This meme popped up in my Facebook feed last night:
The first name that popped into my head is DD, because our time together feels so insubstantial at the moment. Also because I’m feeling a bit poorly and need a cuddle, but he’s away for work.
I thought I couldn’t say my boyfriend because that’s just lame when there’s a whole world of famous people to choose from.
Not one famous name came to mind. Instead, I thought how lovely it would be to sit on a bench with my Nan.
And then I crawled into bed with my runny nose and my sore throat and my tired bones and fell asleep feeling a little sorry for myself. (Also a little anxious because I’ve been having almost constant heart palpitations for the past two days. Please don’t make me give up caffeine, universe.)
When I woke up this morning my first feeling was relief that my heart hadn’t given out in the night, then I felt a bit giddy at the realisation it was my Nan’s birthday a couple of days ago.
I look the spit of my Nan. Even more so as I’ve grown older. It freaks my mum out sometimes.
My Nan passed away in 2010. I’ve written about her before, in a blog post called (ironically) How could I forget?
Whenever something big or exciting or annoying or unpleasant happens in my life, I still reach for the phone to call her. Her phone number remains indelibly etched in my brain. Except she can’t answer anymore.
We scattered my Nan’s ashes a few years ago – I accidentally scattered them all over myself as well as the Myall River – as my ex and the kids looked on.
We stood on the shore at Hawks Nest, near where she used to live, and I pointed out landmarks from tales I’d told the kids about my childhood – there’s the sandbank where Aunty Kathryn cut her foot … here’s where we caught guppies in buckets … those little balls of sand are made by the crabs digging … Nana Peg would wake us at 6am to swim in the king tides, the water would go right up to those boats resting on the grass … my great-grandmother lived on a houseboat that was beached just over there …”
I’ll never forget all the cool things she did for my sister and I as kids.
Like making our own meat pies on dinner plates and decorating them with the homemade pastry off-cuts.
And making a heart-attack-inducing slice every time we came to visit – biscuit base, caramel filling, Dessert Whip topping and sprinkles.
Packing picnics of cold pie and heart-attack slice and wandering along Hawks Nest beach to the base of Mount Yacaba to hunt for cowrie shells in the rock pools.
Filling an old wash-tin with sand and salt water, then adding guppies and brightly clawed crabs caught among the mangroves on the riverfront.
Buying mullet and bream from a local fisherman, tossing them in flour and Season-All and frying them with hand-cut chips in well-used oil. Then getting us to debone a special piece for Choo-Choo the dog to scarf.
Growing peaches and plums and lemons and mangoes and mulberries in the backyard and eating them straight from the tree.
Cultivating a mysterious and overgrown “fernery” for us to explore down the side of the house.
Waking us at dawn to swim in the Myall River during the chilly king tide.
Feeding us so much junk food on school holidays that we’d get heartburn.
Letting us watch so much TV our eyes went square.
Challenging us to endless games of Scrabble and dominos and Five Hundred.
Buying us holiday pets – guinea pigs, ducklings that mysteriously grew into geese, cockatoos … then tending to them once we’d gone.
Loving us hard.
Happy belated birthday, Nan. I miss you.
I wish we could sit on a bench together, looking out at the Myall River, and talk.