Monday, October 8, 2018

See you in a porridge, nana

When you hear about someone losing a loved one, you feel bad. You feel sad for them, and I truly believe when you say I'm sorry you mean it. I know in the past, I have always meant it when I said sorry for someone's loss. I thought I understood their pain, I mean, I knew I didn't 100% because I'd never lost someone I really actually truly loved, but I've known loss. I thought I knew, I thought I understood, I thought I was prepared.


I won't be able to do my nan justice, but I want to share this today because I am trying so desperately to remember every little thing and I am still trying to cope. It's been a month since she died and it still hits me like a sucker punch to the gut, my heart drops and my knees go weak for just a second. I think I'm okay, I think I've grieved and it hits me suddenly and I feel so empty, so freaking bereft. Why didn't anyone tell me it was debilitating, losing a loved one? Why didn't I realise, how could I have been so stupid, of course it is. There is a hole in the world now. How is the world still turning?

My nana - my mum's mum - is the only grandparent I've ever known. Her husband, my pa, died before my mum met my father. I knew my paternal grandparents when I was a baby, but I don't remember them - I've seen photos, that's how I know. But no memories of anyone but nan. I won't lie and tell you she was the best grandmother in the history of grandmothers. She was not a stereotypical grandmother. But she's mine. My only. And to me, that makes her the best.


She gave good squeezy pat you on the back hugs. She was strict and she didn't spoil us. She never wasted food, including the jar of vegemite I'm pretty sure she had in her cupboard my entire life.

Her name was Shirley, she went by Shirl. She had a newspaper waiting at the newsagency every single day for years and years. She walked down the shops to pick it up or she'd send me when I was visiting, and I'd go in and say 'here for Shirl's paper' and it would be behind the counter with her name on it. I don't even know why she had it set aside, it wasn't different and there were always plenty sitting out.. but I didn't question it. Just did as I was told.

My first overseas trip was with my nan. I loved having that time with her.


Nan loved crosswords. Mum loves magazines and she'd save every single one she bought throughout the year and we'd throw them in the car when we went down to Melbourne for christmas. They'd wake up and do crosswords for hours. Sometimes I would join them, but nan didn't like me to do that while they were smoking. Which was basically always. She had a stool like this in her kitchen - without the back - that I would sit in, swing my legs, eat my brekkie and shout my (often wrong) answers. But I learned a lot. It's random, but I will always remember learning the word thespian via a crossword morning.

We often had get togethers at her little unit, even though it was chockablock with all of us in there. We are not a quiet family. I never realised how completely comfortable and myself I was with my family until I brought KC home and he noticed it. They are like any family, fights, getting on everyone's nerves, but they are my people.


Nan says happy christmas instead of merry. She was not a fan of my 'dress and sand shoes' phase, aka the year I wore skirts and skate shoes. She called me a silly duffer when I did something stupid, which was often. I would turn the corner to go down the hallway too quickly, I always forgot there was an extra wall there. She always laughed. If I close my eyes, I can hear her laugh and I wish I had recorded it.

She didn't like a lot of 'new' stuff, but she liked mambo number 5 and that connie and carla movie. I watched her copy of Calamity Jane on video so many times that I ruined the tape. She would always make a comment about 'oh please, not again' but then she'd rewind it for me and hum along to all the songs. She made this little clicking noise when music was playing that she liked.


Every christmas she would tie string around her lounge room and put all the christmas cards on it. After christmas she made me take down all the cards and neatly sort them - gosh, I hated that. My nan got a lot of christmas cards. She saved the string, she saved or recycled christmas wrapping paper. Even now, when I open a present, I fold the paper.

She had plastic snakes around her garden - I don't know why. To keep the birds away? That's what she said. She didn't like cats. She loved the news and tennis. She got cranky when we let the fridge door slam. She helped name me. Thanks nana, can you imagine me as a Bree? Especially with the middle name Lee?

I told my nana that I would name my child after her and she said don't you dare. She didn't like her name. She gave me permission to use her middle name though.


When we went down to Melbourne each year, I slept on a little rollaway bed in her room. She snored like a freight train and would keep me up if I didn't get to sleep before her. I went to bed early being a kid and all, but she liked to go to bed early to read. She had a cereal box that she'd cut open and she'd put it around the lamp in between our beds so the light didn't bother me.

