An unusual name, isn't it?
I was always struck by that when I was little....names have always fascinated me and hers was one I could never fathom.
She was the kind of lady that knew everybody and whenever she'd take me out on a bus ride to Lewis' department store to meet Uncle Laurie on a Saturday afternoon for a cuppa and a cake we'd always be stopped along the way by so many people....everyone seemed to want to chat with her, to ask how she was, to pass the time of day with her....Most people we came across called her Dot, some called her Doris...but some called her Annie and I could never understand why one lady had so many different names.
My other Nana had died when I was very little and I didn't remember her at all unfortunately, my Grandad was someone I was very fond of but he passed away when I was 10...and my other Grandad, Nans own husband, died when my Dad was only 15...a long time before I was born.
I always thought Nan must have had it quite hard, being widowed so young and left to look after 4 children with my Dad being the eldest.
But she was the kind of lady who never complained about anything, and whenever she showed me old photographs of herself and her children throughout the years it was only ever happy memories and tales that she shared...I never once heard her complain about the hand life had dealt her or how hard it was for her.
It's funny the things you remember from your childhood...things that were so insignificant at the time but that all add up to become the little details about someone you loved the most.
When I think of my Nan, I remember the little buffets she used to lay on whenever there was a family birthday or on Mothers Day every year...she'd do a little spread the length of her kitchen counter....thinking back that kitchen counter was tiny and there were 12 grandkids and 8 grown ups for it to go around...but somehow it was always plenty.
I remember there would always be a glass tumbler full of celery sticks filled with philadelphia cheese - it was always my favourite thing on her spread, and I remember one occasion when she hadn't done any....she heard me ask my Mum why there wasn't any and she sprung into action straight away!
"Oh aren't I daft to forget the celery?! Hang on a minute love, I'll do you some now!"
I remember her house so well....it had that certain smell to it that just smelled like Nan...I can picture the sliding glass door as you walked in, I can see every single old fashioned picture on the wall, I can see the wedding photographs on the bureau as you went up the stairs which I used to look at for hours wondering what my Grandad had been like when he was alive....
I remember the feel of her bedsheets in the spare room when I'd stay over sometimes in the school holidays, I remember how her spaghetti bolognese always tasted a bit different from my mums when we visited for tea and I remember the pattern on her dinner plates....
I remember her amazing 3 leveled garden with its big wooden gate leading out to "the mops" and the stories she used to tell me about the fairies who lived out there.
I remember the cupboard under the TV where she'd hide sweets for us to find every time we visited...telling us the fairies left them for us.
I remember her magazine rack full of hundreds of old copies of Bella and Chat, and how I'd sit for hours reading them whenever we visited...curled up in her old arm chair as she nattered away to my mum and dad in the background.
I remember the posters of Ronan Keating she had hung up on her kitchen cabinets and how much she loved him and fawned over him, always asking me if I liked him too!
I remember the inviting smell that filled my nostrils whenever she opened her larder...and wondering why we didn't have a larder and how cool it was, full of all kinds of weird & wonderful jars and bits & pieces.
I remember how much she bloody loved McDonalds and would only ever order a Happy Meal!
I remember her singing, always so happy, her little songs and the gleam in her eyes..."Give a little whistle..."
I remember sitting at her dining table and watching the birds in her garden, and how she'd point out the little robin that always visited her....
I remember getting into the car at the end of a visit, driving down her street and looking back to see her standing in her doorway waving us off....smiling her big beaming smile that she always wore....and I remember always wondering as we drove back home through the Wallasey tunnel if she felt lonely or sad after we left, and she was alone in the house.
And then are the memories that aren't quite so pleasant....
The memories of visiting her in the nursing home, seeing how frail and thin she was and having to leave her there when it was time to go....not sure if she even knew where she was or if she knew we'd been to see her.
The memories of the first time I realised how bad her alzheimers had gotten...that first time when, after talking to her for a few minutes, she asked me what my name was and that horrible realization that she didn't remember me anymore hit me....I remember trying not to cry in front of everybody as I told her who I was and she smiled that lovely smile at me....but deep down I knew she didn't remember me.
The memory of having to decide whether or not to take my newborn son to visit her in the nursing home, because she was too poorly to come out anymore...and deciding I couldn't take him there without his injections as there were so many poorly people there and it was all just too sad....
and the memory of standing at her funeral 3 months later, feeling so much guilt and sadness that she'd never met him. That I didn't have at least a photograph of them together, to show him when he's older and tell him how lovely she was and how much she would have loved him because she adored children more than anything.
I remember the thud from the soil we threw onto the casket and how wrong and rotten it felt to being laying her to rest....someone always so full of life and positivity....
But I can't let those horrible, unpleasant memories be the ones that fill my mind because she deserves to be remembered for all of the lovely things....
For the time she taught me how to dance the Charleston....
For all the shows she came to watch when I went through my Drama phase...
For the tin of roses she'd send every year for Christmas....even now, 2 years on, I always miss seeing that tin of roses and knowing it was from her....
And for that phonecall we'd get every single birthday, the one I used to dread coz it made me so embarrassed...when I'd answer the phone and without even a "Hello" she'd burst into a rendition of Happy Birthday....the one I wish I still got every birthday that comes now....
I was so very lucky that, despite my lack of many grandparents for most of my life, the one who did live through to my 30s was such a lovely lovely lady who filled my heart with so many happy memories.
I'll always miss her and I'll always be sad not to see her again....but whenever I see a robin I know that its her come to visit....and we see them so often, on every day out we have I notice a robin nearby and I know its Nan come to join us for a while.
Happy birthday Nan, wherever you are....give a little whistle.
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