Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Post One Hundred and Twenty: I, From You.

As a child I loved the movie The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy Gaaaaaaale.

Most girls born in the 80's (and surrounding decades for that matter) probably shared this fascination. I loved it because it scared the crap out of me, and I loved how perfect Dorothy's braids were, how degraded the lollypop kids seemed, and how the wicked witch melts so theatrically in the end. Between about 1989 and 1993 I can honestly say that I attempted to watch it every single day after kindy and then school. Even today if I watch it I fall into a subconcious time warp and can recite each line without exerting any cognitive effort.

You can imagine how stoked I was when I learned that my nannas name wasn't actually nanna, but it was Dorothy. Dorothy Veitch, of Sunbury Victoria. Wifey to George and mother to a bazillion.

My grandpa George was amazing, and one of the few relatives that I really understood as a child. We shared a pretty amazing bond for people generations apart in age, states apart in distance, yet so similar in heart and mind. I was devastated when he died in about 1995. Maybe it was 1996?. He was fishing around Lake Eppalock in Victoria when his line got snagged. Appararently he threw off his clothes, jumped in to save his stash and either had a heart attack or drowned because he was pretty darn old. (mental note to self: Why don't I know the actual story?). At some stage in my angsty teens I think I even believed he had killed himself to escape our clan, because at that stage I was engrossed in bitterness and I thought he must have been too.

I really do need to ask my mum how he died, but back then all I was told was that pa 'went to heaven' doing something that he really loved. Still, it's a big bummer that he's gone and an even bigger bummer for me that I still haven't learnt very much about his life. I remember watching MASH together, reading Graeme Base books together, laughing and lamenting about how ridiculously crazy our family was. I hate the word cherish, but its a description that lamely springs to mind when I think about him in his scungy blue workmans overalls that his wardrobe practically wholly consisted of.

Anyway, back to his wife. Ol' Dot.

She scared me just as much as the crazy flying monkeys did in the Wizard of Oz. I don't really know why. Probably because Pa made fun of her and her big bum. You see, nan was a fairly large lady in her mothering and grandmothering years, and I remember thinking that she could sit on me by accident on the couch and I'd squash like a ribena berry. She made peas so soggy that they looked like something I'd see in the mortuary, and as I child I thought her house smelt not dissimilar to a corspe either.

All this aside, I've grown up and I'm now looking back. I'm hungry to see out of these eyes that I have inherited. I want to understand my genes, and learn how to win the winnings and leave the losings.

I went to see Nan when I was in Melbourne last week. Back in Sunbury, I felt guilt and regret for not returning sooner. The last time I was in the locality it was easy for me to drop into Nan's Barkly Street house. All her children grew up there, the extensive majority of her days started and finished there, and all my memories of Pa were there.

Nan is now in a nursing home, a no-frills one near to the cemetery where pa is buried. She has reasonably bad dementia, but when I sat beside her she grabbed my hand fiercely and studied my face for an eternity. Eyes darting back and forth, she knew that I was from her, but not how I had come to be beside her.

It was amazing. After a while, she knew who I was and told me that she always had loved me. I thought that was odd, because I was really a little shit growing up, but it was a touching moment none the less. We talked about how she felt trapped and bored, but that she was accepting of ageing and the fact that life is unrefutedly dictated by the clock.

I said goodbye, feeling odd that in that very half an hour we'd become closer together than in any other time in the twenty six years that I've been around. We were both scared and confused, but wanted to be together more than we could comprehend. Both of us trying to remember past days that were too few and are too far gone.

I don't want her to die before I know what she's all about. That would be a bummer. Also, she thinks I'm a nurse for some reason and I'm just going to let that white lie be.



  1. Your beautiful story made me cry.I am so happy that you want to get to know nana before she dies.I used to work in nursing homes and so many are just left.Never getting visitors as all the family are busy living their own lives.Left there waiting to die.Forgotten.I truely hope you get to know all you need to, as our older family members have so much to tell.So much to teach.Be proud of the joy your moments together would have given her.She knows even when you think she doesnt.x

  2. Great story. I was also obsessed with The Wizard of Oz as a kid, but get this:
    My great-grandmother's name was Dorothy, she lived in the Emerald City (Emerald in central Queensland) in the land of Oz!

    We were quite close to our great-grandparents while we were growing up in Emerald - they tried to retire when they were in their 70s but they got bored, so they moved back onto the land until they were in their early 90s.

  3. Ah. Crying at my desk! So beautiful. Luckily, everyone at the office chucked a sickie today so I'm free to weep in relative privacy.

  4. Lovely, just lovely. I have grandparents in their aged care home, I visit them weekly wherever possible but daily I remind myself I have not yet recorded their oral histories. Glad you took the time to be together.