So long, old girl

Margaret Campbell Johnson (née Gordon) 1920 – 2007

My grandmother died last night. My mother’s mother, ‘Granma’ we called her. She was 87 years old.

I lost both of my grandfathers at an early age – my mother’s father when I was just a toddler and my father’s father on my 10th birthday1. As such, many of my fondest childhood memories involve sleep-overs and sunny weekend and after-school visits with my Granma and Granny – the über-mothers, who (as luck would have it) lived around the corner from each other and just a short walk from my house.

Grandmothers come in all shapes and sizes. There are the grannies, nannas, nonnas, omas, kuias, ma-mas, nanny-grannies (yep) and granmas to name but a few. They’re all different – great in some ways, challenging in others. You can’t go wrong with a Granma, I reckon.

Granma had some funny ways about her2 and could be acerbic at times, but we kids knew that she loved us more than anything. She was always baking some tasty treat or another, and let us get away with murder. Almost. She had a big leather strap hanging in the wash-house that was mentioned and pointed to a hell of a lot, but to my knowledge it hasn’t left its hook since the day it was put up. The woman had an enormous heart and the patience of Job.

I was surprised to hear of her passing this morning, but to be honest I’m not really saddened by it. That is to say, I’m not so much mourning her death as her loss…

Granma was diagnosed with Alzheimers about 8 years ago, and had been in a nursing home since April 2000 (I remember this because it was just before her 80th birthday – kinda put a dampener on the party plans). I last saw her about a year ago, by which time she had been catatonic for a long while.

The Granma we knew has been gone for many years, and in some ways it’s a relief to know she is at peace now. I’m more upset by the sudden reminder of how the Alzheimers took her from us years ago, than by her inevitable death.

At the same time I’m also glad to once again remember the time we spent together when I was a child, and the mounting battle of wits we fought in my teenage years. She was a worthy adversary, as loving, kind and generous as a grandmother can be. So long, old girl.

1ObT. The magic number for men in my family is 58, which probably explains why all the photographs of my male ancestors show them with loads of hair. Hopefully this means I’m set to escape the ravages of Alzheimers, but just in case – Dave, you know where I keep the shotgun, right?
2For example, she could squeeze a penny ’til the Queen screamed for mercy.


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