Get to know your Grandparents

Let’s face it, grandparents are amazing. There’s nothing quite like going to your grans for a wee blether, a cuppa and a good old scran! Grandparents make everything better, and if you’re lucky enough still to have even one of yours, please get to know them. And I mean really know them.

Growing up I was extremely close to both sets of grandparents, and I grew up in a privileged environment in which both my mum and dad’s parents were alive and around to look after me when they were working, pick me up from school and provide a safe and loving house for me to spend endless hours in. I loved both of their homes and each was different; my mums mum was a right wee ‘Glesga wummin’, a cracking cook and an all-round gem. Her house was a place full of food and love and she treated each grandchild like they were her only one (she had six). She suffered bad health and therefore was in a wheelchair and couldn’t drive, so time spent at her house involved sitting with her on the sofa watching This Morning and Loose Women, Pete’s Dragon and talking about everything that was happening in my little life. My dad’s mum wasn’t such a good cook, the sound of the fire alarm usually signalling that dinner was ready, but she was an enthusiastic reader and writer, having several of her own works published. She grew up in a more middle-class area than my other gran and therefore was better educated and she seemed to be a walking encyclopaedia, full of knowledge and wonder. Her house was where I learned many of my early and advanced English skills and we were always going out on trips to the shops, parks and areas round Glasgow as she was very active and able to drive. My mums dad grew up in the East End of Glasgow like his wife, and worked as a postman bringing in money for his family, he loved Dean Martin, he was Elvis daft and would fall asleep listening to the football on his ‘tranny’ (his radio!). He loved football and again, he loved each of his grandkids more than he could say, and his three daughters were his world.

Unfortunately between 2008 and 2012 I lost those three grandparents, which as a young teenager was devastating. As an adult, although I was really close to them, I find it unsettling that I never found out as much as I could about my grandparents in the endless hours I spent with them, because as a child the world really does revolve around you. It’s through no selfishness or choice, but you are a child and don’t understand that people that you love will be gone one day. You are going to nursery and school, learning things, growing, making relationships, waiting for Santa, doing your homework and playing until your heart is content. Your grandparents’ is a place to go to have fun and get fed copious amounts of food – and although you may think you know the two loving people who brought up your mum and dad, do you really?

On a positive note, I still have one of my grandparents left, my dad’d dad. I’ve made a point as an adult to get to know him as much as I can and find out about my family who lived before me and what Glasgow was like growing up for my Grampa all those years ago.

I have a pretty busy life, but it’s so important to make time for those who have made time for us and give back now that they are older and we are now adults as life is one big cycle! Who knows? You might need someone to look after you when you’re older. Every now and then I will make a point of going to my grampa’s house for lunch. He makes home made soup and egg or ham rolls and sets the table complete with a tablecloth, bread basket and salt and pepper shakers. We chat about his life. I have found out so much that I never knew before, so I am going to share some of his stories with you…

He was 2 when World War II began and so he’s told me all about it, like when a land mine blew up on Duke Street and the windows were blown out of the windows and many people died, it even cracked the window of the flat he lived in in Dennistoun. He told me he lived on Golfhill Drive, just across from Golfhill Bowling Club. In the winter he would sledge down the steep hill at the end of the street, and he still has the original wooden sledge in his loft. I’ve learned about rationing, and how my great-gran would use coupons for powdered milk, eggs and even powdered orange juice from a little station on Cumbernauld Rd. He never ate sweets, and on the rare occasion he got them he would give them to his younger siblings, Ann and Dougie. As a result of this, he’s only had 3 fillings in his life! He had to take a gas mask to school, and the kids had Mickey Mouse ones. He remembers the sound of the air-raid sirens and that his gran in Knightswood had an Anderson Shelter and he would play in it. When the war ended when he was 8, he spoke about travelling through Glasgow on a tram, taking in the breathtaking sights of the lights in shops on Sauchiehall Street and even street lights being on for the first time, the true hustle and bustle of Glasgow coming to life after the devastation of war. He went to see fireworks at Alexandra Park on Victory Day, and says he remembers being in awe of the spectacle, and couldn’t believe everyone was out of their houses, safely gathered together in the park to celebrate. When he was 18 he did his National Service and he was in the RAF working in radar and keeping track of the planes. He’s told me stories of work colleagues and other young boys like him who completed their National Service. He then went to work in the family business, the grain merchants, where he would sell cattle feed to farmers. He built up a trustworthy relationship with farmers from all around from Dunoon to Denny. A lot of his business came from the regular Paisley markets where farmers would bring their cattle. They didn’t have mobile phones so he would have to jump into people’s offices to put orders in on the landline! He worked on farms for years and the family business was one of the last remaining grain merchants in Glasgow. He and my gran donated a brick from it to the National Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride, which I am going to go and see. He met my gran in 1955 when he moved to Springboig and they were both members of the tennis club, he likes to say that he’s a toyboy because she was a few years older than him! They eventually moved to Bishopbriggs and had two children, my auntie Alyson and my dad and I’ve heard many stories of them growing up! Together my Gran and Grampa travelled so many places in the World on cruises touring the Carribean, New Zealand, Australia, Europe and Asia for months at a time – that’s definitely the way to spend retirement! They’ve seen so much of the world, and we have spoken about many of the places he has been. Nowadays, he sits on his armchair and on clear, sunny days he looks up at the vapour trails from the planes and has a good idea where they might be heading from their height and direction. At the ripe old age of 80 my Grampa is still as active as he always has been. He drives (albeit about 4 miles a week which we all laugh at – in fact, he wants a new car that he doesn’t need! But good on him!), since my gran died he has learned to cook, making soups and his own fishcakes to name a few, he has also learned to sew the buttons back on his shirts and he is pretty handy around the house! His health is good, his memory is great and he is still as strong as ever. He goes on lunches, days out and even cruises with friends of his and he has a holiday abroad at least once a year – not bad being 80! ‘The Bar’ opens about 4pm where he will pour himself a whisky and watch programmes like Countdown and Tipping Point.

So if you’re lucky enough still to have grandparents then make sure you get to know them, keep them company and chat to them when you visit – and make sure that you do.

If you don’t, AgeUK have great opportunities for you to volunteer whether it’s visiting, doing handy wee jobs round an elderly persons home, getting their shopping, driving them round or providing support.

You can even donate to their ‘help us make sure that no one has no one’ campaign to help the elderly have someone to befriend them and not to be lonely.

Get involved.

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