N is for Nanna

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It’s actually pretty perfect that today is ‘N’ in my A-Z of Me, because I intended to talk about my Nanna, and I’ve been thinking about her all day. This morning she had surgery to remove cancer.

I’m still waiting to hear how she’s doing. My Aunty is at the hospital waiting to find out – at this stage I know that she’s in recovery, and she should be moved to a ward soon, so I guess she’s doing ok.

Nanna is a funny old thing. She was always little – her dad was a jockey – but in her old age she’s shrunk until she’s technically a dwarf. She measures in at a tiny 4’9” tall, although I’m pretty sure that her perm has grown proportionally in size to compensate for the height reduction.

She’s 81 years old but aside from this recent and sudden cancer thing, she’s the healthiest 81 year old I’ve ever come across. She still lives alone and does everything for herself. She doesn’t even wear glasses – 81 years old and she can still see as well as she did 30 years ago.
Try telling her that and you’ll be hard pressed to get her to believe you. Nanna loves to talk death – especially her own. She’s eased up a bit in the last few years, but it used to be that you couldn’t make plans more than a few weeks in advance because she was convinced that she would be dead before the time came.

If you told her you liked one of her belongings, she would tell you that you could have it after she was gone. She’d offer to stick a band-aid on the bottom of it and write your name on it so that her will wouldn’t have to be too specific, and no one would fight over her stuff when she had passed away. We joke about it all the time now whenever she mentions something that she owns – we’ll have a little fake argument over who gets to put their name on the bandaid.

Nanna has been pretty influential in my life. We spent a lot of time at her place when we were kids, so I have a lot of memories about the kinds of things she’s taught us.

Nanna was always our arts and craft grandparent. She loves to sew and to create, and she’s actually very talented at china painting. When we were little, we were always making things whenever we were at her house. Dorky fabric photo frames (with lace) and dolls clothes (with lace) through to paper chains to decorate the Christmas tree (lace optional). If we could dream it up, she would help us make it. They were the kind of things that you would expect to find in a house full of doilies and lace curtains (both of which she makes herself) – the kind of things that make us cringe to look at now, but that she still loves.

She‘s reasonably skilled at dressmaking, so a lot of the clothes I wore before I was old enough to pick my own outfits were made by her. It’s actually one of the main reasons that 80’s fashion will always make me squirm and that the return of shoulder pads horrifies me.

Nanna taught me to play cards. She taught me how to play rummy games and solitaire. We used to play blackjack and poker for matchsticks or snakes. Matchsticks were the norm, playing for snakes was high stakes – you could do well if you had the willpower not to eat all of your currency before the game was over.

She fostered in me my complete and utter hatred for washing dishes by forcing my sister and I to do them after every meal while my brother watched TV. It was an old fashioned gender allocated chore that the women did. She’s the reason I insisted on buying a house that had a dishwasher.

She’s an odd little lady who has a really good life and a pretty cynical outlook. I think I probably get that from her a little. Her cynicism is kind of endearing rather than annoying, and I love her to bits for it.

I know she’ll breeze through this minor hurdle, and I can’t imagine her slowing down any time soon, even to start putting band-aids on things.


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