My grandad’s partner died
Seven days ago. Seven days and he didn’t tell me – for fear that it might disrupt my day to day, because he was worried it might upset me. And my grandad’s partner doesn’t incur much sympathy from friends or from family who find it so easy to say well, she wasn’t your grandma. But wasn’t she? My grandma died before I was born and so I knew Barbara from the time I was 3. That’s 20 years. What makes a grandma? Is a grandma someone who cooks you dinner, buys you gifts, holds you, watches TV by your side? Is a grandma someone who teaches you to knit and write and read and pretends that your projects are worthy of display? What about a woman who takes you in when your parents aren’t around, who adopts you from the horrors of home? Who enjoys your visits even when her mind is falling apart, even when she can’t remember how old you are or when you met or what breed your dog is. She wasn’t your grandma. Okay. Fine. My grandma stepped aside when my parents abused me, when I was hurt, when I was bullied. But Barbara she let me dress up in her jewellery, she lent me her childhood books, she let me sleep in their bed when I got scared. She acted as mother and grandma and friend when she didn’t have to; when nobody asked her or required her to step up. If that isn’t a grandma or better than, if I haven’t a right to cry and mourn her and write up her memory then I want no part in anyone else’s definition of family.
It happens to all of us; she’s better off. Said my grandad, the same strong, pragmatic man who waited seven days to tell me she was gone. But it doesn’t alleviate my sinking heart, my feeling that the pseudo-family I have built will drop away one by one until only my blood relatives are left.
And what then?