I found out today that my grandmother’s best friend and neighbour Tibby, who is well over 90 years old, has finally been moved into the local high care home. She’s okay, but her health has gradually deteriorated to the point that it’s best for her to be in a home.
The news has kind of shocked me. Tibby has always lived independently and to have her suddenly in ‘an old people’s home’ has given me the strongest melancholy.
My nan died very suddenly when I was sixteen years old. She was hit by a car as she walked home from church one Saturday night. Because I was so young when she died, my memories of her are sketchy. But I’m old enough to remember some of that era. I was born in 1969 and am the oldest of my cousins.
I’m not sure if I actually remember things from that long ago more than I have feelings of times and experiences. I’m not sure if it makes sense, but when I close my eyes I am transported back to 615 Samford Road where they lived. There was a well-worn path from Glenholm St, through Tibby’s yard into Nan’s place.
In my memory, Nan was the ultimate organiser and head of her family. She was very bossy and super organised – and could cater any size function. I remember big family get-togethers that ran like clock-work.
I remember my grandfather teaching me coo-and-can under the house, shelling peas in the kitchen, watching nan use cochineal to make sugar coated peanuts. I remember how she always had a couple of cold glasses in the fridge and a packet of Violet Crumble. I remember us sitting in the lounge and taking turns saying a decade each whenever we stayed over.
I remember Little Nanny (my great-grandmother) drinking her tea from her saucer – I don’t know why, and her sitting on the back verandah tapping her hands on her knees watching the day go by. I can remember Nan’s voice calling out for Henry (my grandfather) in her signature high-pitched yell that my sisters and I often mock to this day.
These are little inconsequential memories – nothing memoir worthy, but they are so incredibly real and immediate sometimes.
Nan’s old house on Samford Road was picked up and turn around to fit a couple of houses in the old block about ten years ago now. But Tibby’s house has remained the same all these decades on.
For me, Tibby is the last of a generation of old people in my mother’s family. Her life and her old house, for me are the final links to those days.
And I quite don’t know how to deal with it all. It’s the most ordinary yet strangest thing – growing old.