So today we “officially” said goodbye to my one remaining grandma, and people will (again) be wondering how this classes as a “happy” picture. It’s because, barring the sombre mood during the service itself, today was a day of smiles, laugher, chatter and family. Despite the circumstances, everyone who was at the crematorium when I arrived had a smile on their face. It’s not often family get together these days, and even with the sad circumstances we took it as a chance to reminisce and to catch up.
There wasn’t a huge number of people there because, frankly, by the time you reach 97 you’ve outlived most of your peers. Also, our family is pretty widespread and some just couldn’t make the journey. Those who did enjoyed some beautiful weather though, which definitely suited the mood. Not an occasion to mourn as such, but to remember the good times.
And that’s the sad thing. For the last decade, my gran couldn’t remember a lot. Where she was, who she was, who other people were. As a result, and related to those issues, she wasn’t the person we all knew when she was younger. It’s ironic that as I’m talking about all the wonderful memories we have of her, she spent many years with a memory that had effectively broken. I have loads of memories about my gran, and my times visiting her – and living with her for a short time when we were between houses while my dad moved for work.
She let kids be kids – old school. Which perhaps has some bearing on the fact that of the three times in my life I’ve needed stitches, two of them were at her house! I remember playing in the park with my cousins, with the school friends I had while I was living there, or with random kids who happened to be there at the time. I remember the boy a few doors round who threw what was supposed to be a tennis ball for me to hit with my brand new (plastic) racquet only for it to turn out to be a cricket ball so the racquet smashed. I remember the pedal car she had in the house for the kids who visited (and there were a lot of us) to play on, and how gutted I was when I outgrew it. I remember our first dog running away from her house because he hated going in the car (we got him back), and I remember our second dog passing away on her doorstep in her sleep.
I remember so many Christmases where she somehow managed to turn the house into a TARDIS and fed the physical laws-defying hordes from a small kitchen in a manner that puts handing out a few loaves and a herring or two into the shade. I remember writing out my list for Santa which she popped into the hearth while the fire was roaring so it flew up the chimney (and got burned to a crisp) so that it would get to the North Pole.
I remember having a record player in “my” room there, and listening to the police chatter on my old radio. I remember running the cold tap in the bathroom to fill the sink then plunging my head into it to cool down on hot summer days. I remember her toast being amazingly buttery and her tea perfectly milky. I remember her baking being the envy of Mr Kipling. I remember my grandad lighting his pipe in the back of the car and her telling me “It’ll be OK soon, that’s the pipe with wine in it” (it wasn’t OK).
I remember her spending hours working for Save The Children. I remember her buying me comics from Johnny, the guy who ran the corner shop (it will come as no surprise to many of you that I still have most of them). I remember getting a roll and chips as a treat from Neptune’s Place/Plaice. I remember her watching Crossroads, Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Take The High Road… and being vocally unimpressed when I was watching the beginning of The Young Ones‘ episode “Time”.
I could go on, but I won’t. The one thing that links every memory – every one – is that they’re happy. Even when they weren’t at the time (those stitches…) I look back on them fondly. Hey, smashing my head open on the coffee table meant that I didn’t need to eat the stew I had for dinner and I wasn’t that keen on it. Score.
It is cruel that someone who I have so many wonderful memories of began to struggle with hers as she aged. The collection at her funeral was for Alzheimer Scotland. If you have a few pennies, please feel free to throw them in their direction so they can help sufferers and their families.
RIP Yvonne Purdie, beloved granny. 23rd Jan 1922 to 6th July 2019. That’s a hell of an innings.