Writing about my grandmother, who is gradually becoming a shell of the woman she once was, has been a beautiful way to remember her, to somehow refill parts of the shell with life. My grandmother has been mistaken her entire life as a harsh, tough, brutally honest and at times inappropriate woman. I am not suggesting that these traits are untrue, but feel honoured to have experienced such a different side to her throughout my life.
My parents divorced when I was nine years old and my brother, mother and I went to live with my paternal grandparents. They took us in without question and I now realize, as a mother myself, the extent to which they helped us. Their emotional, mental and financial support to my mother surely saved her from a nervous breakdown.
My grandmother has always had a very unique way of showing love. Her interpretation of affection was to tickle (and not gently!) or pinch like some sort of crab. Gentle hugs, kisses and the words ‘ I love you’ were not part of my grandma’s repertoire. However, as this was all I ever knew of her, I was always aware of when she was being kind and loving, when most others would have questioned her motives. She most definitely personifies the term “codes of love.” If one can see past these somewhat tough attributes, what lies beneath is a simple and loving woman.
Grandma was one of 7 children born to a working class family in Tasmania, Australia. Her default setting has always been one of simplicity and bluntness. There is no filter between her thoughts and words. You can only imagine the embarrassment she caused my grandfather (who was knighted a ‘Sir’), at one of the thousands of business dinners she would have attended in her life. It was a beautiful transformation seeing her dressed for these occasions. From her outfit of choice – cotton trousers and t-shirts – to exquisite silk skirts and blouses, perfectly manicured nails, diamonds and pearls. She could be a true lady when need be.
I remember the excitement of seeing Grandma’s big old car outside my school gates as a little girl, as it meant I didn’t have to go to after school care, and could instead spend the afternoon drinking tea, eating fruitcake and playing in her extensive garden. During these afternoons I heard countless tales of her childhood. From the stories Grandma told me, she was a mischievous little girl who enjoyed clambering up trees with one of her sisters. Although I heard these accounts numerous times, I never tired of them. Afternoons and evenings spent at my grandparent’s home were a welcome break from the daily grind that can become a child’s life – the homework, bath and bed. I often find myself as a parent caught up in the banal world of parental tasks (laundry, tidying, cooking etc) and see how my children’s grandparents have more time to be fun and light-hearted. I try to remind myself that the chores can wait, that I should go and roll on the floor with my children. That is what is real and important.
The smell of my grandparent’s house is one that has stuck with me forever. It was never a musty smelling house, but one filled with fresh air, bright sunshine, and always some sort of delicious meal simmering away on the stovetop. As a result of years living across Asia, grandma’s curries and were infamous. As a wide-eyed little girl my desire to travel and explore exotic continents was ignited. Grandma’s life was such an adventure, of which she shared hundreds of little snippets with me as she stood at the stove stirring various delicious meals.
The most potent scent however, was always that of Grandma’s prized roses. Her garden was lined with rose bushes, bursting with the most vibrant flowers imaginable. They were kept immaculately pruned and every year produced the most sweetly scented blossoms. There was always a vase of them on the kitchen windowsill, basking in the morning sun.
I have had some of the most in depth conversations with Grandma at the kitchen sink, drying dishes. I still smile to myself regularly when I notice that I use her exact method of dish washing – rubber gloves, scalding hot water (for efficient disinfecting) and ALWAYS wash glasses first to avoid leaving an unsightly layer of cloudiness on them.
Grandma was an avid breeder of Schnauzer dogs. She won many a blue ribbon at dog shows and was known in the dog world as one of the nation’s top breeders. I remember the magic of being awoken one night when one of her dogs went into labour and observing the miracle of birth. I felt so important, like an assistant. It was a beautiful experience, completely silent except the tiny squeaks of these newborn creatures. Although it sounds fairly disgusting, I recall promoting my grandmother to some sort of God status after I witnessed her bring one miniscule puppy to life through mouth to mouth resuscitation.
One of the most endearing memories I have of Grandma is that of her bobbing about in the ocean in her 1920’s style swimming cap. I was aware that nobody else wore one of these peculiar rubber things on their heads but I admired my Grandma for not worrying what people may have thought. I have never ascertained whether she simply didn’t care about others’ opinions, or didn’t stop to consider there might BE an opinion other than her own.
As I write this brief memoir, my head has been swimming with memories. All have made me both smile and shed a tear when I think of Grandma now. Sadly she was moved interstate (in Australia) after my grandfather passed away, and now lives in an aged care facility. She has Alzheimer’s disease and doesn’t even remember that she and I are related. It is heartbreaking to watch the light slowly fading in her eyes as the vacant void creeps closer and closer. Writing this has reminded me how precious my Grandma is to me and how great a role she has played in my life. It has also emphasised just how fleeting our lives are and how speedily the years pass by.
My heart melts as I watch my children with their grandparents. The grandparent / grandchild bond is such a beautiful and extraordinary one. From what I have witnessed, it is pure, wise and gentle. I feel blessed to have known all four of my grandparents and even one great grandparent.
I dedicate this quote to my beautiful Grandmother:
“You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” – – Walter Hagen
Born and raised in Australia, Kathryn Jimenez was drawn to travel at an early age. Her passion for travel and musical leanings led her to a career in entertainment where she toured the world as a musician. On her journey, Kathryn found yoga as a means to exploring unity of mind and spirit. She has been dedicated to a six day a week yoga practice for over a decade now. After some difficult life experiences she found herself drawn to a new career path where she could share her own knowledge, experiences, and awareness of self in a way that could be of service to others. She is now a qualified psychotherapist, and is preparing to relocate to Huntington, New York by the year’s end. A wife and mother of three Kathryn is still dedicated to her passion for music and is the bassist in the band NY lights. She starts almost everyday with an hour plus of yoga, and will continue her career in psychotherapy once settled in her new home.