Sometimes London feels like one of the loneliest places on earth. When it all gets a bit too much, I often think of my grandmother. I sometimes talk to her, ask her for guidance. I don’t call myself religious, I don’t know how I feel about any of that stuff really, but I like to think my grandmother chose that day a year ago to leave this world, as I left mine, so she could follow me on my journey.
Coming to terms with the fact a year has passed since that day leads me to the realisation my childhood was now so very long ago. It’s one of those things I think long and hard about, literally trying to remember as much as I can if I forget one day how wonderful it all was. It’s a sad reminder time moves at a ridiculous pace. You should believe it when people tell you so.
But those blissfully sunshine-drenched, sugar-coated, laughter-filled childhood memories.
Me, picking mulberries, while my grandmother in her handmade shift dresses and strawberry hair, tended to beds of technicolour flowers. And in his long-sleeved shirt and floppy cotton fisherman’s hat, my grandfather sat on his wooden post watering the vegetable patch.
My grandmother was one of the most creative souls I’ve ever known. Alongside her love for Lucille Ball she spent hours scrap-booking. I can still see her pasting every clipping painstakingly into those yellowed pages. With her collection of McCall’s patterns, she was a whiz on the sewing machine, sewing our dance costumes or pouches for our trinkets. She encouraged creativity to pour out of our hearts.
She had this contagious laugh that would make everyone around her chuckle as much. It was one of the best sounds to hear, only surpassed by her singing voice.
My grandmother was the decision maker. The tough nut. The rock. The perfect companion to my cotton-hearted grandfather.
And this love my grandparents’ had was like something movies are made from. A love that survived fleeing the war, starting a new life in a foreign land and being by each other’s side through sickness and health.
That sickness was my grandmother deteriorating from Alzheimer’s, while my grandfather travelled almost every day to the nursing home to make sure she’d been fed and looked after properly. Going to see her kept him going. He held her frail hand as she made tiny movements to show joy and listened kindly to her befuddled foreign tongue. He kissed her forehead as she dozed off to sleep. Their relationship is my benchmark. What a wondrous love.
So even though my grandfather is without his lifelong love, and my mother is without her own, she left behind so much we can hold on to tightly until our fingers become comfortably numb.
I can’t hear her sing-song voice again, or see her kind face. But I do feel a strange comfort in knowing she may be watching over me. She’s probably chastising me for all the stupid things I’ve done, wanting to yell at me a little. Maybe she’s proud of me, or super embarrassed? It hurts that I will never know these things, but I like to think she’s guiding me along anyway.