December is full of memories for me, not good ones for the most part. It's my beloved Aunt Sylvia's birthday on the 4th, she would have been 75, she died 2.5 years ago. And the 6th is the day my lovely friend Toni-anne died last year. Then of course it's the 2nd anniversary of my Mum's death on Christmas Eve, and my Nanna died on Boxing Day many, many years ago. Nanna I visited in hospital on Christmas Day, the day before she died, I was 14 at the time; I saw Sylvia in hospital the day she died (she was comatose); I got to the hospital on Christmas Eve 10 minutes after my lovely Mum died. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see my friend Toni (Covid restrictions and she was too weak to receive visitors anyway) but was able to speak to her on the phone 3 or 4 weeks before she died.
The best way I can deal with this is to think of a happy memory of all of them. So here goes.....
I'm the eldest grandchild and had a very close and special relationship with my Nanna. My Grandad did the football pools for years and years, almost never winning anything. A few months before Nanna died, she too started doing the pools, her health had gone downhill and she was no longer able to go out regularly to the village hall to play bingo. Well, amazingly, Nanna won quite often, much to Grandad's surprise and annoyance - he used to spend ages agonising over who he thought would win the football games, whereas Nanna gave it no thought at all, just marking her coupons completely haphazardly. She only won pennies and the odd couple of bob (yes it's that long ago!), but she always shared her winnings with me, calling it 'our little secret'.
Sylvia had MS (multiple sclerosis....as has my sister). She never let it stand in her way, even though sometimes she was quite debilitated by it - her balance was affected terribly and she could hardly walk when she was having an attack. Sylvia loved bingo (she was her mother's daughter), she went to the Mecca bingo hall at least twice a week, even when she wasn't well. I started going with her when she was in the throes of an MS attack - she still insisted on going, and I wanted to make sure she actually got there safely. One Sunday we were on our way to the bus stop for her regular Sunday after lunch game of bingo, Sylvia was having a particularly bad attack and was very unsteady on her feet. All of a sudden she tripped and fell over, she rolled gently off the kerb and into the road.....fortunately, as it was a Sunday afternoon years ago, there was hardly any traffic about.....unfortunately, it happened literally right outside the open doorway of the local pub. The pair of us were in fits of giggles, absolutely helpless with laughter (Sylvia was unhurt), with me spluttering at her 'get up you daft moo, everyone will think you're drunk!'. Sylvia was the funniest person I knew, we were always laughing. I spent a lot of time with her, living with her for weeks at a time.
Toni-anne was artistic and stylish, and very individual. She was extremely well read, knowledgeable and fiercely exacting about correct spelling and grammar - poor grammar or spelling, particularly in print, was a real bugbear of hers, and she wouldn't hesitate to pull people up on it - in a nice way, not telling them off. She sounds forbidding, but she wasn't at all - she was quiet, but with a wicked very dry sense of humour. I said she was artistic - she took lovely photographs, especially close ups of flowers or insects. The thing that stands out in my mind though is the very first time we went to visit her at home - she lived in an upstairs flat, the stairs rising from her front door up to a small hallway leading to her lounge. The balustrade at the top, around 6ft in length, was completely covered with colourful scarves tied around it, making it an art feature, it was a glorious view as you climbed the stairs. She said she'd done it because it was easy to pick out a scarf to go with her outfit of the day - she was being typically modest, a lot of thought had obviously gone into it. She loved colour.
My Mum - well, where to start? Mum was known for having a wacky sense of humour, she would laugh until tears rolled down her face at the stupidest of things on TV.....the comedy programme Some Mothers do 'ave 'em, starring Michael Crawford and Michele Dotrice, was always one of her very favourite programmes, even repeats she'd seen umpteen times would have her crying with laughter (I never thought it was that funny!). Us siblings all have a photo of Mum sitting at the dining table with a tea cosy on her head....it was a long time ago and none of us can remember why! Some silly game, I expect. Mum was never afraid to say what she thought, even more so as she got older, it could be embarrassing at times. I remember being in town with her one day, I was accompanying her to a hospital appointment. The road we had to walk down had very narrow pavements and there was a builder's van parked up ahead of us, partly on the pavement, which Mum tutted over. As we got alongside it, having to squeeze past, Mum noticed a man in the driver's seat - she lifted her walking stick and rapped on the passenger side window, the man lowered the window and probably wished he hadn't as Mum proceeded to give him a right tongue lashing for being so inconsiderate. He just looked at her in open-mouthed astonishment, clearly thinking 'how is that coming out of that sweet little old lady's mouth?!' (she didn't actually swear, but really told him off). "Well, that told him, Mum!" I said.
Thank you for the suggestions of decorating my Christmas tree in Mum's memory.....I did have to smile at the irony of that. Mum was a very staunch Jehovah's Witness and as such never celebrated Christmas, the idea of me decorating and dedicating my tree to her would have her turning in her grave (if she had been buried). Whilst she never ever put up any decorations herself, she wouldn't have been disapproving of my doing it, she would merely have given me a 'look' and a little smile and said something like 'well, it's on your conscience, not mine, love'.