Monthly Archives: June 2021

Grandmother II

GRANDMOTHER II (Maternal)

My maternal grandmother, was small(-ish) in stature.

I had more ‘awareness’ of this pleasant lady who outlived my paternal grandmother by nine years.

She lived with my mother’s sister and her husband. The sister was a very pleasant lady also, (just like her mother).

I marvel that the 1970’s saw the demise of at least eight of my relatives.

I can’t say that I spent ‘enormous’ amounts of time with them. Certainly less when I reached my teen’ years. Too busy exploring this world’s offerings of alcohol, discos, girls, and holidays etc., until I met The Person of Jesus the Christ.

My grandmother would visit our home, and one thing I do remember was ‘the password’.

Yes ‘the password’.

As I entered our living room, my grandmother, sitting next to the door, would utter these words, in the form of a question:

“What’s the password?” Intimating that I could not enter unless I verbalised this ‘password’.

She removed my blank look of ignorance, by whispering the said password into my ear, so that I could verbalise it loud and clear, for the rest of the family to hear.

“Up Churchill!” I would exclaim.

“You may enter” was her response.

‘Up Churchill’ was a leftover from the second world war years, and typified her somewhat tongue-in-cheek political persuasion.

Memories of this grandmother although a little vague, similarly take the form of mind’s eye pictures of her wearing her 1940’s long dress attire (still wearing it in the sixties era) She was also quite ‘attached’ to her hat, the kind that has a hat ‘pin’.

(I can picture her also, just as I can – my paternal gran.)

What a person is – usually stays with us.

One could almost say a person’s essence remains after departure, as in the impression they made on us, – their personality etc. 

Of course such expressions (i.e. ‘essence’), are open to all kinds of mis-interpretations. So in referring to this, I make no reference to new age philosophy, which is replete with esoteric or ethereal error.

I do remember seeing her once, during her final illness that led to her demise.

She had a (returning) child-like quality and I remember being left with the impression that ‘this wasn’t my granny’. Something was different and I couldn’t quite grasp what.

Things were kept from me as the junior in my whole family connection, even though I was twenty-one at the time of her departure!

So I had no real realisation of her mental state.

Her husband, my grandfather, died when I was about two years of age. I have a picture of myself in his arms, in a local park.

So a ‘granda’ experience was a limited event for me, whilst growing up. One grandfather I never knew.

The other – only as a two-year-old (short lived indeed).

Generations come and generations go. Mentalities change for the better and for the worse.

My maternal grandfather was always addressed as ‘Pa’, by the family members.

His actual name was Kirkwood, Kirky for short. He worked like the majority of men during that era, at the Belfast Shipyard.

I am ill-equipped to try to do a Wikipedia for you on the shipyard’s history.

There is no shortage of such historical info on the net, I would imagine.

But the shipyard, also referred to as Harland and Wolff’s, was at one point the biggest shipyard in the world. The famous Titanic being built there. 

That whole industry has all but ceased to exist in Belfast.

My grandfather bought a new watch, (so the story goes), and he happened to show it to one of his fellow workmen, who thought it was very nice.

Five minutes later another workman happened to pass by. “D’yi have the time Kirky?” He asked.

“Yes it’s 3.15” my grandfather replied.

Ten minutes passed and yet another friend asked the same question. And Pa dutifully replied, giving him the time of day.

Twelve minutes later another fellow workman wanted to know the time of day.

And so it went on. It took ‘Kirky’, quite some time to realise that he had been ‘set up’ and his colleagues were ‘pulling his leg’ as we say. Or in modern parlance: ‘winding** him up’.

Such a term** especially relevant to this particular round of ‘timepiece’ banter.

The story is also told of how one of his daughters (my aunt), planning a cycle ride meet-up with a boy, was about to leave the house in shorts.

She came under Pa’s scrutinising rebuke and was told to change into something ‘decent’ immediately.

So she dutifully responded, meeting up with a boy a few blocks away, whereupon she removed her skirt, revealing the cycle pants intact, and they cycled-off together ‘into the sunset’.

Pa held amateur talent nights in various halls. My mother played the piano (by ear as they say), and tap-danced along with her sisters.

Well into her seventies, she still was able to show ‘the moves’ that made up her style of tap dancing.

Jane, my grandmother had three girls and one boy.

