My intuition and sense of ‘gut’ generally serves me right and I am really beginning to appreciate just how strong it can be, even connecting to those people who I consider to be not all that intimately close to. Sleepless nights, and an uneasy feeling, even tingling in my left-hand side, and an urge to cry spontaneously; by allowing myself to listen to my ‘own’ is liberating and sometimes frightening, knowing that someone is telling me goodbye before they go. And so it was yesterday one year a ago I started this blog… I thought I best finish it, but not before I update it at the end.
A YEAR AGO
My little family lost the last of its Grandmothers last week. My hubbies ‘Bush Nan’ let go of her daily fight, and walked on over to a place where there is no more pain, no more frustration and she can now rest easy knowing she was very loved, and absolutely adored.
It’s been seven months since the G Mart went to be with her late children, and then January of this new year, my own Granny Holland also closed her eyes for the last time, forever. That one was tough for me. She was undoubtedly part of my heart and I haven’t talked about her much until now. It hurts me so. Losing three grandparents so quickly, has rocked my little world a bit, and it’s not over yet I suspect. My absolute hero, my Pop is still with us and even though he says he is okay, we all know his heart is broken and he’s biding his time to see Gran again.
I guess I, and my boys, were very lucky to still have them around and present for so long. I never really appreciated just how special it was until now; but those doors have now closed and there will be no more chats, and hugs, and the random letter in the mail, or birthday texts.
I’ve blogged about the G Mart many times, and so too my Granny Holland, but someone who I hadn’t really dialled in on yet, was Bush Nan. Her funeral yesterday was a huge gathering of family, extended family, friends and of course her immediate beloved. We chatted and laughed about her life, and man, was it jammed packed full of love and selflessness.
The first time I met Nan (and just quietly, the entire in-law family) was at my first official engagement via an invitation by proxy to a wedding; Ben + 1, in November of ’95 – I think? It was only a brief encounter that night but she was warm and kind, and that’s the way she stayed. Some 25 + years later, Nan was as much my own blood as she was to my husband. I loved her entirely.
So, when I started this particular blog twelve months ago I never really finished it knowing that in my gut it wouldn’t be long before my strong and loving Pop Holland would make his final journey to Gran. It’s been just over a year.
A rushed drive with my sisters to Hopetoun allowed me to say goodbye to him. I stroked his soft white hair from his forehead, kissed him gently and told him I loved him before saying “I’ll see you soon”, and that heavy walk out the door knowing that I would never again see my Pop broke my heart. We buried him Wednesday last week and while I have many, many memories of my Pop, I wrote this to read on behalf of all the Grandkids.
Today I have the privilege of speaking not just for myself, but for all of Pop’s grandchildren. We are many, and he was so very loved. To do this, and to describe how and why Grandad was so important to each of us separately wasn’t easy, but I tell you now, there were a few common themes as all the messages from my cousins started coming through.
My earliest memory of Pop is of him lying under a car out in the shed. I might have been a barefooted three or four year-old. He was wearing dirty patched trousers and I think a T-shirt; as he dragged himself from under the car and out, he pointed at me to “get some bloody boots on” … That was his rule number 1. No shoes, no shed, and while we all thought it was a stupid rule, we all knew it early in our lives after enduring a steel splinter, cut foot, wood splinter, grease between your toes or oily feet. Rule 2 was Welding equaled a closed door and no entry. Our Grandad was; a gentle, caring, strong, respect demanding, shed tinkering, good bloke who loved each single part of his family unconditionally and his un-obvious advice and yarns along with the shed rules were solely to protect us, to guide us and to show he loved us. We heard you Pop.
He was known as Grandad to majority of the grandkids, but to myself, my sisters and our kids, he was Pop. It never mattered to him as I guess it wasn’t the most important thing for him, as he himself often called us by the wrong name or a name that isn’t even any of us like Mary Jane… who was she? I wasn’t alone in spending my school holidays in their home at 1 Ford Street; for a good bunch of us it was our school holiday haunt. Years of bindy-eyes, baths in the concrete wash troph and itchy skin from rolling around on the front lawn under the hose. I remember waiting for Pop to get home from work with his left-over lunch… or more so, the square Tupperware container of uneaten cold bread and butter pudding with custard. I’m not sure if he saved it for home on purpose for me to eat way back then, but I’d like to think so. Gran and Pop always had a bucket of nectarines, oranges or mandarins waiting when we arrived. Pop had a pretty decent green thumb when it comes to fruit trees and I am pretty sure we all loved him for it…and the Choc coated Ice-creams in the freezer, choc coated nuts, licorice all-sorts, barley sugar and cream biscuits. Pop loved the good stuff.
