I am in Scotland and so I was going to write about some of the things I have seen but I have just learnt that my grandmother died in the early hours of this morning Australian time, and so this post is for her.
She had a beautiful name, my Granny, so beautiful, that I named my daughter after her, Elizabeth. She was born in 1927, Elizabeth Enid Burnes, the daughter of a Sydney patent attorney of whom she was particularly fond and who had a fairly colourful family history himself. His ancestry included a convict (this is where the Burns comes from but was originally spelt without the ‘e’) as well as a well-to-do South African-German trade representative. Her mother was of Irish descent. She had one brother.
I spent a great deal of time at my Granny’s house when I was growing up and I enjoyed these times very much. She was a true matriarch and loved having her family near. Many large family gatherings were celebrated at her place and she loved these occasions. I remember them with fondness too and was envious when I moved away and could no longer be a part of them. Now I am sad that they are gone forever. They were always spirited and exuberant even though speckled with the obligatory family argument.
Before I left Brisbane for Christchurch, I lived near her and used to spend quite a bit of time at her house. We’d have a gin and tonic together and some good conversation. Granny had her wits about her until the very end and was always an entertaining conversationalist. I missed those afternoon sundowners with her very much when I moved away and I think that she did too.
Granny lived at home right up until the end. She would not have tolerated anything else. When asked once by a friend why she didn’t move into a retirement village, she said, “Because I hate retirement villages and I hate old people”.
She was a staunch atheist. Once when some Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the door and my Grandfather was politely hearing them out, Granny stormed in, told them to “piss off” and slammed the door.
Granny was clever. She had a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. This was fairly rare for women of her generation.
She had very good taste. Not many grandchildren can say they are happy to accept clothes from their grandmother and not only like them but also wear them. I can say this about my Granny. She loved art and accumulated an impressive collection of paintings over the years. There were always beautiful things to look at in her house.
When I was much younger, 5 or 6, she smoked cigarettes. She used to send me down the road to the local store to buy her cigarettes. The shop keeper knew her and knew that I was buying cigarettes for her so he always obliged. How times have changed! My granny gave up the habit not long after this time though and never smoked again.
Granny loved animals. Her house was always home to a number of cats or dogs or both. They were always part of the family and never sentenced to a life outdoors, away from people. She was kind to animals.
There was a certain disarray or disorderliness to her home. But I always found this very welcoming. A lounge was meant for sitting on and sharing conversation on rather than to be kept puffed, clean and unused. You could turn up at Granny’s house unannounced and she was always delighted to see you. It didn’t matter what time of day or day of week, she was thrilled to have company and there would be the promise of a comfy chair, a stiff drink and good conversation. This is how I shall remember her. Always.
She leaves behind 6 children, 12 grandchildren and 4 great-grand children. I hope I’ve counted them all!