All of that generation is gone. I lost my last remaining aunt a few years ago.

I was not privy to exactly where my grandmother stood concerning the things of God.

I think of all the things I would like to have asked my grandparents.

When we are younger the big questions, the important questions, are often ignored, and would not be on the lips of grandchildren.

Paradoxically however kids often stop us in our tracks with astute observations/considerations: e.g. What does God look like?

In fact let me quote a few statements of childlikeness that propel us into necessary considerations about life.

Deceptively deep, they were expressed in prayer-letters such as –

“Dear  God, did you think up hugging? That is a good thing.”

“Dear God, count me in”

“Why did you make the sky blue and the grass green. Is that the only colours you got?”

“Dear God why do I have to pray when you know anyway what I want? But I’ll do it if it makes you feel better.”

[Children’s letters to God compiled by E. Marshall and /S. Hample]

My grandparents generation were certainly of high survival calibre – knowing what it was to ‘make-do’ with little.

At worst they had restrictive unnecessary rules, – what we would term legalism. At best they stood for moral principles, our world today is ignoring, as it falls apart at the seams.

Grandmother I

GRANDMOTHER I

My grandmother was a Christian lady. When I was a little boy (pre-teens) I used to visit with her, along with my mum and her son (my dad).

Her husband, my grandfather, died before I was born, so I never knew him.

How easy it is, when we start to write about relatives, to lose ourselves and those listening, with the necessary jargon needed, when explaining.

[e.g. My uncle’s grandmother’s son, and my cousin’s grandchild on their daughter’s side, or my mum’s mum’s brother – crazy!

Not amazing – just a maze].

So – my grandmother was my father’s mum. That’s simple enough. If you still don’t follow please ask a practicing historian.

She was probably in her eighties at the time of my visits, and was cared for by her daughter, who later became a missionary in Japan, and remained a spinster, until she went to be with Jesus in 2008.

My paternal grandmother would sit very still in her chair. And would ask: ‘if we were never going to make a cup of tea’? She asked this every ten minutes or so.

She would sit with me by her side, looking straight ahead. She couldn’t see very well.

As though unbeknown to everyone else, she would move her arm slowly across to me, and slip a sum of money into my little hand.

The large sum of one penny.

I would sense by the way she did so, that it was top secret, and I fought the smile that would try to break forth on my face, afraid of betraying her act of kindness, and exposing  this great secret.

She would sing a song from her younger days and I always remember the chorus: I did a painting based on the song, it is long gone. I forget who has it.

(As with many paintings a great curiosity comes to me at times regarding where a painting is. Lost in the world somewhere, like a long lost child.)

Here is the chorus, I searched it of course, and found it on the internet. ‘Riding on a load of hay’ (author unknown).

Oh someone stole my heart away

Riding on a load of hay

I looked up and he looked down

Handsome sunburnt Johnny Brown

She told me of her extremely naughty youthful antics. Extreme things like banging on people’s front doors and running away.

Hiding, while she and her co-conspirators, observed the reaction of the house owner, as he or she looked up and down the street, baffled as to the invisible visitor.

And that was about the sum total of her reported naughtiness. (Naughtiness? – My! – how times have changed).

I remember nothing of her passing. I was twelve years old at the time.

As she sang the song, her voice was still as sweet, as when she graced the platforms of Christian Meetings, being the invited soloist.

In Northern Ireland we designate some church buildings as Gospel Halls. And they still exist.

Her daughter went to be a missionary in Japan, as previously stated, and I often reflect on my aunt’s faithfulness in prayer for me.

Indeed I often query with The Lord, just how much a part my grandmother’s prayers, played in my mighty encounter with The Living God, seven years after her passing!

When my dad, was nearing his journey into eternity, though that is for another blog post, I remember him telling me, that his mother taught him how to pray.

How important that young lives are taught the Word of God, at an early age. It will impact them fully or partially – it all depends on how they respond to it as they journey through life.

The bible describes it this way:

Cast your bread upon the waters,

For you will find it after many days.

I’m sure everyone has the experience of failing to ask enough questions regarding their family history, and suddenly it is too late. Those able to furnish us with details are gone, we didn’t ask them.

Nevertheless we can cherish what we do know. And I can still see plainly my grandmother’s facial expression as she sat – ever so still – in her armchair.

I think I must have spent the pennies.