My Nana, Alice Constance Clark, passed away 9 years ago. I was living in England at the time. She left behind 7 children and 17 grand children, many of whom now have their own children. My family and I still talk about her regularly. We laugh and reminisce about a woman who was intelligent, caring, hard working and dedicated. She loved her family and friends and was passionate about helping others. I'm sure I am right in saying that we all miss her terribly at some time or another.
It's funny the things you remember about people. So today I have tried to compile a list of things that I remember this amazing woman for. Some of them directly involve me, others may not. Some might be stories I have heard from others and some might be stories she told me herself. If you knew her, there might be some you don't agree with. But they are my memories. My images of a Nana who was nothing less than amazing.
So in no particular order:
1. Phone calls with Nana always started with "Don't waste your money ringing me..." It was never a waste of money, and I loved ringing her. I did it regularly.
2. When Nana sent you a 'letter', odds were on that it was probably a newspaper cutting of something she wanted you to know about because she thought it related to you in some way, or it contained a message she thought you should know. She possibly wrote 'Dear Jessie' at the top, and 'Love Nana' at the bottom, but it was rarely a 'letter'. Sometimes it was even a quick message scrawled out on a bank withdrawal form whilst she was lined up waiting to be served. My sister was living in Denmark after she finished high school. She once received a postcard from Nana (featuring tourist destinations around Queensland on the front) with nothing written on it other than 'Tell people to come here and visit.'
3. Nana always sent birthday cards when we were kids. Usually with money inside. We knew it was coming and we loved it.
4. Whilst living in England, I had been having discussions with an elderly man who lived next door to us. He had been telling me about his experiences in the Second World War. It occurred to me that I had never asked my Grandparents what either of their involvement in the War was. So I phoned my Nana, armed with a page of questions that I wanted to ask her before the opportunity was lost to me forever. The questions ranged from her life experiences to her thoughts and beliefs on things. That phone call started with "Don't waste your money ringing me..." and finished with "I love you. Stay safe and enjoy your trip." Best phone call I ever had with her. She passed away a week later. I was devastated, but so incredibly relieved and satisfied.
5. Nana first fell in love with Grandad when she was visiting his sister, who was a friend of hers. She remembered standing on the side of a cattle yard fence, watching him work. She said she knew then that she wanted to marry him.
6. She called chicken, 'fowl'. And it used to make us laugh every single time.And she knew it made us laugh, and I'm sure that's why she said it in front of us half the time. She would laugh at us laughing at her.
7. She made me realise that 'old people' really don't get embarrassed easily. There was a 'bus incident' once that makes me laugh even thinking about it. I love that Nana didn't take herself too seriously, and was able to laugh at herself. And then she would remind us that we shouldn't laugh at her because she was old. And we would all laugh again.
8. I met CP the year before she passed away. I remember calling her and telling her I had met a farmer. She asked me what kind of farmer he was, and I told her he was a sheep and cattle farmer. She said something along the lines of 'That would have been great in the 60s Jessie, but you need to go and find yourself a cotton farmer. That's where money is nowadays.' But I know that she would be happy I was happy. And sheep aren't so bad these days either you know Nana!
9. Nana used to tell us we would get fat if we ate the gristle on our meat. And then in the next breath, she would take the gristle off our plates and eat it herself. I used to tell her I would rather die fat and happy, but to this day I still don't eat the gristle on my meat.
10. Nana used to think crazy things like 'you can get brain damage if you are left handed and try to write with your right hand.' (I am a left hander). I actually don't even know if she was joking, or if she really believed it, or if she just thought I shouldn't put strain on my brain when it was completely unnecessary... but every now and then I wonder what she would be thinking if she saw me trying to write with my right hand on occasion.
11. Nana loved my sister Hannah, and my cousin Susan enormously. It's not a secret. I wouldn't call them favourites... okay, maybe a little. She loved us all dearly, but she had a soft spot for the two of them. Hannah lived in Rockhampton for a while and used to visit Nana regularly. I think when you are old and living on your own, a visit from a granchild is enough to elevate them to the position of favourite. Nana also used to tell Hannah she should try to be more like me. It's easy for your Nana not to see your faults when you live so far away from her! When we were very young though, Nana used to have a soft spot for my brother Jackson. I think he reminded her of one of her own brothers who had passed away when she was young.
12. Nana worked tirelessly for Consumer Affairs. This must explain where I get my 'fighting bone' from. I won't let something unfair settle until it is fully resolved.
13. She was a driving instructor in her younger days. And she drove a Mini. I still think about her whenever I see a Mini.
14. She always thought of others first. She even received The Order Of Australia Medal from the Queen. It was for her volunteer work with the community. I don't think Nana thought she deserved it. But there couldn't have been a more deserving recipient. She was constantly doing things for the community in the way of Women's groups or local politicians offices.
15. Nana had a passion for travel. My grandparents never had much money (though they both worked hard). So it was nice that Nana could travel with my mother and some of her other children at different points in their lives. I have some fantastic stories my mother has told about her own travel adventures with her mother. Once, in Canada, there was an incident with a bear, while my mother was trying to take a photo. Funnily enough, history seems to be repeating. When my mother and sister traveled Canada together more recently, there was an incident in Canada involving too much snow and a camper van. And so the adventure gene continues...
16. Nana once told my sister that there are seven days in the week, (and she had seven children), and it would have been nice if they didn't all ring Sunday. I used to try to ring her on a Wednesday incidentally.
17. When I look at my mother I see Nana. Mum has always been very much like Nana, but as she ages, she is more and more like her. And I mean that in the best way possible. Her expressions, her mannerisms, and her face. They are so alike it is amazing. And my sister Hannah is so much like them too it is funny!
I miss Nana. But I have no regrets. Our time together was short, but it was quality, and I suppose that through memories like this, she lives on. I also believe that somewhere out there, this will make her smile.