I’ve grown up with three grandparents (my maternal Grandpa died when I was six months old). I even had my paternal Great-Grandmother, Old Nanna, in my life until I was six years old. It wasn’t until I reached my late teens when I realised how fortunate I was. I had thought everyone had grown up with most, if not all of their grandparents – but I learned a lot of my friends were lucky to have had just one when they were children.
My paternal grandparents, Nanna and Pa just had their birthdays, turning 76 and 80 years old respectively. They both still drive, are active participants in their church groups and regularly take short driving holidays through regional New South Wales. Nanna volunteers weekly at the local Salvos and Pa is a wiz on the computer, he’s a Photoshop expert (and he’s just come around to the idea of the internet!)
When I was a kid I watched Elvis movies with Nanna, and 1980’s rugby league grand finals on VCR with Pa on Saturday afternoons, then we shared tea with Jatz and Cracker Barrel cheese on the balcony. When I visited Graceland a few years ago, it was Nanna who I wished was with me. (She was so excited when I called to give her all the details). During the football season, Pa sends me clippings about my team the St George Illawarra Dragons from The Illawarra Mercury (not realising I’d already read the articles online). Both Nanna and Pa have written their life stories, and Pa has done a huge amount of research of our family’s history (I’m fifth generation Australian!) I feel incredibly fortunate to have these connections with Nanna and Pa, especially about two of my biggest loves: Elvis and rugby league! While I haven’t lived in the same town as Nanna and Pa for over 18 years, we’ve shared visits over the years and we still have semi-regular phone chats.
My maternal grandmother, Granny, is a few months off turning 86 years old. Unfortunately, her health has taken a turn for the worse in the last couple of years with a gradually worsening case of dementia. She no longer knows who I am when I call her, but recognises me immediately when I visit from Melbourne – she also mixes up or doesn’t remember who other family members are, among other lapses of memory. (A special mention to my mum who has been a superwoman looking after most of Granny’s needs recently). Although, she does have lucid moments – she did try to marry me off to a male nurse in the hospital today! But lucid or not, she always encourages me to do whatever makes me happy and to be content within myself. I think it’s amazing advice from someone who had seven children, arrived in Australia from Scotland as a 10-pound-Pom with Grandpa and six children, travelled the world and lived an independent life since 1987.
I have extra good fortune with Granny in that I’ve lived in the same town as her for the majority of my life (with exception to a couple of years when I was a tween and the last few years since I’ve been in Melbourne). When my mum returned to work when I was seven years old, Granny helped out by collecting my sister and I from school a few days a week – our home was a five minute walk away. Granny used to make the best shortbread in the world and I remember watching old movies with her like Ladyhawke and Mary Poppins.
At almost 29 years old, I feel even more grateful than I did as teenager to have all these memories and experiences with my grandparents. Nanna, Pa and Granny have always been proud of my achievements, and I’m sure Grandpa would have been too – what an amazing support system to have.
I truly hope that everyone has had the experience of having a grandparent or grandparent-figure in their lives, even for a short time – there’s nothing else like it.