Nan & Pa WW2

The thing with my memory is that my longterm memory is working just fine.  Which seems great in theory, but it seems that the hardest memories for me to let go of are the incredibly painful ones.  The ones that have changed my life profoundly, one way or another.

Obviously, when things happen in our lives that we have no control over there is an impact.  When that event is painful and one that hurts and the impact is sadness and grief it is really hard.  This can be made even harder when your brain has this ridiculous ability to hold everything like a snapshot frozen in time.

I wonder if I hold this snapshot because if I let it go even the most painful parts, then somehow I have convinced myself then I will forget everything.  I will forget all the good times and all the wonderful qualities and well then when the memory is attached to a person then it is like they have never lived.  I don’t know if this is true, even the thought of letting go is making my heart race and my breathing is becoming rapid, so I will just be for a little while and come back when this has passed.

Twenty Six years ago, I was just a few months short of turning 19 at the time and mostly recovered from my tonsil operation that I had a couple of weeks earlier (there is no better way to spend the summer holidays!)  It was a Thursday night like any other really.  The phone rang in the middle of the night and that never happened in our house especially then because my parents owned and ran a news agency so everyone knew that 830-9pm was really calling very late.

My Dad answered the phone and then I heard it the scream that I will never forget the only other time I can think of a scream just like it was a Friday in May 1998 when I was on the receiving end of the call that my parents had just taken.  But that is a story for another day.

February 1, 1990, was a day that my life and the lives of my extended family on my mum’s side permanently changed forever.  It was the day that I started to build a little wall around myself little brick by little brick.  The call Dad took was my Uncle calling to let us know that my Grandparents, my Mum’s parents had been tragically killed in a car accident.  None of it made sense I can feel that sense of complete confusion I felt at the time.

After that call my Dad made calls to his brother, my Aunt & Uncle came to stay with my brother and I until it was time for us to head over to the shop to open up.  Mum needed to be with her brother’s and sister and their families, Dad needed to take her and we needed to open the shop until we could get someone to come and cover the shop for them.  I will never forget the moment we kissed my parents goodbye not really sure when we would see them again but knowing it was the hardest thing I had even done.

That next day and the week after I can still tell you all about in lots of detail but I am not sure it is necessary or even helpful to me to still hold these memories.  Try as I might though my brain just doesn’t seem to want to let them go.  If I don’t remember the bad then how can I remember them I suppose I don’t know, I wish I did.  I wasn’t the only one whose life changed profoundly and forever that day there were 2 sons, 2 daughters, 2 daughters in law, 2 son in laws, there were 10 grandchildren who would never know life as it was in the before ever again.

My grandparents were wonderful people.  At least to us grandkids they were pretty awesome.  My Nannie could be strict but boy she could be a total pushover too!  My Pa he was a man’s man and he was always sleeping lol.  Pa had this amazing knack of falling asleep mid conversation and being able to join back in at exactly the right point it was always so funny growing up.

Nannie loved nothing more than to have fun with the grandkids and honestly she would do anything for us, except when we crossed the line.  Honestly sometimes you were never quite sure where it was until you crossed it but as soon as you had you knew it.  Nannie had a temper and we knew when we were in trouble.  This wasn’t often but it happened.  I don’t think Pa ever raised his voice to us kids I am not sure he had it in him honestly.

The things I remember most about Nannie was her love of life, honestly she would give anything a go.  There was a time when Nannie, Pa and my Uncle Gordon came to spend Christmas with us in Fiji and Nannie wanted to go snorkelling.  Nannie wasn’t used to flippers, goggles and a snorkel and the only real stroke Nan could do was breaststroke.  In the water she went with the all the gear on oh she was a sight to behold and she started to breaststroke.  The thing is flippers are not designed to do breaststroke and using a snorkel is actually quite a skill to master.  There she was in no more than two foot of water clearly just about to drown.  All she needed to do was stand up which she did eventually, she was perfectly fine, and gosh we had a good laugh about it but Nan would not be deterred.

