It's my dear grandmother's birthday today. She would have been 95 years old.
Grandy died nearly nine years ago, and she's still very much missed by us all. She was a wonderful grandmother, a great mum, a devoted farmer's wife, and a true friend. Right up to her death, she kept in close contact with us all, no matter how much her mobility was restricted due to age.
My early memories are of her and my grandfather visiting us in Canberra (where I spent my childhood), and of us staying with her on the farm just outside Perth. They are simple, happy memories - piles of old Women's Weeklies, her apple tea cake, visiting the post office, her turning on the generator at night, the smell of her kitchen, and the sound of her high heels on the concrete verandah out the back. She treated us to chocolate eclairs at Ahern's tearoom when we got dressed up for a daytrip to Perth.
My relationship with her grew as I grew, and we moved back to Perth. She was always easy and fun to talk to, and interested in what we were doing, and how our lives were unfolding. She was thrilled when I had her first great grandchild.
I last saw her Christmas 1997. I couldn't go to Perth that Christmas - we had just moved house, and I was very pregnant with my second child. So she came to me, together with her two devoted daughters, to spend Christmas in our chaotic house. When I took her to Melbourne airport to say goodbye, I think we both knew it was the last time we'd see each other.
I have two more letters from her after that trip. One was written on the day my daughter was born - she was so excited that I'd had a girl, and she so wished she could see her (she never did). The second letter was written for my son's third birthday. It arrived the day after she died.
I still miss her. But I do know that she would have hated being 95. Her mobility became more and more limited in her last few years, and she had some nasty falls. She was frustrated that her legs didn't carry her around the way she wanted them to: "I do wish I could come out with you girls!" she'd say.
She was a great role model too. She kept a keen interest in the world; at her funeral, a friend said that not only did she know what the internet was, she'd formed an opinion on it (she'd decided that she didn't need it). She also understood how vital it was to stay connected with people - after she died, we discovered that many friends and extended family had received regular letters, phone calls and invitations to afternoon tea from her. Every one of them said that she would be very missed.
So, happy birthday Grandy. I'm very lucky I had you in my life for so long.