My Grandmother at Age 65

May 21, 2014 at 8:30 pm | Posted in Family, Family History, Health | 6 Comments
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Write a portrait of your grandmother at your age.

When I saw this prompt, I just had to use it. I am now sixty-five years of age, so that is the reference point for both of my grandmothers. I can’t write about one and not the other!

1) Grandma Thompson

Hannah Sefton Thompson, mid-1950s, just before her cancer.

Hannah Sefton Thompson, mid-1950s, just before her cancer.

My dad’s mother, Hannah, was born in November, 1894. She was a lovely woman by all accounts, bright, cheerful and industrious, a wonderful cook and needlewoman. Unfortunately, when I was five years old, we migrated to Australia. After that time, I had no personal contact with her, and I will always be sorry to have missed those years with her.

Grandma Thompson died in August, 1959 as a result of breast cancer, and so did not even reach 65, the age I am now. I was much more fortunate – my breast cancer was diagnosed in the early stages when I was 60, and I have just completed five-years being cancer free.

2) Grandma Atkinson

My mum’s mother, Agnes, was born in April 1893. The year Grandma Atkinson turned 65 she and Granddad migrated to Australia, where their only two children then lived – my mother and her younger brother. That was in 1958, the year my baby brother was born. I was nine years old when they arrived. Grandma Atkinson was also a wonderful woman, though were very different in personality to Grandma Thompson.

I remember we were all excited when Grandma and Granddad arrived. They were going to stay with us – even though we only had a tiny, three-roomed cottage with a bedroom dad added on for us four older children to sleep, Dad had also built a small garage for my uncle’s family who were already living with us. Mum and Dad gave up their little bedroom for my grandparents and slept on a day-night divan in the tiny lounge room.

Agnes Atkinson c.1964

Agnes Atkinson c.1964

The thing I always remember about Grandma is her beautiful olive skin, especially her hands. Unlike the somewhat coarsened skin of many Australians, hers was soft and wonderful to stroke and I loved to hold them. They were always gentle, and so were her voice and her smile, but her beautiful, deep brown eyes always held a sadness I could plainly see, even young as I was then. In contrast to the rest of her, Grandma’s shortish, iron-grey hair was dense and wiry.

It wasn’t until I was fully grown that I realised how small Grandma was. Only five feet tall – if that, she was also slender. She had just begun to stoop slightly, probably from osteoporosis, though we didn’t know about that then. She wore flat shoes, and floral dresses, usually with collars, that came well below the knee.

Grandma was deaf, profoundly deaf, and suffered badly from “head noises”, what we now call tinnitus. The story is that she lost her hearing in her twenties or early thirties, as a result of an illness, though I have no idea what it was. My father only knew her as being deaf, and for some reason, I didn’t ask Mum if she knew what happened, and now it is twenty years too late.

Because of Grandma’s deafness, communication was limited. She could lip-read, but we had to form our words the Lancashire way, not in the newly-acquired Australian accents we used outside the home. She was also good at reading body language. She smiled at us a lot.

What I hadn’t realise at the time was how much Grandma was under the control of my grandfather, who was quite a selfish person. He never even gave Mum and Dad any money for board and food in the year they lived with us. However, Grandma would slip Mum a pound note or two whenever she could. She also gave us kids a shilling each a week while they lived with us – the only pocket money we received throughout our childhood.

Granddad got us kids in with his ability to weave a story. But Grandma’s attraction was her gentle, loving and forbearing nature. We all truly loved her. When Granddad insisted on their return to England in 1961, only three years after their arrival, we were all terribly upset to lose her.

Have you ever written about your grandmother? Why not try doing so, picturing her at the age you are now.

© Linda Visman 21.05.2014 (724 words)


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  1. I enjoyed reading this. Sadly, I never knew my father’s mother. She died the year I was born. My mother’s mom was the worst grandmother in the world. We nicknamed her ‘Granny Goodwitch’ which was a character off the Sugar Bear cereal commercial. There was nothing good about her! No cookies…no cuddles…very egotistical. Hmmm…but there is a story there. My mother strived to be the total opposite of her mama. God bless her!

    • So good your mother saw the problem, Helen, and did her part to make it different for you! Thanks for the follow and the comment. 🙂

  2. I enjoyed reading this, too. Unfortunately I barely knew my father’s mother. She passed away when I was still a child, and lived far away. My mother’s mother had passed away about eight years before I arrived.
    At least you got to know and love your Grandmothers. 🙂

    • It is sad when distance keeps children from knowing their grandparents, as it did for you and me. My other grandfather died when I was a young baby and I wish so much that I had known him too. Yes, I at least got to love my grandmothers – one for a short time, the other for a bit longer. 🙂

  3. Hi Linda .. I knew my mother’s grandmother a little and her 2nd husband – but my grandfather died when my Ma was just 2 … and my father’s parents I really didn’t know – I was terrified of his mother .. but I was the youngest around!! Not ultimately but when I spent any time with her .. and grandpa had died when I was 5 or 6 …

    At some stage I might write about them .. in an ephemeral way … but creative, interesting and probably near enough true to life .. I have some reasons to do so …

    Cheers it’s a good thought – though we can remember odd bits and bobs, and imagine things via photos and stories etc … Hilary

  4. Hi Hilary. I think it would be a good idea to write any facts, memories, and impressions of your grandparents. You never know, it may lead to insights you had not expected. 🙂

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