Without Jeanie, (Jean to some), The Grantidote would likely never have come to be.
A Grandma to eight grandkids (of which I’m one), a mother of four and a sibling to no less than 9 brothers and sisters, my Grandma knew her share of busy households over her 88 years.
I've relied heavily on memories of my grandmothers as guiding lights for taking The Grantidote and all my writing about womanhood forward. Through both women I’ve seen the idea that the ordinary is the extraordinary brought to vivid life.
For now though, Jeanie - my maternal Grandma.
If you traced back through a map of what makes me who I am today as a friend, wife, mother, writer, cousin, runner and pissed-Abba wannabee singer, you’d find a good many roads leading to an intersection that's all about my Grandma.
My Grandma’s influence on me, my marriage and my children has been profound and most definitely of note. As an individual, a woman in my own right, my Grandma's influence on me is vast too. She modelled a readiness with laughter and a magnetism to those providing and encouraging it. That's a lesson that's secured my sanity on a number of challenging occasions. Another gem of equal importance was watching my Grandma's often hard-won adaptability. In quiet ways, when things were tough, she trusted and persisted.
In my earliest memories, my Grandma was loving but not traditionally maternal or domestic. In fact, in my grandparent’s house it was my Grandad I remember taking charge of the domestic stuff with Grandma in a support role. I might be wrong of course, a kid’s view can be perfectly tunnel-visioned, but that's how it looked to me back then. My Mum remembered it the same way and said that grew even more to be the case when her parents became grandparents. Maybe that's one of the roots making it weird for me to think of stereotypical roles for men and women in home environments as 'normal'.
It was when my lovely Grandad moved into a residential care home that I started to see my Grandma with fresh eyes. Now she was living alone, our interactions changed during visits. The parameters were altering as Grandma worked through a vulnerability she hadn't experienced before. Completely owing to her emotional openness at that time (and her apparent lack of fear about the same from others), we inevitably began to share more connected chats.
I guess, looking back, it's relevant that big events in Grandma's life coincided with me becoming an adult, too. We were relating woman to woman for the first time, rather than as grandparent to child. The nuance allowed us to become close in a way that hadn't been possible before. Group and small-talk gone, we started telling each other our stories; comparing notes on how our experiences were the same or different across generations. Often we’d listen separately to Woman’s Hour on Radio Four, comparing notes when we next got together. She gave me wisdom and a soft but crucial breadth of perspective. She told me I gave her opportunities to talk without anxiety about things she felt she couldn’t discuss with people her own age, like thoughts on abortion, politics or depression.
I remember being so surprised by how a link that had felt perfectly good could change and be revealed as having been static. As a result, a whole new dimension to relationships opened in front of me. Out of changing circumstances and loss, my Grandma had been re-given to me as a gift. How I related to everyone changed for the better.
My Grandma loved to go ballroom dancing. My Grandma favoured an occasional trip to MacDonalds. My Grandma suited hats. I think my Grandma may often have taken a back-seat because she felt a little overwhelmed by the views from the front.
My Grandma would laugh and cry and cry and laugh and sat with a hankie scrunched in her right hand, poised to dab tears. My Grandma arrived in East Kilbride from Dunoon via Govan, one of the first sets of post-war parents thrilled to be resettled in a brand-new house in a new town. My Grandma was once the wee girl second from the end at the right, in the middle row, next to her twin.
My Grandma was ace. I feel incredibly lucky to have had her.