Well, it was never Grandma until later — we called you Nanny so as not to get confused with grandma and grandad, my father's parents. I have memories of going swimming when we were very little, at Bedworth baths. Later on, walks in the park behind the Civic hall, always lovely lunches, the beautifully kept houses, the apple tree and the big swing in the garden.
Alas, I also remember the rows. We were not well off and my father felt it unfair that we made all the effort to see you — and for some of my childhood we were without a car anyway. Grandad didn't like "visiting" his step-children's families, and you didn't drive. We regularly exchanged visits with my paternal grandparents who were more than happy to do the 40 mile round trip from Hinckley. I wish now that you had insisted on coming more. Bedworth is what, 10, 15 miles north of Coventry?
I remember Charlie the daschund getting into Mum's shopping, and scoffing half a pound of black licquorice and a packet of Polo mints before anyone caught him, Mum being worried it'd harm him, and you laughing that his output would be foiled-wrapped for the next few days. You had a silly sense of humour and I loved your laugh. You were very crafty; I'm still using your cushions you made me from xmas 2016, on our bed, when I want to prop myself up to read.
Both you and Mum have told me snippets of your early life — running away from home, abuse, eating from bins, being passed around various relatives. Living in a tent in a field, with my uncle and mother as toddler and baby respectively. Enough stuff to give Catherine Cookson a run for her money.
Now you are no more — you died as you lived, on your own terms, and in your own bedroom. I'm grieving because I wish we'd connected more — all of us — and bridges not maintained a long time ago are now broken irrevocably. It saddens me to see my half-cousin's children — whom I have never met — on Facebook for the first time. I don't even know their names. I know families grow like weeds, grow apart. But knowing that doesn't make it less hard to bear. Divorce is less stigmatised now than it was then, why punish your previous children with less love because of their parentage? You loved them in your own way I think, but you just didn't understand why they turned away.
I was engaged myself, once — for all of two weeks — when I was 19. Having not seen you in a few years, and meeting at some family gathering in Exhall, I was excited to show you my £32 ring (no diamond for me, a cubic zirconia no less!). Instead of congratulating me or asking about a date (we never got that far, alas), you merely commented that you could no longer wear rings as your fingers had swollen. It hurt, but I guess I glossed over it — it was just the way you were, wrapped up in your own little world I guess. I'm grieving now because we had a lot in common — our ribald/dry sense of humour, our creativity — and I wish we'd been closer. It was not to be.
I need to keep smiling and remember the fun stuff. I've got your (very phallic) stress banana on my desk. I will miss you Nanny. You were a force to be reckoned with, and I hope I've got some of that within me.
Sleep softly. And if you can't do that, I'm pretty sure the angels would love some new curtains or cushions!