Last Friday was November the 22nd. Not a particularly important date for some, it’s an important one for me that I note every year.
We called her Nana when we were kids and she was my maternal grandmother.
It’s been almost twenty years since she left the planet, but that was the day she arrived, in Jeparit (same place Menzies was born).
She was a farm girl. Certainly not a gambling woman, she always watched the Melbourne Cup because she loved the horses; loved to watch the horses run. I wonder what she’d think of all the animal welfare issues surrounding the horse racing industry at the moment. I’m sure she’d be appalled.
She was an orphan by the time she’d barely reached school age.
Her father died in an accident when she was only a year old. Her mother died not too many years after that. Much like her own children, she lived with uncles and aunts; and cousins were more like siblings, than distant relatives.
In her twenties, she studied midwifery in Sydney and, a week after she finished the course, married her husband, John. A week after that, they sailed on a ship to Africa.
It was official. They were missionaries in Nigeria.
As a child, the concept that their honeymoon was effectively, their first (probably) three-year term as missionaries in Africa, was something that just blew my mind.
Who does that? My grandparents; that’s who.
It’s been on my list of things to do, for several years, to sit down and read the circulars that they sent out to their friends and family as they travelled. It was such a time of world upheaval that they write about in one circular: they’ve docked at a port where all the navy vessels are stationed, ready to be moved into position to battle out the conflict that was World War Two.
Meanwhile, they headed to Africa.
They always struck me as focused, one-minded people. They weren’t narrow-minded; they just knew what they thought and what they were doing.
I always admired my grandmother. She was such a practical woman. I’m sure her years of ‘catching babies’ in Africa contributed to that. She wasn’t good at sitting still, either. No flies on Janet (her actual name).
I remember towards the end of her life, when she was actually sitting still, in a nursing home, I visited her with the aim of having her teach me crochet. I can knit so I didn’t expect to be hopeless at crochet, but I was, I discovered. Nana was an excessively patient woman but I could tell that she was frustrated by my lack of skill that day. Not that she said anything much about it.
My mother told me she can only recall one occasion growing up when Nana got cross at her husband. It was a Sunday, just after Church and he was still in his Sunday best. There was a problem with the car and so he got under to check the problem.
Cars have oil. Nana did the washing.
It was the only time she when off at him. What a record.
I have to add at this point, that this scenario also totally reminds me of Pa: a practically minded, jack of all trades. Again, I think the whole ‘missionary in Africa’ thing has something to do with it.
Now, I’m not setting my grandparents up as saints. They were sinners like everyone else. A disturbing thing about the missionary movement at the time was that it was common to leave you children back at home (ie. Australia) to be looked after by others, while you served the African needy. In the social context of the day, this was considered acceptable.
I could devote a collection of posts to the impact this had on the children of missionaries back in the day. But I won’t (at least, not for now).
Imperfect servants, I still consider my grandparents and particularly my Nana, as my own role models.
What a woman to try and emulate. She was practical, focused and went where God told her to go. She was ever patient, kind and not inclined to be lazy.
I wonder what she’d think of the Church today?
Yours in aiming to emulate,