There was another time we went to the growers markets in Canberra (they weren’t markets like we have today all trendy this was where you got your fruit, veg & meat).  Of we would all go in incredible safety in the Sigma station wagon Nan & Pa in the front, Mum & Dad and either my brother or I in the middle and the other over the back (often with the dog!)  This was around the time that Hubba Bubba was released in Australia.  My brother and I wanted some, Mum said no, Nannie went and bought some and had a piece (the main reason was if she was having it then we could!) This seems great in theory except for the fact that Nannie had false teeth.  Guess what Hubba Bubba isn’t non-stick to false teeth, well it might be now but it wasn’t in the late 70s’!  So this meant that we had to all go home, right then that minute because Nannie couldn’t be seen ever with no teeth!  In fact I think this was one of the only times I remember her with no teeth, I know I would try to get up really early for a snuggle and catch her with no teeth but you never got a kiss until her teeth were in, Pa was the same.  Nannie had taken out her teeth because she had gum stuck on them, what do you do with teeth that have gum on them wrap them in a tissue of course.  I’m certain it will come as no surprise that tissue also sticks to Hubba Bubba!  Home we go!  The only thing that got Hubba Bubba off her teeth was metho, no amount of brushing could get
that taste off the teeth, only time.

It wasn’t the first time and wouldn’t be the last time that Nannie would do something like that to justify the grandkids getting what we wanted against our parents wishes.  Pa was so patient and kind.  I honestly don’t think that Pa ever raised his voice to me in my entire life.  As I said Pa dozed a lot but  only when sitting around doing nothing and it was just one of those things we loved about him.  He was long suffering with Nan, goodness I can hear her saying “Frank! Fraaaank can’t you hear that noise! You aren’t in the middle of the lane” when he would drift onto the cats eyes that make that noise as you drove over them.  In all honesty Nannie yelling was louder but still he adored her.  Pa had hearing aids that I am sure he had switched off half the time so that he deliberately couldn’t hear Nannie but goodness she loved him too.

My last memory of Pa was actually the night of their funeral I was sleeping on their lounge room floor, Pa came to visit me and he told me that he loved me, he said that he and Nan were together and they were safe now.  I know that the most incredibly feeling of peace washed over me when that happened.  Maybe I imagined this to help comfort me, to help me process the tragedy in the only way I could, I believe that he truly came to me.  Who knows.

There are so many times since 1990 that I have wished more than anything that Nannie & Pa were still here.  I wish that they had been here longer for my younger cousins to have had more time with them, to have some of the memories we all have but it wasn’t to be.  I wish that they had been here to see at least some of us married and some of the great grandchildren born.  Last count I think there are at least 25 great-grandchildren though I think there are more.  Nannie would have just adored to have held our babies, gosh she would have fussed over them.  The amount of times I have cursed Pa for not being here because we have needed a plumber I have lost count.  We have lots of electricians in the family but no Plumbers!  Pa we miss you.  Mostly I miss Pa’s calm nature.

I know that if they had known what was coming it wouldn’t have made them happy, but I also know that they were together at the end and that more than anything was the right way for them to be.  They would do anything for their family, we truly were their world.

Besides if I ever really miss my Nannie too much I don’t need to look too far I only really need to give my Mum a hug because she is just like Nannie.

I miss you Nan & Pa no less today than when I first heard the news all those years ago.

Cathy xoxo

Please indulge me with a few photos it is hard to narrow it down to just a few. 
Nan & Pa

The Bookends and Brothers Brian & Gordon
Sunday Roast 

Pretty sure this is July 1986 with Renee

40th Wedding Anniversary

Nannie with her sisters Alice and Nina visiting from England

Uncle Gordon off to the Navy (didn’t last long) 

Nannie & Pa with Katrine, Kylee, Sean & Me

Nannie, Mum and I 
Fishing in QLD 
Pa & Gordon
Nan & Pa with Renee
Bula Pa! 
This is just so Nannie 

0 Replies to “Memories”

  1. Hey Kooky

    Thanks so much for the reply! I know that I didn't appreciate them as much when they were alive but what it did do for me was made me appreciate every minute I had with my Dad's parents. I tried to spend as much time as I could with them while they were still here and then after they passed away with my Nan's sisters to make sure I could get as much family history mostly all the family recipes! C xoxo

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