“How come all of your friends are so fat?”
Her voice rang out loudly across the crowded hospital ward. It was followed by a shocked silence as all of the other patients and visitors turned to stare. I flashed my poor friend a look of mortified apology- she had offered to drive me from the airport to the hospital- bet she was regretting it now!
“Grandma, you can’t say that!” I said for the thousandth time but of course, say it she did.
My grandma was rude. There was no editing with her- if you could think it, well you could jolly well say it. I think she had 100% strike rate in offending everyone she ever met.
But Grandma was pretty awesome too.
She ran a dairy farm and when I was a kid we would get to go on the milk run with her. She would milk the cows, we’d load the milk cans then drive into town and deliver the fresh milk. My job would be to run up and collect the billies off the fences and get the coins out (8 cents a pint or 4 cents for half a pint), then carry the steaming billy back and hang in on the fence.
Grandma worked harder than anyone I’d ever seen but she also loved adventures.
She would take us down to the waterhole to swim everyday and to watch the birds and the insects. We would bushwalk through the Flinders and we would camp out in her old canvas tent. At night we would sit out under the stars and she taught me the stories of the constellations.
Grandma was passionate about the rights of migrants and aboriginal people and she fostered four young aboriginal girls permanently. After they grew up and left home she would drive to the local orphanage every school holidays and fill the car up with aboriginal kids, then squeeze us all into her tiny cottage on the farm. We were never short of friends to play with! She was determined that all of the Nunga kids knew their families so we drove for miles trying to track down relatives in outback bush camps, camping out in the desert or near creek beds
There was never any hurry. If there was something interesting we stopped to look, to pick up a rock or take a photo. It was all about the journey.
Grandma picked up any hitchhiker she saw as well. There was always food and a bed for anyone who needed it. One of her hitchhikers returned twenty years later- an aboriginal artist and, despite the 30-year age gap, he became her partner in later life. In her 90’s she would drive him across the country to his art exhibitions and she became his carer when he had a stroke.
Grandma was smart, she was passionate, she had very strong political views and, despite her lack of social niceties she cared very much about the people around her.
She even knew how to apologise…sort of. Sometimes she tried to make up for her rudeness.
“Grandma, (my friend) has just driven me all the way out here. You could at least say thank you!”
“Well, I suppose she does have quite a pretty face…
for a fat girl!”
(This was written for the ABC Open 500-word challenge “Grandparents”)