It's Grandma's birthday on Sunday. She died not long after I left Australia. I was thinking about that as I went to work this morning, and my grief just wouldn't move.
I remember the last day I saw her. I was preparing to leave home knowing I would never see her again. I went to visit her and Grandpa at their hospice (I think you can call it that). I spent a few hours there with Mum and the two of them. It came time to leave, and I was crying. I didn't see the point in telling her that I was leaving. She and Grandpa were pretty shaky by then, and we didn't know how they would handle it, or even if they could. She asked Why the tears? I can't remember what I said, but I remember the look in her eyes, and her stroking my hair.
She died a few months after I left. I got the news in Amsterdam with my brother. He went back to Australia. I stayed away. I remember crying for the longest time riding on a bicycle in Vondel Park.
I remember the first time Mum took me to her house to stay for the night. I was a toddler, not sure how old. Maybe 2 or 3? I virtually attached myself to the front door frame, stressed and scared by the prospect being away from mum. I wonder still if Grandma was upset that her Brown-Eyed Beauty was afraid to be left with her.
I remember feeling like the most responsible kid in the world when Grandma cut her hand on the cupboard latch as she was getting that monkey game out of the cupboard. She told me to run to the neighbour's house through the back gate to get help. I remember waiting in the sun room while medical things happened.
She loved blue.
I remember playing in the attic in their new house at West Lakes for ages. Grandpa couldn't even get up there. It was all mine, and they brought me provisions.
I remember warm milk, and sunday roasts, and lavender, and the mintie jar, and mouthing I love you for her so she could practice reading lips.
I remember being in a big church in Dresden with Dad after she had died. I lit a candle for her and Grandpa in the church and then cried with him as we told each other we missed them.
I like how my sister looks a bit like her.
I remember how she talked of me marrying, and being unsure of how to phrase that marriage was the furthest thing from my mind. I sometimes wish I had had a child while she was alive. Just to see her with my baby.
I brought a photo from home of her and Grandpa on their honeymoon in Melbourne (I think). They look handsome and happy and young.
I loved hearing the tales of her youth. Her hard work, and hard life. Tales of love and toil.
She would always say I shouldn't complain and call her husband a saint. As I got older I so wanted to hear what made her sad or frustrated or emotional. I never had the luxury of truly connecting with her as adults, even though she died when I was 30. I was always her grand-daughter, and it just wasn't appropriate to her I suppose.
I remember how small she was, and how she always claimed I continued to get taller. I like that when I hugged her she felt small in my arms; that I could protect her somehow.
I'm an Australian designer who specialises in digital and cultural work. Most of my career thus far has been on the web, but I'm excited that it's starting to creep out into the real world.
I am the founder of Museum in a Box, making interactive museum objects with simple, fun tech, for wide-as-possible distribution, and I own a company called Good, Form & Spectacle, making design in service to cultural heritage for clients like The British Museum, MoMA, and the Wellcome Trust.
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