|Nana, Mum, Oma and myself as a babe in arms.|
At my christening - May 1972
A few weeks ago I posted about the role of the Modern Grandparent - a post that evoked a lot of emotion, especially in the comments. I thought I'd carry that on by talking about my own grandmothers.
My grandmothers were two of the most admirable women you could ever wish to meet. I have lasting, happy memories of them and believe that they instilled this strong will in me where I am certain that I can actually achieve anything I want.
Nana (my maternal grandmother) remained married to my Grandpa until Mum was 16. She was a staunch Catholic woman though and, even after separation, divorce was never an option, but they maintained a civil relationship. Nana was a smart woman; she was never seen without a jaunty scarf and a slash of red lipstick but she was also a bit forgetful, forever going to the shop and realising that she still had her slippers on. She suffered dreadfully from arthritis and underwent an operation to ease her pain and ended up with ‘plastic knuckles’.
I shall never forget the social events she attended at the local community centre and was always building bird houses or baskets with lolly sticks. She smoked Silk Cut Red, which always surprised me as my Mum had very bad asthma, to the extent that she had half a lung removed when she was ten years old, but I suppose no-one knew the dangers of smoking back then.
Many months after she died I remember finding a bin liner full of photographs which must have been kept after she died. Mum allowed me to look through them and I found one of my Grandpa in his naval uniform. On the reverse was written: “My husband, who left my daughter and I for another woman”. She never let that hurt show through and always protected us from it but now I understand that writing on the photo in that was was the only way she felt she could let her anger out.
Oma (my paternal grandmother) met my grandfather when she was working in a Prisoner of War camp not far from her home. It was in the midst of World War 2, he was a member of the Luftwaffe and had been shot down one night. They had the common ground of not wanting to be involved in the war and their relationship blossomed from there. She taught him to read in the same way that we teach our children to read, using ABC books and comics. He was sent back to Germany after the war ended but somehow they kept in touch and he came to find her two years later. They celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1998.
Oma remembered rationing during the war only too well and was the 'hostess with the mostest' whenever anyone called round. Tea and cakes on a Sunday afternoon was the norm and a family lunch for 17 was no problem. She worked at a library book suppliers and her spare room was stacked, floor-to-ceiling, with books - seconds, cheap buys, staff gifts - and we were always allowed to go in and choose a book each time we went round.
My Oma lived to provide and after Opa died she became awfully withdrawn. Within a short period of time, started to look “old” and seem to lose her joie de vivre.
Both women were the main backbone of their section of my family and I have not one single bad memory of them. I was in awe of them in so many ways but knew that their arms were always wide open. They both had their own foibles but they both appeared to have the same strength instilled in them. A need to provide for their family. A need to protect their family. They were my role models and I hope I can be the same for my grandchildren.