To the moon and back

I first met Master Nine’s Grandma when he was seven months old.
She had warm brown eyes, hair regularly cropped short by her husband and a face etched with a thousand smiles.
Along with her three-quarter jeans, khaki singlet and sandals, she wore gigantic jewellery, compensation for her tiny frame.
And it was over that that she and her grandson first bonded.
While Master’s Grandpa and I chatted, Grandma and baby just sat ogling each other, he with her giant pendant crammed into his mouth, she leaning in as close as her necklace would allow.
Grandma needed no training.
She’d had three babies.
In fact, she’d had three boys.
She had her grandson’s attention.
And his love from the moment they met.
Of course, letting him suck her giant necklaces was only the beginning.
She took him to playgrounds.
And swimming pools.
Lunch at a train station, so she could watch his little face when the bells clanged.
She sent him letters from Melbourne.
And postcards from all over the world.
Covered them with Lightning McQueen stickers.
She posted chocolate packages that put the Easter Bunny to shame.
Cut out funny pictures of dogs, or cats, or babies to laugh at with him later.
And once, a picture of a plane resting safely on the Hudson River, the passengers huddled on its wings.
She bought him cool shoes.
And gingerbread men they secretly called ‘Supermans’.
She proudly told everyone he was THE best kid in the world.
And even ran down the street yelling ‘nighny-nighny-pop-pop’ after our retreating car, oblivious to what her neighbours might think.
She taught him to read numbers on letterboxes.
And sat with him outside late at night to show him just how much she loved him – all the way to the moon and back.
When Grandma died, Master Nine was still her only grandchild.
The travesty of her not having more was tempered only by the fact that she’d at least had him.
Grandma had decided not to tell us that her cancer would likely claim her within two years.
She started chemo.
I hoped she’d beat it.
At the least stave it off for a long time.
Recently diagnosed myself with pregnancy problems, I couldn’t fly over to see her.
But I’d be over there with my baby as soon as I was able, I told her (and myself).
Five months later – two weeks before my baby was born – my mother decided she’d take Master Nine to Melbourne herself.
Call it Nanna-intuition.
Because days before their scheduled departure, Grandma was rushed to hospital.
She took a turn for the worse the night before they were due to arrive.
And so it was with a heavy heart that my mother took Master Nine on that plane.
One grandmother taking her grandson on a journey to farewell another.
I sat, hormonal and horrible, for hours on the couch at home, anticipating and dreading every phone call.
My little Master arrived in time to say goodbye to the lady who’d loved him almost as much as me.
He read aloud to her the book he’d made – ‘Grandma’s Gang’.
But she never woke up to see it.
An hour after he left, Grandma died.
They had her funeral five days later, on her birthday.
Needless to say, I couldn’t go to that either.
In fact, the last time I ever saw Grandma was at my wedding.
I wasn’t marrying her son but that didn’t matter to her.
Her grandson was happy (anyone at my wedding will attest to this!) and that’s all she needed to know.
Master Nine is fairly nonchalant now talking about his Grandma.
To him, her death was a curiosity, something he understood yet didn’t seem to really comprehend.
It was Grandma who actually once said to me that parenting was one of the most unappreciated jobs we’d ever do.
But perhaps she was wrong.
Perhaps it’s grand-parenting.
Most of us eventually have some sort of epiphany about our parents and the sacrifices they made for us.
But by the time we realise how special our grandparents were – usually while watching our own children interact with theirs – it’s often too late.
I have all Grandma’s letters.
It might not be until he’s Master Forty that my son will read them and realise how big a role she played in the first near-decade of his life.
And he might never know or appreciate how much she adored-dotedon-laughedwith-and-loved him.
But his mummy always will.

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11 thoughts on “To the moon and back

  1. Beautifully written Ali , I really must get a box of Kleenex before I sit to read your post . What an amazing special lady must run in the genes ☺️ Xx

  2. So beautiful Ali. She sounds like an amazing lady, just as you are, to share Master Nine with his biological grandparents in spite of your situation. So wonderful when everyone’s main concern is the child. Your mum is also an amazing lady to take Master Nine to see his Grandma when you were unable. 3 beautiful ladies!

  3. Alison, what beautiful words for what appears to be such a beautiful lady. Master Nine will definitely know how much this lady loved him, I am sure you will always let him know. A truly special lady

  4. What a lovely way to remember and honour our Aunty! Thank you so much for sharing this, she loved him dearly and his sibling too and was excited about your new Bub. Xox

  5. Hi Ali, I have never met you or Leo, but I know all about you; you see I worked with Jill for twenty years and she shared many beautiful stories with us, her work colleagues and friends, about her adored grandson and his amazing mother. She loved you too, Ali, very much. Glendal, Jill N, Wendy, Irene and me, Kerry, are all meeting this Sunday for lunch, and we will definitely have a toast to our adored and missing friend. What you wrote about Jill’s relationship with Leo was simply beautiful.

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