I would say I get my love of reading from my nana. My mum used to read occasionally, but nothing like me and nothing like nana. She owned every Agatha Christie book. We used to walk down to the library and the librarians let us borrow more than normal on her card because they knew I was just there for a few weeks. I read my first Agatha Christie book this year and I wish I had told her, I wish I had talked to her about it, asked her which one was her favourite. She wasn't able to really read the last few years because of her eyesight but I wish I'd asked.


My nana is a card person. Birthday and christmas, engagement, wedding, congratulations, thank you cards after you sent her a card or called her.. moving overseas didn't stop her sending them to me and I am so so grateful. I am thankful I am a card keeper. I have years of cards with love Nan in her distinctive handwriting. She sent KC cards too and signed them Nan C. So adorable.


My nana always had this specific smell, and years ago I asked her what it was, because as creepy as it may be, I wanted access to that smell just in case. I wanted to use that perfume or soap if I was far away and feel like my nan was hugging me. Instead, she laughed and told me it was probably her hairspray, she didn't wear perfume. So I went into her bathroom and yep, sure is. And of course you can only get it in Australia, so I bought heaps last time so I always have some around my house. I don't use it, it's not a great hairspray, but sometimes I just smell the lid like a weirdo, or I spray it on my wrists. She stopped using it years ago but it still reminds me of her.

She loved the pokies (slot machines) and could play for hours on end. She had this miniature pokie machine that I used to like playing with (I wasn't supposed to and always got in trouble), I don't know where she got it, but we helped her clean out her unit last trip and she was getting rid of it. I took it, after asking of course.


She also got rid of this framed picture - I wish I could put into words how I feel about this picture. Family scattered around Australia and the world, we weren't all together in one place for many years. This photo was framed in all of our houses and it's such a part of my childhood, my life, and even though we had the exact same picture in my own childhood home, this one with this frame just.. it's just nana. She had it on a little end table next to her chair (no-one else is allowed in nan's chair!). She put a mini christmas tree next to it for christmas and all the presents underneath. If I went to the shops to get a frame, I wouldn't pick this one up. But when she gave it to me to take home to America, I never dreamed of switching it out. She'd duct taped the back and the stand. I removed the stand and it's on my wall, right above where I sit on the couch. Only two cousins are missing, because they weren't born yet. I'm in the bottom left, apparently eating my finger. Nan's in the middle. I could close my eyes and tell you where everyone is, I've looked at this picture so many times in my life.


I realise this post is all over the place. I've mixed my past and present tense, I can't quite get the hang of was. Of no more. I still don't quite believe it. I've read several posts and heard people talk about losing loved ones before. You feel bad, you say sorry, you think you understand. I am so lucky, so lucky I know, to be 31 before I knew real loss. I thought I understood, I knew it would hurt, but god, the pain. I can't handle it. It keeps me up at night and people ask me what's wrong - what's wrong? My nana is dead that's what is bloody wrong. It's not fair, it was unexpected, she wasn't even sick, it happened too quickly. I didn't even get to talk to her again. I feel so bloody selfish and guilty, why didn't I do more? Why didn't I call more? Why didn't I go home one more time?


Since before I can remember, when we would say good night, we'd kiss mum, say love you, kiss nan and she'd say 'love you, see you in a porridge'. I never questioned it. I feel like I was born knowing what that meant, I don't remember ever being given an explanation, I just knew. See you in the morning. I have no idea where she got it from, I don't know if anyone else in the world says it or if it's just my nan. Over the years, we'd try to beat her and say it before she did.. and as I got older, I did the whole pretend to say it before her and let her beat me.. I moved across the world and every phone call would end in see you in a porridge, no matter the time.

When I decided to start a blog to deal with homesickness, I stumbled over several names. Most had to do with being an expat.. and then this just popped in my head and it felt so right. And I am so glad. I think of my nan daily. It's also helped me deal with it a bit, you know? It doesn't hurt as much to think about those particular memories, even though they are the strongest.

If I ever have kids, I might try and make see you in a porridge a thing. Keep it going. This is the last photo I have of my nan. It's not the best but I will treasure it.


So at the risk of sounding completely sappy, this is me saying see you in a porridge one last time to my nana.

I am so lucky to be your granddaughter. I miss you so much.

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