I’m not sure exactly why, but I’ve been thinking about my grandparents a lot recently. One of the reasons could be that someone at work was selling some knitted goods their mother had created and was donating all the proceeds to a prostate cancer charity. I don’t know the guy that well, but the way he wrote about it made it seem that someone he loved had been affected by the illness in some way.
It got me thinking about my Granddad, and then all my other grandparents. I always think of my Grandparents from a child/young person’s point of view. I had lost all my grandparents by the time I was 21, so it’s difficult not to. I like it that way though. You know when you are a kid, that feeling that you get around your Grandparents? For me it was like having this magical glow inside me, like glitter bursting to erupt. I loved all my Grandparents equally but I was closest to my Nanny Shea (my Mum’s Mum).
Let me tell you a bit about my Nanny Shea:
She was awesome. Thinking back now as a woman, she was incredibly inspirational, but whilst I was a child she was just the coolest Nanny ever. I don’t think I ever referred to her as my Grandmother, always Nanny Shea, or Nan.
Nan was the youngest of 13 and was originally of Jewish heritage but had converted to Christianity around the time she met my Granddad (Mum, I’m a bit rusty on the facts, so you might need to correct me a bit here). She didn’t have children until a bit later in life after being told she couldn’t. So she adopted a boy, but then went on to have three girls.
She was stunningly beautiful in her youth, and as she got older she hardly had any wrinkles. Apparently the Shea’s have good skin. My Mum and Aunties are the same!
Every now and again when me and my sisters are all together at Mum’s house we get out all the old photos of Nan when she was younger. I love looking at these photos, I love seeing pictures of Nan just hanging out as a young woman with her mates. I could look at them for hours.
Nan loved all of her Grandchildren, and she really doted on us. Equally she pushed us with our education and sometimes as a ‘present’ she would get us some books to help with our reading and writing. You know..the ones you get in WH Smith. I remember she tried to teach me shorthand when I was a child. I wasn’t that interested in short hand, but I loved the bones of her and would do pretty much anything she asked.
We saw our Nan very regularly, she would get the tube over from Camberwell (a fair old trek) on a Friday afternoon and Mum or Dad would pick her up at Hatton Cross. She would stay a couple of nights and then we’d head back to hers on a Sunday morning. We’d go to church (which was literally a couple of streets away from her house) and then we’d all go back to Nan’s for some Sunday lunch.
My sisters and I had great fun with her, she used to babysit us quite frequently when we were small, so that Mum and Dad could have a break and we would get up to all sorts of mischief. Me and my sister Ruth would sneak downstairs after we’d been put to bed and dare each other to steal Nan’s newspaper while she was dozing on the sofa.
There’s lots of things I could say about my Nanny Shea, she was hilarious, but I’d be here all day.
Nan was always there for cuddles, and she always made me feel safe and happy. I was ten years old when she died, and I can’t quite believe that was nearly 20 years ago. I miss her.
Unfortunately I never got the chance to meet my Granddad, he passed away long before I was born, when my Mum was a small child. I’m told he was funny and loved my Nan and his children to bits.
Nanny and Granddad Orr
My Dad’s parents lived ‘up north’, a good couple of hundred miles away from where we lived, so we didn’t get to see them often. Normally once or twice a year we’d made the long trip over to see them. Nanny always baked delicious fluffy cakes. Granddad always had loose change in his pocket and would give us all £1 and tell us not to tell our parents. There was the ‘pop’ cupboard. Granddad would always ask in his strong Derry accent if we wanted any ‘pop’. I remember not really knowing what this was at first, or why they kept it in a cupboard. I always said yes though, and had a warm fizzy drink. I don’t remember much about our visits to their flat, but I do remember the family gatherings we used to have. My Dad’s side of the family is huge, and an Orr family knees up is not to be missed! They do know how to have a party!
I remember one year, I think it was for Christmas, having my Nanny Shea and my Nanny and Granddad Orr in one place. I don’t know if my Nans had ever met each other before that, maybe once or twice? They seemed to get along. Nanny Orr was wearing a blue dress, and we were sat in the bar at my Aunty Wendy’s hotel while she taught me how to do this weird trick with my fingers.
My Aunties, Uncles and Cousins were playing trivial pursuit, which Granddad was kind of dibbing in and out of, and my sisters and I were running around the hotel playing hide and seek and hiding in the cleaner’s cupboard. I’m sure it must have been Christmas, I was very young, must have been about 5 or 6 years old. It’s one of my favourite childhood memories.
I treasure all these memories. I don’t think about them all the time, but sometimes its nice to reflect back on my childhood. I’m so thankful for the upbringing I had, for the fact that I got to spend that precious time with my Grandparents.
I feel warm and cozy when I think about them. I think that’s how its supposed to feel. Just love.