My most favourite time of the year when I was little wasn’t Christmas. It was when we visited my Grandma in a little town out west. If we went at Christmas time, it was doubly exciting!
Not only did we get to see Grandma, but we got to see our favourite cousins, who were always there when we arrived.
I remember the first time I stayed awake for the majority of the trip. It was such a longer drive than I could recall and I was getting impatient. Every town we came to it was “Are we here?” And each time it was “No. We’ve a long way to go yet.”
A huge sigh was heard from the back of the car and I slumped back in my seat. I asked why it was taking longer than every other time. Dad’s reply? We slept most of the way the other times!
Getting older wasn’t fun in that instance. But getting older meant we could do more when we were at Grandma’s.
The best part of going to Grandma’s town was the red dirt. I just loved the colour and how it would get over everything and stain our clothes. The bath water was always the colour of Ayers Rock!
The other things I loved about the little town was the pool with its waterslide, the turn-things at the pool entry, the icy cones with mint cordial squeezed all over it from the pool canteen, the hot summer weather, the cool summer arvos and nights, sleeping under the stars outside on the veranda with just a sheet, the trips to the shops, the parks with their strange equipment, the race course across the road from Grandma’s place where we used to play and pretend to be race horses and climb the observing tower, the kangaroos grazing next to the race course, feeding the chickens, making friends with other kids, Grandma’s garden, the Bogeyes (aka Shingleback Lizards), and sooooo much more!
We loved everything about the town! Living there has always been a dream and remains intact to this day. Our family have solid roots there – ancestry dating back a number of generations. Maybe that’s why I feel such a connection to it and my soul seems to long to be out there.
Grandma was the most generous person I have ever known, many times to her detriment. Over the years, I have heard the stories of how her and my step-grandfather would take in boarders from all walks of life. Some stayed for a night. Some stayed a few years. But none were ever turned away.
Every year she would send us grandkids money for our birthdays, Easter and Christmas. This continued even after we became adults and had our own children! As the years went by, we told her not to send us money anymore. On our next birthdays, we got scratchies to the same value as the money she would have sent! It was like she said if we didn’t want the cash, she would give it to us another way. Either way, nothing changed!
I admired this generous heart of hers and grew up wanting to be just like her.
Last weekend, in a convoy (we needed two cars!), my sister, niece and her partner, my children and myself drove the 800+ kilometres to attend her funeral.
The trip is etched into our memories as an adventure-and-a-half due to my sister’s GPS taking us via an extremely bumpy rally-driving type of dirt road which my poor little Ford Focus only just survived (the other car was a Jeep)! If any of the farmers along there saw my car driving at 20km/hr passed their property, they would have known without a shadow of a doubt that we had made a wrong turn somewhere. Our path wasn’t even showing up as a road on her GPS! My phone had long ago dropped out of range and no longer picked up a signal!
This detour added two hours to our trip and was stressful at the time, but is hilarious now looking back and hearing each other’s stories of what was going on in the other car. One was making jokes and the other was losing their mind!
But we now have that travelling experience to add to the memories of our Grandma and travelling to her little town out west.
Tuesday morning, the day of saying goodbye, eventuated.
There was no more hoping this was a bad dream of which I would wake up from any minute.
My boys and I decided to go to the viewing. I needed to cement it in my mind that Grandma was really gone. Because I didn’t see her often, it felt like she was only away momentarily and would come back soon.
She just looked like she was sleeping. So peaceful. It was hard to not think she would open her eyes and start talking to us. I stood there for a while just looking at her, remembering all the great times I had at her place as a kid and realising just how special spending those few days in June with her were.
Grandma’s funeral was short and beautiful. My mum read the eulogy with grace, dignity and strength. Placing my hand on the coffin while it was in the Horst broke me – “Goodbye Grandma” I whispered.
My dad was meant to be a pall-bearer but disappointedly, he wasn’t able to be due to being very ill to the point of not being able to attend Grandma’s funeral. My eldest two boys took his place in carrying their Great Grandma to her final resting place. Flowers were placed on her coffin just before she was rested atop of her husband. After 41 years of being apart, they were together again, at last.
Sitting here writing this, it’s now very real that the next time I visit that little town she won’t be there. Her house will no longer be hers. The race course will no longer be across the road. The magpies (all of whom Grandma named Jacko) won’t be coming right up to the front door calling for her to come out with their treats. No more watching the super long freight trains go by just up yonder.
For Grandma’s entire 86 years, she lived in that little town out west. For over 100 years, that plot of land has been in the family. For my whole life, that has been Grandma’s place. It’s not going to feel the same without her.
From here starts something new for our family. Changes we don’t really want to make. I wish I could afford to buy Grandma’s house and keep that land in the family. But it’s a nice dream. Nothing can take away my memories or what she means to me though, and that’s all we can leave our loved ones when the time comes – memories.
At the end of the day, the house is just an object.
To my Dearest Grandma
From the time I can remember, you have had a profound impact on my life and have inspired me to be more like you with a generous nature in all things. Nothing is going to be the same without you, but I will remember and love you always. Though I can’t hold you in the flesh, I can hold you in my heart. One day, we will be reunited in Heaven. And so, for that reason, I don’t say goodbye, but see you later. It will feel like a blink when I am again able to hug you.
Until we meet again, Grandma.
All my love always, to the moon and back x affinity
Allison xxx ❤