Violet Mary Maree

Violet Mary Maree

(2 July 1918 – …)

To my dearest Granny

93 today.  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.

There was a time in my life when I would have said, “OMG.  Ninety-three?  That’s ancient!” 

I mean, 1918 is prehistoric.  Isn’t it?

Sorry, Gran.

But, you know what it’s like when you’re young.  And stupid.

Now, I’m 40-something and the aging process has me firmly in its grasp.  And there’s no getting away from it.

When I was young and physically able, the days were short and the years were long.  Everybody’s first 20 years is the longest half of their life.  Since my accident the years have become short and the days excruciatingly long.  That, along with the humiliation of not being able to pee or poo on my own, has given me a whole new appreciation, and understanding, of the sometimes undignified probabilities of growing old for some.

Gran, spending time with you recently made me realise that getting to an old-age is a privilege that many people are denied.  Yet, so many take it for granted.  Including me.  At one stage I arrogantly assumed that I would live to a ripe old age.  After all, longevity is highly prevalent among the women of our family.  Right?

As we sat in the warm winter sun having tea together, I looked at you through different eyes – mature eyes.  Yes, Gran, your eldest granddaughter has finally grown up.

When I think of you now my eyes fill with tears – not sad tears – but rather, tears of awareness – regret that I didn’t make the most of the opportunity to spend more time with you when you lived with us all those years ago; joy that my son (your eldest great-grandchild) has the privilege of truly knowing you; panic because I want to spend a lot more time with you because you have so much to teach and I have so much more to learn from you; admiration for everything you are; appreciation of the true blessing you are to me and your entire family.

Without you being aware of it you have taught me many lessons by merely living your life with grace and dignity.

You have given me the gift of:

Faith: You and Oupa* gave me my first Bible.  I still have it.

Faithfulness: You and Oupa* got married when you were at the tender age of 20.  You have three very special and beautiful daughters.  You were a fine example of the true meaning of marriage.   You stayed faithful to him and your shared love by choosing to be alone for about 30 years without him by your side and you still speak so fondly of him.  We all loved him deeply.  I remember feeling shame at my divorce, the first in the family, as we were all taught that marriage is for life.

Honesty: The first, and last, time I ever lied to you as a little girl you put pepper in my mouth.  Sheesh Gran, that stuff was hot.  I only just started eating it again a few months ago.

Work Ethic: I remember how you and Oupa* woke up at 4:30 AM to have tea together before he went off to work.  Then, I would go to work with you for the day.  Even after you retired, you were always busy doing something with enthusiasm.

Strength: I watched how you picked up the pieces after Oupa* died, stayed strong for your family and carried on with life.

Courage: Even at the age of 90-something you are not afraid to get on a plane by yourself and fly across the country to one of your children.  You gave me the courage to do the same except I needed my care assistant.  Old age ain’t no place for sissies.  And neither is disability.

Compassion: You unselfishly moved in with your older sister to take care of your terminally ill brother.  You gave generously of your time to mend broken toys for charity for many years.

Perceptiveness: You may be a little hard of hearing but you see things in others that most of us miss.  You observe quietly and you’re usually a good judge of character.

Food Favourites: You made us the most divine roast chicken every time we went out to the dam which is still my favourite dish finished off with your recipe of lemon-meringue-without-the-meringue.  It’s the best meal on the planet.

Independence: You like to do things for yourself in your own way and you’re fiercely independent to this day.

Family: You are extremely protective of your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren always putting them first.  Even in your grand age anyone of your three daughters wouldn’t hesitate to have you live with them and that includes grandchildren.  You can live with me any day, Gran.  At the age of 90 you took on a huge responsibility of taking care of a baby, your tiny great-grandson, during the day.  Where do you get the energy?  Amazing.

Intelligence: Your mind is incredibly sharp and you exercise it daily.  You have been doing crossword puzzles for as long as I can remember and still going strong.

Health: Since I was paralysed, I’ve often joked that I am trapped inside an 80-year-old body.  But, when I compare to it to yours, I see how truly amazing you are.  You’re fit and walk so fast that even your daughters struggle to keep up with you.  You continue to take good care of your body, following doctor’s orders.

