I’ve been frustrated for my mum. She lives with her mum, my nanna, who is 90 years old. I wrote about her, sort of, here. She can’t see (she looks to the side of you when talking to you), she can’t hear (you have to speak loudly and/or repeat yourself), she is very judgmental and, as long as it’s about someone who isn’t there, she says what she thinks.

My mum went to visit my sister, and my other sister and I said we’d check in on nanna each day while she was away. Now, don’t for one second think we are great granddaughters. We did it because nanna refused to go into respite while mum was away and mum looks after our sons so much we were obligated to say yes. That’s how these parent-child relationships work, after all. Didn’t you know? It’s how my mum came to be living with my nanna. When her brother died, she was solely responsible for their mother. Her mother. The one who looked after her 3 daughters when she was a working, single mum. Aging parents is reason in itself to have at least 5 kids. But that is for another post.

We’ve joked with mum about hoping she doesn’t expect the same kind of care from us. That we will be happy to find her a nice nursing home. We all laugh. Except we’re not joking.

I actually got out of my grandmother duties Tuesday because I have the best husband in the world and he went to check on her. But I couldn’t get out of visiting Thursday. I was dreading it – making small talk for 15-30 minutes with someone who can barely hear and tells the same stories 8 times an hour is painful. But somehow, yesterday turned out different. While I heard one story at least twice, the rest of the conversation was about family. Family that I never knew – her sister, her dad, my poppa’s siblings and dad. I heard, again, the story of how they met. I don’t mind hearing that one over and over. They were at a dance. That’s what kids did back then – went to dances in halls. My poppa asked her to dance, but she said she had to catch a train. “I can take you home, I have a motorbike” he told her. They talked for so long she missed her train. When he asked where she lived, she said, “Booval, have you heard of it?” He said, “I ought to have, I live there too!” As it turned out, they lived in the same street, she in number 15, he in number 22. He lived there with his brother, and his two sisters….who my nanna worked with!

Poppa was in the army at the time, but nanna didn’t know that. Until he knocked on her door the next morning, wearing army pants. A soldier in the army, who rode a motorbike. “Clearly you liked the handsome bad boys back then, nanna!” She laughed.


My poppa was so handsome. Meeting my nanna made him change his plans. He got out of the army, though not before experiencing Papua New Guinea and WWII, and got a job in the mines. He never talked to anyone about the war. He kept those nightmares to himself, right until the end of his life. Just before he died, he told my mum everything. “How did he propose to you?” I asked nanna. Turns out the story of how they met is a much better one. My poppa, the gorgeous motorbike rider, bought a piece of land, got some plans for a house and showed her. “How about it? Do you think we could live here?”


My nanna’s sister died from bowel cancer when her kids were just teenagers. Their dad had already passed away. She told me about my great-grandfather (Poppa’s dad) and what a lovely man he was. He died in their house. My poppa died in their house, too. She talked about other family members and it made me realise that one day, it is entirely possible that I will be sitting in a room, telling my grand children about my sisters, my mum, my dad, and maybe they will never have met them and won’t know who they are. Or maybe my sister will be telling her grand children about me. And all I’ll be is a memory. And one day, not even that.

I complain a lot about my nanna, but I’m lucky to still have a living grandparent, and I’m lucky to get to hear stories about her family, my family…but people I had never known. I guess we are all going to get old one day – if we are lucky. I hope that when that day comes, my grandkids, should I have any, want to hear my stories.

Do you have living grandparents? Have you heard their stories?

Linking up with Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesday



12 thoughts on “Reminiscing

  1. It’s weird to think that we are related to all these people, and we may in fact be very like some of these people, that we have never known or met or heard of. It spins me out every time I think about it too much.
    I haven’t had a living grandparent since I was 7. That’s one of the downsides of people having kids later. 😦

  2. I have one Grandma, she is almost 96 now. She is a sharp as a tac though and quick witted. She loves my blog and really now that I think of it, makes me sad I haven’t been writing much lately (or for a year!). My mum has recorded heaps of her stories of the ‘olden’ days and I think that will be just awesome for my boys to listen to, and their children one day. #teamIBOT

  3. My last grandparent died in August. My grandmother was just shy of her 100th birthday. She was a pain in my butt all through my childhood (rude, harsh and made me cry) but something good happened once I had my own kids. Over time she softened a bit to me and was nicer than ever before. I love the stories your nan shared with you especially that they actually were living on the same street what a small world!!! Deb xx

  4. I love hearing stories from long ago. Your grandfather sounds very cool. I love that he bought some land and showed your grandmother some plans and said ‘how about it?’. I am lucky enough to have two grandmothers still alive. One is 88 and the other is 94. She has just moved into a nursing home which she hates. Apparently everyone there is old and boring 🙂

  5. My Nana passed away when I was a lot younger. I wish I knew more of her stories of how her and my Papa met and courted and lived overseas before they moved to Australia.

  6. Lovely post Aroha. I don’t have any grandparents left, but my grandfather was a great story-teller and it seemed he had the best memory for things a long time ago. I also miss my nanna on my Mum’s side who was really like a great friend to me during my teenage years when you don’t want to talk to your own mother.

  7. Not only are you lucky to have her living and telling you stories, you also have the gift of that lovely wedding photo. My dad’s parents are 95 and 91 and living in aged care. They can still tell you stories of their youth and how they met but there are no wedding photos. They got married in a registry office during the war, in November 42. This year they are coming up to their 72nd anniversary!! Can you believe it?

  8. Great post. My eldest son recently had a class assignment that involved talking to grandparents/great grandparents to find out what they did when they were children. They had a list of questions about how they got to school, what games they played, what did they do for holidays, etc It was really amazing as I had never really asked my in-laws, grandparents these questions. My uncle visited my nanna in the nursing home before she passed away just over a year ago and taped their conversations, then he wrote a book about her life for the family. It was amazing. Their history is our history, its amazing, interesting, humbling and always has me wondering how much history we lose because we don’t ask.

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