One of my earliest memories is being picked up from St Cuthbert’s playgroup by my Grandad, asking if we could go to the pub next door for lunch (answer was generally no), walking home through botanic gardens and then spending the next hour crossed-legged in front of the television watching Sesame Street whilst Momma made a three year old friendly lunch – sausage roll, baked beans and chips!
Grandparents have this stereotype attached to them – old, stuffy and an odd smell. My brothers and I were lucky to have the exception.
Known as Momma (an easier alternative to Grandma when you’re two), this woman was the bossiest, most loving and the glue that held us all together. Breakfast would always be chocolate brioche from Lidl, cereal or toast and of course your daily vitamin C and garlic capsules to ‘keep those colds away’. Stomach bugs were cured with flat coke and fruit pastille lollies, nails were cut every other Sunday night to near bleeding level and the chocolate and biscuit cupboard was always stocked! Never did anyone have to ask Momma for advice, it would be given regardless. If she was proud of you – you would know, if she was absolutely fuming with you – you would know, to be quite honest even if you had done something that had annoyed her a little bit – she would probably let you know! The strongest, most stubborn woman I will probably ever know.
Grandad (we had no other names for him, apparently we could get the ‘gr’ for Grandad but not Grandma) is the reason I passed my GCSE maths, he’s the reason I love reading Austen, Dickens and other Victorian literature, and he’s one of the reasons I made it to University. His artistic merit shone through my eldest brother’s art homework – John received straight As in art from years 7-9, but somehow never seemed to be able to work to this standard in class. He put hours into making us better chess players, which to some extent was successful with the younger two, but his perseverance was admiral. If we were upset he would comfort us, but at the other end of the spectrum when our parents wanted to threaten us at home all they had to say was ‘I’ll call Grandad’ and that would more than likely silence us! He was the picture of calm, patience and intelligence but also the most generous man that only ever wanted the best for us.
What made them fantastic Grandparents however was not only their individual merits and characteristics, it was the team they made and the environment they created for us to grow-up in. They took us to rehearsals, concerts, to collect important results, on holidays and even more trivial places like opticians and doctors. For many a year dinner was waiting at their house as soon as we got in from school and homework was done before any television was permitted. Whenever the going got tough at home, which was especially common during those challenging teenage years, they were the best escape.
A year ago today we lost Momma, and over three years since Grandad died and not a day goes by when we don’t miss them. It’s always difficult when they miss big occasions, important results, life changes or aren’t there to tell us to ‘stop being a great stupid child’ or to comfort us when things don’t quite go our way. No matter how much we miss them though, I know not one of us would exchange the memories we shared or get rid of the qualities we have got from them for anything in the world.