This morning I got a phonecall from my mother to tell me that my last remaining grandparent – my maternal grandmother – had died. This has, of course, engendered in my head all the usual musings about mortality and the march of time, and how, with her passing, I feel somehow that I and my siblings have stepped up a generation.

Last night I sat with my son curled up in my lap and had a moment of just complete astonishment at this thing that is parental love, how absolute it is, how this little human curled up in my lap can contain so much of me and yet be entirely his own person. That’s what we do, as humans, right? We pass on our genes, and with them some of our foibles, some of our world views, and, we hope, some of our best qualities.


My grandmother’s house always smelled of roast lamb. I don’t know why that’s what I remember, but it is. I guess she always made roast lamb when we went to visit. I kind of wish I could afford to have roast lamb tonight in tribute. That smell, a lamb roast cooking, is one of my clearest sense memories of her.

She always had Clifton, which is the South African version of Tang/Raro – incredibly sweet probably terrible for you juice made from powdered sugar and artifical flavourings. That tart overly sweet orange taste.

She made gooseberry jam. She had a gooseberry tree in her garden, a monster of a thing (or at least that’s how I remember it). She turned the berries into jam. It was gorgeous. I don’t think I’ve had gooseberry jam since I was a child.

Her garden had snails in it. I remember their silvery trails along the concrete paths. My copy of “The Water Babies” came from her bookshelf. It seems every room in which I spent time in my childhood had shelves of books. Hers was no exception. The Water Babies. Beatrix Potter.

She loved rugby, supported the Sharks with more vigour than many of the jock dudes I knew at the Rat. I’ve gradually lost touch with rugby, but I hope they win their next game, just for her, for the tiny, feisty old woman who loved them.

My grandfather, her husband, died when I was tiny – 3? 4? I don’t remember much about him, but I remember how she still called him “my Frank” the last time I heard her talk about him. I don’t believe in God or heaven, but I kind of hope there’s something out there so that they find each other again. Two beautiful pieces of ageless energy entwining again after thirty or so years. “Hi, did you have fun?” “Yes, but I missed you.” “Silly, I was there all along.”

She was old, and sick, and tired, and I hope that wherever she is now it is sunny and peaceful, and they have good Sports coverage and excellent tea. The funny thing about grandparents is you only ever know them in their dusk. I don’t know what she was like at 20, or at 35. I know she had fire in her belly, like all the women in my family. I know she made great roast lamb, and loved good stories.

As is always the case in these situations, I wish I’d spoken to her more. But a significant portion of my childhood was spent playing in her garden, reading in her house, falling asleep to the sound of the tick tocking of her grandfather clock. She made the best funny faces at the Christmas funny face contests. She was brilliant.


Love you Gran. Give ’em hell. ❤