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That next time might never come… Now it never will. 20 September 09

Posted by Fantastic Four in Life.
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My grandmother passed away. I always thought to myself she would be there when I visited next time. Last time I was in Ireland and I had a 10 day visit to Turkey. For this and that reason I didn’t see all my relatives, that includes my auntie and my grandmother. As if she was going to live forever, I was going to see her soon, the next time I visited. Guess what, next time didn’t/won’t happen. There is not an emotion as powerful as regretting not having seen my grandmother one last time the last time I visited.

My best memories of childhood and youth are those summers spent with my grandmother. She used to drive down with my grandpa, from Istanbul down to Ankara, pick me up and take me down to Antalya for camping in the incredible, beautiful beaches of the Mediterranean.

She was also my very first teacher. She was a primary school teacher. She bought me books, she instilled in me the passion of reading, which I have – also – regretfully got out of the habit of for a while.

During those amazing summer holidays she used to buy a couple of chickens after we have set up camp. She used to go to the nearest village and buy fresh vegetables, fruits as well as the chicken. I remember eating fresh eggs every morning. I remember picking olives from the olive trees by the beach, and her marinating/pickling them. She was so resourceful, before the holiday was over we’d be eating olives for breakfast.

She also would go up to tourists during our summer camps, and ask them if they would come and strike up a conversation with me. I was only preschooler when people would come to me and say: Hi Gaye, my name is…. And try to speak English with me. She wanted me to speak another language. Or many. Languages became my passion, and hobby thanks to her breaking my shell as I was a shy child. When strangers come up to you and chat away in English, and when you make pen-pals from your summer holidays with English, German, French kids, you forget that you are shy. I did not end up being an introvert, thanks to her shoving me headfirst into social situations.

She bought me a violin. She encouraged me to play musical instruments. My parents sent me to private lessons so I could learn to play violin. I cried, I hated it. I wanted to play outside with the boys, soccer, volleyball, that sort of thing. Later on I played volleyball in the league, and dropped violin playing. I don’t think she ever got over the disappointment of that. She could see me as a violinist, playing concertos. I could only see myself chasing after a ball.

We used to pick up sunflowers wildly growing on the side of the road. Berries as well. And I’d get into them in the car. I still love eating sunflower seeds. Kind of like Mulder in X-Files. I could carry a whole bunch in my pocket and eat anytime.

Then there was the time when I would visit her in her apartment unit in Istanbul. It was by the train station, in a trendy part of town. It was the top floor of a 5-6 storey apartment. Her balcony was larger than the living space. I learned to ride bicycle on her balcony. She had barrels of roses there, flowers, hot chilli peppers, tomatoes. She grew things with love.

I wrote she was a school teacher, so her salary was not great as you can imagine. But with her salary and grandpa’s income she not only raised two children, but also paid private school fees for me, then my brother, also later helped with my sister’s fees. She supported my aunty as well with that little salary. She did all this by being clever with her money. She didn’t even ask for money from her husband, she’d do all this from her own.

She was this amazing woman who would make her own liquor to offer her guests with chocolate on the side. It was sour cherry liquor. I was allowed to have a bit on special days, even as a child. She had these little lovely glasses where she’d pour in the liquor with a couple of cherries. Her kitchen was always full of amazingly delicious food. You could not go there and not see something ready to eat at any given time. She used to make breakfasts fit for kings, from fresh eggs to cheese, honey, milk, tea, fruit juice, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives…

In the morning, every morning, until she was old and broke her hip, she did two exercises. One was laying on her back and lifting her legs up in the air, down, up, down, up. The other was curling into a ball and rolling back to front on her back. She did this without exception everyday for years. She’d be cooking dinner, making breakfast, when she peeled cucumbers she used to use the skins on her face. Would wipe her face with cucumber milk from the skins, some of which she’d give me too. I still do it when I remember to. She had the softest skin I have ever seen.

She bought me books. Lots of books. All of the children’s classics. I was only little when I would be reading many times over Oliver Twist, Pollyanna, Around the World in 80 Days, Tom Sawyer, Little Women, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, 2o Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

There are too many memories I can’t write them all in one sitting because I was fortunate enough to spend so much time with her. Not just a weekend visit here and there. Upto nearly 3 months every year, from age 3 to 20something. Even after I’d still go visit during my holidays. At some point they were too old to do the camping so when they moved to Antalya as it was going to be better for my grandpa’s asthma, I began to visit them.

I hope she always knew I loved her dearly, because there were breaks in our contact. I hope she never thought I have forgotten about her or our times together. I hope she can still see somewhere up or out there, into my heart, and know that I miss her. That I am miserable knowing I won’t ever be able to see her again, that my heart is broken into a million pieces.

I hate growing up and getting old, not because it is bringing me near to my own mortal end. But because grandparents, who have been my heroes my entire life (both my grandmas and grandpas) are coming to the end of theirs.

I know I need to just celebrate her life, as it should be, but my grief right now is too heavy to bear. My mind travels back to all the happy times, yet my feeling of guilt for not having been able to visit her that one last time. After all, she has always been there. As she was always going to be. That next time might just never come, you know. And it didn’t. And it never will.

Rest in peace my dearest grandma, hope you have reunited with the love of your life and are happy again, with all the earthly ailings and pains gone. I love you so much.

PS: I was able to write this post in English. Because she encouraged me to learn. Learn and speak well.