Anyone who knew Pop also knew that he was a Mischief with a capitol M. Always the prankster, jumping out from fridges and doorways scaring the life out of you, giving a ‘boo’ while you sat on the swing out the back, or from behind the door of the back dunny, maybe squeezing your nose as he walks past, or even a little pinch on the back of the arm while he screeched in your ear. He had a playful rat bag streak that kept us all on the tips of our toes waiting for the next jump. A riddler and rhymer who always had a ditty ready for the kids.
He was one of the hardest working men I knew. Life is tough in the Mallee; he worked in the heat and extremes, he was one tough bloke. He saw the toll of war, lived through The Great Depression, he knew hunger and hard work thirst. It all made him who he was; calloused hands, skun knuckles, bronzed skin and faded blurred tattoos. He sought out a reprieve with his hundreds of birds in later years and I really think they made it okay for that moment when he needed them in his life. The birds were always a keen attraction for all the grandkids, and a nice way to bond with him; not so much the wretched screeching Guinea Fowl alarm system out the side which I think he put round there on purpose to wake us up every morning.
It’s really hard to talk about Pop without mentioning Gran. Pop loved Gran fiercely. She was his life, as he was hers. They spent every sleeping and waking hour together in their later years, but in earlier years he loved to remind me that every time he threw his britches on the bedpost there was a baby nine months later … while shooting the sneaky wink. It took me years to cotton onto what he was talking about! It wasn’t uncommon to hear him out of no-where proclaim “Geez I love you Margaret!” across the dinner table, or witness Gran with her hands in the kitchen sink, being pinched on the bottom and Gran would scold him with an, Oh Dad! He only had eyes for Gran, that was for certain and he wasn’t afraid to show it. I adored how he loved her, and my boys saw this love too. I for one have always tried to live and love by his one piece of advice to me for a long and healthy marriage after I asked him a little while back, “You never go to bed angry, ever.” He was a smart man our Grandad, a true example and model to live by, of which many of us have.
Pop would always have time. It was nothing to jump in the car and travel to attend weddings, birthdays, sport events, or to just keep you company. The caravan opened their world and enabled them to travel across Aus to see family and friends. It was never too much trouble to just be there.
Pop’s 92 years were a vast celebration of a life well lived, surrounded by siblings, extended family, a wife, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and while we say farewell today, it is certainly not forever. He was a generous man with his time and love when it came to his Grand kids and was always there when you needed anything so in true form, he gifted a bunch of us grandkids a few decades ago with a token Brass Razoo. As he placed mine in my hand with a gripped fist like it was his very last Razoo… patting me on the head, then grabbing each of my shoulders looking me in the eyes, he states “now Naomi, you can’t say I didn’t leave you a brass razoo!” I have it here with me today and while I have this in my hand, and your horseshoe pin on my heart pop, I’ll be all the richer for having been blessed with you as my Pop Holland. We are all so blessed Grandad. Thank you for just being you.
Grandparents are so important in a child’s life. They emanate an aged love that can only be replicated after decades of parenting their own children, sometimes starting over and fixing what they did wrong as a parent, by being a present and attentive grandparent and in these cases, Great Grandparents. At seventy, eighty and even 90 years of age, they were still learning, and trying their best to be the best they could be. From seasons and seasons of tough days spanning decades they gave freely an unwavering love and constant moral being for those they held dear. Their own parenting mistakes never forgotten; showing forgiveness and compassion that released any awkwardness from you staying away too long, or not calling. They understood. I was guilty of that; staying away too long. This, I believe, is one of my lessons and from the love and respect I received from my own Grandparents for forty plus years, I too one day will be a Grandmother in the future that can be counted on, unwavering and constant, who pours love over the children around me. I’ll honor my own grandparents by doing that. I’ll adore my future grandchildren, if I am blessed enough, with the same generous and staunch love I have been so lucky enough to experience.
I couldn’t be more grateful for their lives lived than I already am. Privileged to have known them all, and loved them all, blood or not.
Rest In Peace Granny Radburn, Granny Mart, Granny Holland, Bush Nan and Pop Holland.