ANCESTORS Short story
There was no doubt about it, our Gran was ageing, her bones were aching and cracking, her eyesight was failing and she had shrunk.
Mum asked her to come and live with us, she would have her own room, and all her own stuff. Dad was rather less in favour, but at least he made no fuss.
After much persuasion and a couple of minor mishaps, when she put out the milk bottles, and took in a stray cat, and blackened the kitchen with smoke Gran agreed to honour us with her presence
“Just for a short while.” Gran repeated this phrase constantly, Mum and Dad exchanged smiles that stayed hidden from Gran.
November the 4th 1960, our Dad hired a van. Gran’s nicknacks were awkward and weighty. Gran brought her old brass bed, her commode and her print of The Stag at Bay, the leafy green plant in hideous pot, her counterpane, blankets and bolster.
At the foot of her bed stood a large wooden chest, that contained she said
This shook us a little until mum said not to be fools, it was just Grandad’s old carpentry tools. We hoped against hope that was correct..
Gran settled in with a smile, not a frown, except when we bathed every day.
“It’ll it weaken yer bones!” she would say said with a shudder and she only bathed once a week. On all other days she undid her stays but kept on her nightie and washed all she could reach underneath.
Gran loved the Bingo and rang Ring ‘n’ Ride, each Friday evening at seven. Gran scathingly said that
“Er next door should be called the same”
because of her gentlemen callers, Gran had counted maybe had ten or eleven.
“Er next door will never go to evin, if er dun the coffin’ll be Y shaped”. Gran made this pronouncement with a grin.
We children never understood that remark and had no reply when we asked.
Gran appointed herself our unofficial Neighbourhood Watch, sitting in the bay window most of the day, nothing came into our street, or left or dallied, that she did not vet and note down. The local constabulary knew her and nicknamed old Gran Hawkeye.
Gran knew from her observation that them at Dunroamin, empties, not of milk she said but of gin. While the Misses Berry, she said, got themselves merry on sherry and him at number three liked his whiskey.
Gran went to the war with the tom cat next door, a squinty and randy old kit, who had taken a shine to Gran’s Princess a tabby and motheaten Queen, who gummed at her food having no teeth. Our Dad was worried and hid his air rifle, this disturbed Gran not one jot, she made a catapult from her old knicker elastic, and hit the old Tom quite a lot, for even with her failing sight her aim stayed steady and true, Tom soon stopped caterwauling at night and Princess, well she did alright.
To keep up-to date with the toings and froings Gran stored up a hoard of shiny washed, milk bottles, so then you see, she could put out two or three when anyone called next door.
Gran was never malicious or judgmental and when Ruby next door, well she fell for a baby, not married, Gran refused to join the moral debate, after all said and done, Ruby was not the first one, and love was ever stronger than hate.
Gran loved the cricket, the football, the rugby, just about any old sport.
“It’s their thighs” she would sigh with a guilty smile, and moved her seat nearer the screen. The World Cup took all her interest, and she shouted a lot at the screen, not one match did she miss and she jumped up and kissed our dad, when England did well,
All in wrestling was her absolute love, and Dad would deliver her weekly to the Town Hall, where Gran had a ball, attacking big men with her bag or umbrella, she especially liked Mick McManus and supported each throw with a cheer, if an opponent of his looked to be doing well, she would try and break the spell by giving the ref ruddy hell.
Gran was in the kitchen each and every morning, and when we came home again, she fed us forbidden crisps and chocolate and told us our homework could wait, we should play in the fresh air and the sun, even on days when there was none.
Gran approved of our panda eyed make-up our mini skirts and white lippie. She listened to all the latest music and told our Dad not to be silly, we were grand girls and would never bring trouble, so we didn’t, allowing our boyfriends nothing more than a fumble. Gran approved of the pill, saying one day after two of her sherries that she would have liked it in her day as “Yer granddad only had to put ’is trousers on the end of their bed and I fell for another babby.”
Gran shared our first loves and first tears, saying “Many more fish in the sea” and mocking their trousers, haircuts, loose lips and big ears. “ Yow av ter kiss a few frogs, before yow find a Prince.” she would say and that chased our tears well away.
Then came the morning Gran stayed in bed, and was late coming into the kitchen. Gran sat in the chair, not yet dressed, looking quite strange murmuring words that sounded quite naughty. Gran managed to slur “Shtroke Bugger” and then poured her tea right down her nightie.
Mum called the doctor, a nice young man, who looked to Gran all of 16. “You’ve had a stroke Mrs. Edmonds” he said and clear as a bell she replied “That’s what I thought young man, and what am yo’ doing in ‘ere?”
Gran fought her symptoms heroically, bearing our quizzical looks simply stoically. She relearned the words describing her world, inventing new ones of her own. The rail round the room was “A dildo” a “Cow pat tea” was pancakes, and cottage pie became “ mincemacations.”
After some months she discovered Saturday afternoon wrestling Kent Walker and Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks et al on the telly, she laughed like a drain as they strutted and strained, and giggled at Big Daddy’s belly.
“I’d rather feed him for a week than a month.” she would state every Saturday. Gran loved to see the tag wrestling hoping someone would be carried away. Dad feared for the screen on the telly and removed all breakable ornaments from the scene, Gran resorted to chucking the cushions, and thought our Dad simply mean.
Gran became Great Nan on her 80th birthday and held the new babe close to her heart, “E as a look of my little brother Sidney who died in the trenches at Mons. God forbid that should happen to this one, may his life be happy and long.”
Just six months to the day Gran passed away quietly without any fuss. We put Sadly Missed in the paper but that was just for form and did not say all that Gran had come to mean to us all when she came “…..for just a short stay.”