The greatest grandma

Picture of Mary Gartland

Mary Gartland

A letter was sent in from Mary Gartland of Blackburn, Victoria regarding the passing of her mother in September 2018. Her mother had been a Majellan subscriber for more than 60 years. The following is a tribute written by Mary’s nephew, Michael.

When my sister Laura and I visited grandma, we could tell something wasn’t quite right. We sat down, then realised we would have to shuffle a bit closer than normal. Grandma’s speech was barely audible.

“How’s work Laura?” she whispered, “And does your boss treat you all right?”

“How’s work Mikey? And have you met any nice girls lately?”

How silly of me to think that anything would be different; grandma was still making us the priority. Although, I must admit, it was the first time she’d ever asked me if I’d met any nice girls!

I once wrote an article about the importance of grandma. But no story would be complete without a good photo, so my research began in the most obvious of places, our old family photo albums. I was spoilt for choice. I found photo after photo of grandma and myself with big toothy smiles plastered over our faces.

It was always a little weird to hear her referred to as “Cath”, sort of like when you put your t-shirt on backwards. It didn’t quite fit. I’d only ever known her as grandma, but this was so much more than just our link in the family tree, it was a mark of what grandma used to refer to as our “special friendship!”

When I was in early primary school, mum and dad were both working long hours and grandma lived a minute’s walk away, so I would be picked up by a family friend and dropped off at grandmas. Like fluffy little clouds, the most delicious scrambled eggs would be ready as I walked in the door.

Going to grandma’s place every day was like entering an unquenchable wellspring of happiness. I would go from being teased for having an overly large head to being the most perfect little boy on the planet.

I would go from being one kid amongst many to being the centre of her loving and undivided attention. Nothing was too tedious for her if I wanted to do it and nothing was too boring for me when grandma was involved.

The days I spent raiding the freezer for the last choc-top or the pantry for the last tic-toc were also the days I was instilled with a strong urge to be generous.

The days I spent talking non-stop about the latest cartoon were the days I was instilled with an appreciation for the importance of being present.

The days we spent watching ants and spiders go about their business were the days I was instilled with an appreciation for the gift of life.

The days I spent doing extra reading and learning new words were the days I was instilled with a powerful curiosity and a thirst to learn new things.

The days we spent exploring every corner of the expansive garden were the days I was instilled with an appetite for adventure.

On each and every one of these days, I was basking in the glory of grandma’s love. These were the days I was instilled with a powerful sense of the divine.

I have to say that references to grandma in the past tense, or allusions to her passing don’t really make much sense to me; in my mind she has attained a profound immortality.

Sure, it’s true that her memories will live on in us all and that people who knew her could share many stories that illuminate her special characteristics, but there’s something a little more subtle at play as well.

The values that grandma based her life on, the morals that shaped her worldview, the principles that informed her every interaction with another living being, live on in my dad.

I see them living on in my uncles and my aunties.

And every day I witness them in my siblings.

Such is the luminosity of grandma’s unquenchable spirit; they are present within everyone who had the good fortune to call her a friend.

And, as sure as I feel my own heartbeat, I feel the urge to be kind, to be generous, to be patient, to learn, to entertain, to be understanding and to be loving.

No, grandma cannot simply pass away because she is already deeply ingrained in each of us, and we have been conveying her spirit in our own ways, in our own lives, and on to people who never met her.

Alpha and Omega, just as our special friendship has always existed, it will always continue on.

The book, Being a Catholic Grandmother, is available from the Majellan Bookshop


Image: Wonderful memories – Mike and his grandma, Kath.

Share this article