Author's Note: When my Nan-Nan (Grandmother) first died, I was too young to write a poem that could do her credit. This poem was written recently (the day of her funeral). This may appear to be a list at first, but it is just a reflection of her personality. I shall explain all at the foot of the page.
Pleasant, quiet, optimistic, bright,
Generous, active, bright. bubbly,
Always her friend's helping hand.
That was not my Nan-Nan.
Smiley, healthy, light-hearted, funny,
Careful planner, patient watcher,
Wished well for everyone.
That was not my Nan-Nan.
Confident, loud, pessimistic,
Slightly egotistic, homebird, impulsive,
Only helped friends help themselves
With a pat on the back and a push out the door.
That was my Nan-Nan.
Ever a survivor, she kept on going, come what may.
Whiskey glass half-empty, never full, never bare, never even half-full,
Serious, world-wise, ever a copper for me, even a pound sometimes,
With a belly chuckle at Mum's reaction,
Darkest humour on that darkest day
Our last day together.
Always had some time for me, encouraging, advisory,
My idol – my greatest inspiration,
Missed more each day as the years roll by,
Memories fade, lost forever,
The tighter I clutch, the faster they slip away,
Like fog in an open casket, like smoke rising from a bush,
They slip. They slip. They slip.
She would have been proud of me,
Determined, focussed, pessimistic me,
With my dark sense of humour,
The one person who truly understood me,
She would have been there for me, always, always there,
She loved me and I loved her.
Simple as that.
Though hundreds of miles kept us apart,
We were never distant,
Though now an unbreachable door separates us,
She'll live on through me,
Then unto the coppery curls and ebony eyes
Of the next generation.
Lessons in loving family passed on
Memories that have slipped can be replaced.
Love cannot be replaced, only gathered,
I'll gather love. As did she, so shall I.
Connotations: Stanza 1:
The first stanza may seem a little disrespectful to Nan-Nan, but it is in fact an insult to the people who said to me that they would miss her and that she was a nice person, kind, generous and a woman who never let the world get her down. They were wrong. Nan-Nan had a pessimistic streak in her as wide as the Amazon…like me.
Nan-Nan never helped her friends in the way that most people seemed to mean it – telling them that everything was alright and that they'd be fine. She was more like me.
Simply reinforcing the message that those people who said she was so lovely were wrong.
In the days after her funeral I was bombarded by well-wishers telling me that she was always facing the world with a smile and a light-hearted joke. WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP!
They told me that she was a patient old lady. Rubbish! My Nan-Nan reached out her hand and got what she wanted quickly or not at all. Again, in this I take after her.
"Wished well for everyone" was what one of her friends said (while drunk at the funeral). My Nan-Nan refused to talk to the lady in question for over a year before she died because she couldn't be associated with somebody who drank as much and she even said that she was not going to last much longer (and the lady didn't)
Nan-Nan again was similar to me in that she was confident and she knew what she was good at.
Nan-Nan was one of those rare people who was pessimistic but fun o be around – her jokes were based on this pessimism, but they worked brilliantly.
The last two lines refer to a particular memory of mine. Nan-Nan had taken in my cousin for a while when his Mum kicked him out. She kept him for a while, but as soon as she deemed his Mum ready to forgive him, she (almost literally) pushed him out of her house. This was just one example of her tough love approach (which I have inherited)
Just another play on the kind (though wrong words) of those at the funeral.
The first two lines really illustrate her particular form of pessimism. She never succumbed to despair (even when she found out about her cancer). She was the strongest woman I have ever known, and I never saw her cry. Despite this, she had a highly critical view of the world. She was always sarcastically complaining about something or other, but it was always funny to watch her get into a rant. She is the reason for my very sarcastic sense of humour and my pessimistic view of life.
The reason for the whiskey glass is simply that the majority of my memories of her involve her with a whiskey and a cigarette.
The next line refers to the fact that, no matter what, I always asked her for advice. She always knew what to do.
The part about coppers is another very important memory. She would collect any copper pennies, (1p's or 2p's) as well as more valuable coins, in an ashtray in the shape of a turtle whose shell swings to the side on a hinge. The turtle sits in front of my monitor as I type. She often excused herself of giving me this money by saying to my Mum that it was "just a few coppers" but invariably slipped in a few pounds!
The belly chuckle was not just a reference to this particular event. She laughed rarely, but when she did it was the most infectious laugh I have ever heard.
The darkest humour part refers to one of the worst/best memories I have of her. My Mum, my Dad and me went to see her a few days before she died. We were there for nearly an hour and it was just getting to the stage that we were going to leave soon. Nan-Nan sensed that we were going soon and changed the mood from sad to laughter. She turns to my dad (an Englishman through and through) and says, "Will you do me a favour," in a weak voice, "Yes, of course, what do you need?", he replies. "Go up there at the end of my bed and dance me a Highland Fling!" she says, voice now strong and commanding, then collapses into a fit of the giggles.
Mostly, this stanza tells itself, but the bit about the smoke rising from the bust refers to another memory. Nan-Nan and loads of my extended family came up to visit one year and we all played hide and seek. Everybody else had been found ages ago, but we couldn't seem to get Nan-Nan. We were actually worried – it had been a couple of hours. We yelled that the game was over, no answer (she thought we were cheating). Finally, I spotted a bush that had a thin trail of smoke rising from it. It was Nan-Nan. She had got bored of us not being able to find her and lit up a cig!
Nan-Nan would have been proud of me for doing so well at school and for writing a proper story. When I was a young boy, she always told me that I would be a writer.
The rest explains itself.
Mostly tells itself but it is worth noting that the "coppery curls" refers to one of my nieces, and the "ebony eyes" the other.
Final stanza: no need to comment.