My last grandparent passed away today. Nannie had been an amazing woman in her time, a wonderful teacher and carer for her community through her church, and an avid gardener, eventually becoming President of the Bonsai Society in Victoria, Australia. Her house was always a bit of a treasure trove for me as a child, with a morning room which was always warm, even in the depths of winter, and a lounge room which had lots of miniature tea sets and figurines which kept me happy as a small child. Then upstairs in one of the two attic rooms there was a room full of treasures: an old wind organ, boxes of my father’s comics from his childhood, golf clubs, chemistry sets, microscopes, an old lyra, and heaps of other odds and ends which would keep me entertained for hours. And then as I grew older, there was my uncle David’s fabulous science fiction book collection which beat all. Finally, Nannie’s garden was a complete spectacle. Always neat and trimmed, the place was like a miniature faeryland, with hundreds of bonsai trees in little pots on stands three deep, all under the shade of an enormous walnut tree, along the boughs of which the old shells of cicadas could be found. I always looked forward to being at Nannie’s because Nannie used to let me explore, and would answer even my most impertinent questions with patience and equanimity. And she encouraged an enquiring mind, taking us to museums and exhibitions when we were children, and allowing our questions throughout, whilst always commanding respect and interest from my brother and me.
Nannie always struck me as a determined woman, and of a kind not seen nowadays. She steadfastly wore her wedding ring through all the decades following her divorce, and she held to her faith in a manner which I can only admire, looking back – I never had such faith. She was old-fashioned in some ways, and yet she was a career woman long before that was regarded as commonplace. She found it difficult, I think, to express affection, and yet she clearly felt it for us, her grandchildren.
I’m glad I got to see Nannie when I was in Melbourne this year – I had a feeling then, that it was as if I was saying goodbye. She had been moved to a permanent care home, and she seemed much changed from the quiet but firm woman I had always known. But once again, as had always been the case with her farewell, she said ‘God bless’ when she said goodbye. I can only wish her the same now: God bless you, Nannie. And thank you for being my grandmother.