On a Monday and Wednesday, I’d hop on my bicycle and freewheel downhill to meet my Nan for our Tai Chi class. ‘You know, if it wasn’t for meeting you here this morning, I’m not sure I would have come this morning… Thank goodness for you, I always feel so peaceful after tai chi!’ one of us was bound to say to the other. And there we were, anxious and enthusiastic beginners, my 85 year old grandmother and I learning tai chi together.
This is how other days went: we’d have tea at her place while going through her latest emails. Photographs of her great-grandchildren, my daily drawing sent in the early hours, or general news from the family in South Africa, the UK or Australia. We’d talk about life, the universe and everything, but whatever we discussed, I realise now, my Nan was always there, completely present.
Sometimes I’d pop in with my dog, Mascara after a walk on the beach. Mascara, a lightweight 25 kg bullterrier would always run up the stairs ahead of me, to be the first at No 8. Her tail wagging in anticipation as she faced the closed door, patiently waiting for her great-grandmother to open it and say ‘hello Mascara’.
Sometimes we’d meet up at the end of the day and Marion would pour us each a strong g&t. We’d talk about the starling who had come to visit again, at the same time, at the same window, as it had done for an age. Or a white feather she’d found. Or she’d remind me that no she could not do tai chi on Friday because she had bridge but she could meet us for breakfast somewhere after art class another day. Sometimes we’d talk about life and literature… or how sad the sunset was that day.
When I think of her now, I think of her presence, her consistency, how brave she was, how objective and honest. I think of her touching the ground, legs straight, hands flat on the ground. I think of smoked salmon sandwiches and champagne. Of her Christmas puddings and Christmas cake and how her dining room and lounge would be transformed into one giant table every other year.
Who could have known that this inspiring, self-actualised, even-tempered, modern woman had once upon a time run off to join the army, that she had fibbed about her age to get in? Who could have known that she would meet Lad, a fighter pilot in her late teens and find such a love that she’d never known before? That they would have six children together and raise them on their farm in Magaliesburg… And then, who was to know that she would lose Lad to a brain tumour when he was only 42 years old.
Since then, Marion witnessed the cycle of life repeat itself many times: her grandchildren would marry and they too would have children, too many to keep up with. There were more losses: her mother, her brother, her sister, some of her oldest friends… and just recently, her daughter, Candy. One can think of it as terribly sad, the loss of a close friend or family member… but…
As her little great-grandaughter Chiara said the other day, ‘Nan is in the clouds… and I think Nan is in love.’
My grandmother left us one year ago, on 26 April 2013. So many happy times shared.