MY GRAN

Inspired by @Diplomatic_diva
  1. Her name was Kathleen Pringle and she died two years ago at age 96. She was a tiny bird of a woman who never in her life ate more than she needed. Until she was in her 80s, she drank one glass of wine and smoked one cigarette each year, on Christmas.
  2. She was born in 1918, the illegitimate daughter of a "bar girl" who worked at a pub somewhere in Glasgow. She was then adopted by a couple who probably didn't have any business adopting a child.
    She told me once she "didn't remember" her adopted parents' first names. And I didn't find out her birth surname until after she died. She did not like to talk about that part of her past.
  3. As a young woman, at the start of WWII, she worked at the Singer sewing machine factory in Glasgow, which had been converted into a munitions factory. There, she met my grandfather, who was bad news. He was a liar and a thief and an alcoholic, who would forever blur for her the line between love and hate.
  4. She was 22 during the Clydebank Blitz in 1941, during which the Luftwaffe bombed Glasgow and caused the worst destruction and the most casualties sustained anywhere in Scotland during WWII.
  5. Her family had made it to a shelter where they cowered for two nights as bombs rained down around them. They emerged to find a shell of their neighborhood. My grandmother was sent to check on their house only to discover it was entirely destroyed. The family lost everything.
  6. Those two nights of bombing would remain her most vivid memory, haunting her throughout her life. (When she had a heart attack a couple of years before she died, the paramedics found her wedged underneath a dresser in her house, confused and mumbling about the bombs.)
  7. She raised three children by her alcoholic, abusive husband. When my mother was 21, she and my father helped my grandmother finally lock my grandfather out of the house. They spent the evening listening to him beat on the door, threatening to break it down and kill them all.
  8. My grandmother divorced my grandfather at a time when it simply wasn't "done" by people of class. She had to earn a living, so she did what she knew how to do: clean houses. She weathered tremendous shame and embarrassment about her circumstances.
  9. My mother had four children and worked as a teacher. My grandmother was like a third parent, always at our house, watching us after school, helping clean the house and do laundry. She helped raise us, and since she was not the grandma who had the luxury of baking treats for us (that was my dad's mom), she got short shrift.
  10. We left Glasgow and moved to the states when I was 10 and it took years until I had unraveled enough of my grandmother's story to understand what a difficult life she had had, what a brave and strong woman she was.
  11. When my mother died at age 60 in 2003, I stepped in to fill a gap in my grandmother's life. I visited her whenever I could, I learned as much as I could about her life and I told her that I loved her until it didn't make her quite as uncomfortable as it used to.
  12. My uncle Ian, her son, died a few years after my mother. Her other son suffered two massive strokes and had throat cancer. After a long, hard life, she had years marked by pain and suffering due to her children's circumstances.
  13. My grandmother lived on her own until she was 93, going out to her church coffee mornings, running her own errands, cooking all her own meals from scratch. She refused to get a microwave, couldn't understand why a person would need an electric kettle when her old metal one worked just fine, thank you very much.
  14. My grandmother never once expected her life to be easy, never allowed herself any self-pity. She had such walls built up around her heart, made of fear and scar tissue. But she was my hero and I miss her every day. And, one day, I'm going to write a book about her life.