing was too much trouble for her, and she’d do anything for anybody. When I was sick as a child, all I wanted was Nan by my bedside. She made me feel better just by sitting there. Visits to her house nearly always included gifts of money or chocolate accompanied by, “Don’t tell your mother.” If we refused to accept her generosity, out came the finger.
Not only would Nan talk to anybody she met, she would also talk to animals. She was kind to all creatures, including chooks. Apparently when she had her own chooks years ago, she would sit on the perch and talk to them. Growing up, I remember her always taking the time to be kind to our bantams; she would pick them up and let them perch on her hand, much to Mum’s disgust, and she clipped their wings for us so they wouldn’t fly away. Nan had a host of pets over her life including a dog, numerous stray cats who adopted her, a couple of galahs, Sunshine the canary, and in later years, Billie the budgie. Nan made a habit of regularly vacuuming out Billie’s cage, with Billie still inside, and telling the poor bird off should it dare mess it up again.
While Nan was a kind, compassionate and generous person, she could also be very, very blunt. She was never shy about speaking her mind, and if she wasn’t my Nan I don’t think I’d quite know how to take her. But Nan could take as much as she dished out, and I think I learnt a lot about bluntness from Nan; when Duncan met her for the first time, he said, “You’re going to be exactly like your Nana.” I remember once shopping with Nan when I was still at school, and she was getting some tomatoes. There was a whole pile of tomatoes to choose from, and an old man was there as well, helping himself to some. Suddenly Nan turned to him sharply as he was putting his tomatoes in a bag, and said, “I wanted those ones.” The poor man, I don’t think he knew what to think! Nan was also quite outspoken about fellow elderly people, and she’d often say quite loudly in shopping centres, “Some of these old biddies don’t wash. But me, I always smell nice.” She also had no trouble sending Jehovah’s Witnesses packing. The scary thing is that I’ve been told Nan has mellowed a lot over the years. What was she like before? When Tim and I were naughty, she’d say, “I’ll get the stick,” but we knew she didn’t have a stick, and even if she did, she couldn’t catch us anyway. One of my nicknames for her was Banana because not only did she eat a lot of bananas, I told her she was like one because she had a thick outside skin, but she really was soft underneath, and she bruised easily.
As a child, I regularly suggested to Nan that she should get married again, but she wasn’t so keen. “Why would I want to get stuck washing some old bloke’s socks? But if he had a bit of money that’d be ok. I’d just hope he’d croak first.” Nan would regularly sit on benches in shopping centres and talk to whoever happened to be sitting there. Once I found her sitting with about three old men. “Who was that you were talking to?” Mum would ask. “Oh I don’t know,” Nan replied. “But he was very nice.” Nan also thought Duncan was very nice when she met him for the first time. We were going to a restaurant and there was a hill so she asked Duncan, “Duncan, could you please give me your arm? He obliged and she later came up to me and said, “He gave me his arm.” I said, “Nan if you were 70 years younger, I’d feel threatened.”
Nan has always been a neat and almost obsessively scheduled person. She’d get up when the birds did, lunch would always be at 12 and not a moment late, and for years she watched ‘Days of our Lives’ religiously. When I lived in Perth, I called her to say I would be in Albany for a few days. She was very much looking forward to my visit, but when I asked if I could come over at certain times, she’d say, “No, I’m doing my washing then, or my ironing or my gardening.” Eventually I said, “Nan, I’m only here for a few days. Can I come at this time?” and she replied, “Oh well, you’d better come then.” But if you said you’d come at 3 and got there at 10 past, the first thing she’d say to you when she opened the door was, “You’re late!”
Nan’s garden was as immaculate as her house. She was a magnificent gardener, and her roses were beautiful. She took great pride in showing them off. But if a leaf dared make its way onto her driveway, it was the worst for the leaf. If a neighbour had a tree which dropped leaves into her yard, they could expect the leaves to be tossed back over the fence. To this day, Nan is the only person who I’ve ever heard call her plants, ‘little blighters’ for not growing the way she wanted them to.
As the years went by, Nan wanted to keep her mind active and she did this by playing Scrabble and doing crosswords. She’d often ask me for help with her crosswords, and when I told her I didn’t know what was seven letters long, started with a P and was a city in some random country, she’d say, “You’ve got a university degree and you can’t do my crosswords.” During Scrabble games she liked complaining that I ‘took her spot’ – which meant she had basically reserved the whole board for herself and I wasn’t allowed to make a word anywhere. When she lost (which was most of the time), she’d blame her loss on her lack of vowels, or ‘bowels’ as she called them. If she didn’t have any bowels, she’d be in real trouble.
Over the years, it was often hard to watch Nan grow older and no longer be able to walk up hills, go bushwalking and play table tennis with us like she used to. Although I knew she was older than most of my friends’ grandparents, it seemed like she would always be there. As Nan no longer liked going out as much, and eventually had to use a walking stick, I realised that though her mind was willing, her body was not although she did turn back the clock at Mum’s 60th – dancing and staying up to 1.30am. In the end, it was a privilege to sit by her bedside and bestow a little of the care she gave to us back to her.
I will miss Nan terribly. It doesn’t seem right without her, and I will be forever thankful that I had her as my Nan for 27 years. She was such a good Nan to Matt, Brad, Tim and I and was even a great great Nana in the end. We will never forget her. Not that we ever could anyway because she is unforgettable.
I could write a whole book of Nan’s memorable quotes, but I will finish with just one. We had a family dinner at a restaurant for Tim’s 21st a few years back and Mum told Tim as a joke, “We’ve organised a cake and a stripper.” Nan overheard and said indignantly, “I’m not stripping!”
The photo board I made which was displayed at the wake.