Sunday, March 28, 2010

Memories of My Nan

Rita was born in November 1915 to Mary (May) & William (Bill). 
She had no middle name and always wished her mother had called her Rita Mary.  She gave her daughter Mary as a middle name and at one point I was considering giving my own daughter Mary as a middle name.

Many people called her Reet.

I called her Nan.

She had three younger sisters, three sons (my dad was her second) and one daughter, and five grandchildren.  I was her eldest grandchild.

I was very fortunate to grow up on a dairy farm and my Nan lived just next door, just a jump over the fence, we hardly ever used the gates.

We had to walk past her house to get to the dairy and almost every time we did we would hear her calling, "Hello Darling. Can you come in for a cuppa?" from her front door.

My parents never had to worry about finding a baby sitter. Her house was really a second home to us.
Nan was the spoiling kind of grandmother. Every time she went somewhere she'd bring something home for us.  And every Saturday we would drive with her to the local shop for the papers and she would buy us a bag of mixed lollies or an ice-block.  I always had a Have-a-Heart or a Jelly Tip.

My Nan was a lady with a big laugh and a big personality.  She had a lot of friends and family and was often on the phone. She'd say, "That was just Aunty." When you questioned her, aunty who? She'd reply, "You know, Aunty."

My Nan gave the best cuddles and was quick to boast about our achievements to everyone.

One thing we did a lot of at her house was baking.  My Nan was an excellent baker.  Her specialty was sponge cakes, heart shaped ones with pink icing were my favourite.  And her mulberry pies were to die for.  One of my favourite childhood memories is picking a bucketful of mulberries from just beside the chook-pen.  We'd come home with purple feet.

Her nephew, the TV chef Peter Howard, says his love of cooking came from helping his Aunty Rita in the kitchen.

My Nan would take my brother and sister and I for picnics down by the billabong (yes, we really did have one of those!)  She'd pack all sorts of goodies and apples.  She used to scrape apples with a teaspoon for us, delicious!

I have a distinct memory of watching her from our kitchen window as she walked slowly with a heavy bucket to feed the calves, something she did every afternoon until her ankle became too bad to walk on.  I must have been about high school age. I thought, "One day we won't have Nan with us anymore." That was a painful realization.

Two weeks ago we went to the farm for the weekend.  Nan has not been in her house for close to ten years but I still call it Nan's house.  I was on the balcony of Mum & Dad's house pointing out something to my five year old boy, "just beside Nan's house."  He asked who Nan was. I told him she was my grandma, my Dad's mum, and that she saw him when he was a little baby.  He asked if she was alive in Heaven now and I said that she was and that I believed she was now an angel and that I talk to her all the time and can still hear her voice.

I lost My Nan five years ago next Sunday.  But to be honest we lost her long before that. Her memory went. The last time I saw her was at her aged care facility with my husband, my 17 month old son, my mum*, my brother, his wife, their 7 year old daughter, my sister, her husband and their three children under five.  It was a room full! She was very frail but talked away like she knew us.  As we were leaving she asked my mum, "Where's Thea's baby?" She had been asking and asking for weeks to see my baby.  I had just been showing her my boy but I turned around and said, "Here Nan, here's my baby."  She said, "Oh, isn't he lovely?" I told her I thought he looked a bit like my uncle, her first born.  (She forgot a lot of things but she never forgot her own children.)  She told me to tell him that, "He'd like that." And I never saw her again.
Mum called one week later to say, "Nan passed away in her sleep last night."  We were all so glad we had been to see her.  I still get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat thinking about it.
I do not remember if it was the day I heard that Nan had gone or the day after, but I do remember walking outside into our back courtyard and having the most incredible sense that Nan was everywhere.  I felt like she was totally filling all of the space around me.  It was beautiful.
My Nan may no longer be with us in the physical sense but she is very much with me spiritually.  I talk to her often and I can hear her say, "Hello Darling," "That's alright, Love," and "Isn't she/he lovely."

She's my angel now, of that I am sure.

* My Dad was in hospital after surgery to remove a melanoma.

Disclaimer - I did not draw that sweet Nana Angel, I found it in a Google image search.


  1. Oh Thea. Crying. Your Nan sounds amazing. Lovely post. Sniff.

  2. Another crying Lucy here! A beautiful post, don't Nans give the best hugs ever?! xx

  3. She was an amazing women with arms wide enough for everyone

  4. I'm in tears, too. It will be one year next Monday since my dear Grandma passed away - she was a second Mum to me. I actually feel the same way you do. I know she is gone but at the same time I know she is still here.

  5. Thanks for sharing you Nan with us Thea, what beautiful memories you have. I am sure she is indeed with you every moment of every day. xxx

  6. Gorgeous post, Thea.

    How lucky were you to know her. By the time I was 7, all but one of my grandparents had died, and my paternal grandfather lived in Albany, so too far for us to see him often (he died when I was 14).

    However, I witnessed the beautiful relationship between my niece & nephew and my parents. A grandparent can be such a great comfort to many.

    I have no doubt she's watching over you.


  7. Oh Thea, To have such beautiful memories of your Nan is an incredible blessing. And by writing about her here you honour her life and her wonderful spirit. Fabulous work. xx I bet Nan would be proud as punch. :-)

  8. Oh Thea. I had a Grandma too. She lived around the corner and played a massive roll in my life.

    People tell me I am very like her. It is my favourite compliment.

    Aren't we lucky to have had such great relationships with our Grandmothers.

    Beautiful post. You have brought back mine for me today too. Grandma has been gone over twenty years now.

  9. A beautiful post, Thea. Your Nan sounds like a very special woman and you were so lucky to have her so close for so long. xo

  10. Beautiful post Thea. I too have a special relationship with my Nanna - I'm very lucky she's still alive and my children have grown up very close to their great grandmother.
    We all treasure every moment we have with her and each year I tell the kids this might be her last Xmas, but she's still around for the next.... very lucky indeed.

  11. Lovely Thea. What beautiful photos too.

  12. Thea, I'm holding back tears as I'm reading at work.

    What an amazing post, your Nan sounds like she was an amazing person and I bet she is looking down from heaven at you and thinking what a wonderful person you are.

    P.S. My Nan's name is also Rita!

  13. What a gorgeous post, but you really should have had a tissue warning at the beginning!

  14. A beautiful post Thea--you paint such a vivid picture of your beautiful Nan!

    Thanks for sharing her with us.


    PS: I need a tissue now.


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