I’ve always been close to my grandparents. My childhood is littered with memories of time spent with them; Sunday afternoon dinners, birthdays and Christmases filled with excitement and laughter. I never went a week or two without seeing them. Even when I reached adulthood, my internal alarm clock would remind me to phone at least once a week for a chat and to plan a visit. Life’s eternal changes ring deep. The last four months of my life has brought changes I never planned or anticipated. I have given up a career in Police Scotland to pursue my dream of being a writer. I have returned home after years away. I’m starting again in every possible way. A feat that’s equally daunting and exhilarating.
So when my Dad phoned to say that at 86, my Nana had passed away, it was a sudden blow I never expected. She’s had Parkinson’s for many years, but it was losing my Granddad four years ago that led to her decline. They were always together and the loss of her Andy hit her hard. Sitting alone in the house listening to the dial tone after my Dad rang off, I tried to digest the news. It’s was difficult to fathom that I’d never speak to my Nana again, that I wouldn’t hear her laugh as I kissed her cheek goodbye and told her to behave herself. Then, without warning, the theme tune for ‘The Golden Girls’ began to play in my head, bringing back memories of staying with my Nana on a Friday night watching Blanche and Dorothy drinking hot chocolate.
The next day we went to her home, using the same route I’ve travelled all my life. I was able to pretend until I walked into the living room and saw her empty chair. In that moment, it hit me and I started to cry as I realised I’d never again visit for a cuppa and a chat and watch her wrestling with the TV remotes. It’s hard to pack up someone’s life into boxes and put treasures so lovingly placed on a mantelpiece away from sight. But as the weeks passed and the last night arrived, the emptiness of the house echoed our toast to Evelyn and Andy with a glass of glayva and we locked the door for the very last time. Pausing to make the special knock on the window we always used so they knew it was us at the door.
The last few weeks although tinged with sadness brought back memories as we remembered the quirks of my Nana’s personality. Evelyn Young was unique and I’ve never met anyone quite like her. She was a strong lady confident in expressing her opinions, a trait my Granddad handled admirably, by waiting for her to finish speaking then asking “Are you done?” She was proud of her family history, always sharing stories of her “Granny at the Toll” referring to the ancestral home in the West Wemyss. She loved people and always used their full name when including them in a story. She was always well turned out with a plethora of rings and brooches. She shared her love of musicals with The Sound of Music and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to the point where I know the words to every song. She was generous, loyal and there was never a moment of our loves that we doubted her fierce love for us.
When it came to organising the Order of Service, my Dad asked me to look out some photographs. When packing up the house, I was worried I’d forget the memories that gave so much comfort. Hours passed as I searched the numerous boxes visiting the past in the form of holidays, days out and sunny days in the back garden. Remembering the camera forever in her hand, and looking at the results, I realised I didn’t have to remember. Nana had already done it for us. She’s captured every moment of our lives together.
Nana also made it into my writing. I didn’t purposely plan her inception into my creative world. She has been a profound influence in my life. How could she not be part of the world I created? Memories of her holding the camera has started my own love affair with the lens and I can’t help but want to take photographs, understanding that they are not just a visual record but a snapshot of the memory for the future.
So if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; capture the moments. Remember them through photography, art, song and word. Imprint their memory into your soul and appreciate the moments they lovingly leave behind. The people we love never truly leave us; we just can’t see them anymore. So I know my Nana will always be there because I feel her with every beat of my heart.