It seems to me that when we lose a loved one, we disconnect. There is an obvious break in communication with that person. We may still talk to them, but there is no response. It’s like speaking into a telephone and waiting for a reply but getting that silence on the other end, not being able to see facial expressions, to read the body language of the recipient. Panic.
Too often we lose other people connected to the person we lost. This is particularly the case when it’s a female that is lost. People gravitate to matriarchal figures. Grandmothers almost hold court. My maternal grandmother ran something akin to a soup kitchen on Sundays. From nine in the morning my uncles and aunts turned up with their children and the house was filled with noise. Her whole weekend revolved around this event. Saturday morning she would shop for breast of lamb, mutton and oxtail. She would then boil it all up on the stove and place the whole pan in the oven. It seemed to be a bottomless pan. On Sunday morning Grandma was first up and her main job was to thicken and brown the stewed meat. The smell wafted around the house and one by one, family turned up. Not just blood family, but friends of my uncles, friends of my cousins. She stood in the kitchen serving ladle after ladle of ‘stewpot’ to hungry mouths. It was never served in a bowl, always a plate and never a fork, just a slice of bread to mop it up. I liked mine with pepper on.
It was the way we connected. Sundays at Grandma’s house. I saw most of my cousins every week. Grandma had seven children and that meant a lot of cousins. Her garden had a bit of a bank in it and we all sat there with our stewpot. Then we would run amok.
On my paternal side, it was different. But if I ever saw my cousins, it was at Nanna’s house. The matriarch, again. She was the person I learned most from in my life. All the crafts I do, she taught me. Baking cakes, she taught me. Loving, she taught me. When she died in 2011 she left a gaping hole in me. I felt that was it, the end of my family. I missed seeing all the things she had, her china, her wool stash, her jewellery, her cuckoo clock. She was a typical Nanna with lots of trinkets. I felt disconnected when she went.
A few weeks ago my Uncle asked me to go and see him. So myself and partner went for the weekend. One of his daughters and his son were there. We had a fabulous weekend of drinking, playing games, reminiscing. It meant so much to me I cannot find the words to express myself (a rarity!)
All around me were Nanna’s things. The things I used to associate with just her. I saw old photos I’d never seen before. I feel completely reconnected to my Nanna. She hasn’t gone. She lives on in my Uncle. Her cheekiness is in him. Her generosity is in him. When we left he gave us a bag of vegetables from his garden, which is exactly what my Granddad used to do, but where my uncle gave us fresh beetroot, Granddad would have given us tomatoes. Seeing their things in my Uncle’s house was like being transported back into Nanna and Granddad’s house, the place I loved to be the most as a child. The place I was often denied by people I have no connection with. But that’s another story.