Pride: You always take pride in everything you do, working meticulously and methodically.  You take pride in your appearance – always neat and clean.

Beauty: I’ve seen some photographs of you on your wedding day and you are genuinely beautiful.  To me, you always look exactly as you do now because your true beauty is in your heart, mind and soul.

Wisdom: You have few earthly possessions yet, you are satisfied.  You are living proof that a contented mind and a loving heart is the truest wisdom.

Age, like paralysis, is a prison from which we cannot escape but, with our genes we can handle anything that life throws at us.

Oh, I definitely got my stubbornness from you.  But, I’m proudly stubborn.  It has navigated me through many tough times.

My fondest memory of you my  Darling Granny is playing with all that lovely, soft, stretchy skin on your hands when I was little and asking you over and over again: “Granny, why are your hands like this?”  And you would always answer patiently: “I don’t know, my girl, maybe I’m just old.”

But, you were wrong.  You have never been old.

And my wish is that I can play with that lovely skin on your hands.  Just.  One.  More.  Time.

Oh, by the way, happy birthday to my sweet and special Granny.

I love you.


Oupa* Afrikaans for Granddad.

About Tracy Todd (Brave Lotus Flower)

Author of Brave Lotus Flower Rides the Dragon – an intimate and inspiring memoir of a quadriplegic. Inspirational Speaker. Teacher. Counsellor. Wife. Mother. Animal lover. Although I need a wheelchair to get around, it is most certainly not what defines me.
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24 Responses to Violet Mary Maree

  1. Bill Watson says:

    I read your blog with tears in my eyes. Both my grand mothers were dead and gone before I knew them as grannies. Can I adopt yours? Love, Bill

  2. Dearest Aunty Vi, so gentle and kind, we remember you so fondly too and still today, I only use your recipe when making “Tabouli”..!!! Hope you had a wonderful birthday. Terence’s Mum will be 95 on the 17th July. Love, Dolores & Terence

  3. Deborah says:

    This is a lovely post, Tracy. We don’t honour older people enough, and should learn from their wisdom more. I don’t think the UK can be particularly proud of its attitude to older people. (My mum’s name is Daisy! I’ve always like it, but it went out of fashion for a long time, then became trendy again.)

  4. Daleen Fourie says:

    Hi Tracy,what a beautifull piece and what a privilage you have ! My grandparents all died before I was even born. I have 4 grandchildren now, and I trust that I will they will have such fond memories of me. Surely something that I wiil have to work at! What a challenge !!
    I do hope that your health is better now (since your previous post……)

  5. Mareca says:

    Tracy, what a beautiful birthday ode to your Gran. She looks amazing for her age!
    You are very blessed to have her in your life, I have never known what it is like to
    have a gran, but I can imagine that it must be absolutely wonderful. Wishing her many more
    blessed years>

  6. souldipper says:

    Tracy, I’m trying to put myself in your Grandmother’s shoes. Reading this would give me the sense of receiving the greatest gift ever – love and respect. Wow.

    I missed out on having a grandmother’s time and presence. You’ve given me a touch of the experience through this post. Many thanks.

  7. I loved this remembrance. Fond memory is a pleasure whether you are the older or younger one. My Mum’s an 80-something, and my son is 36 – same birthday as Violet.
    (She’s got a lovely name too. I like the custom of naming girls after flowers.)

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Thank you, Michael. Interestingly, her mother (my great-grandmother) was also named after a flower – Daisy. Granny Daisy also lived until a wonderful old-age of 99. 🙂
      And happy birthday to your son. Congratulations, proud Dad.

  8. Aww Tracy! What a lovely post! I can so relate, because i still have my 95 year old Granny. So much of what you wrote, is true of her too. I suspect your gran is pretty proud of you!

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Hi Tracy,

    Beautiful words here, especially not taking advantage of grandparents when we are young. It’s the way we’re socialized, even at a young age to not respect our senior adventurers. I’d give most anything now to have time to spend with my grandfather and ask him all kinds of questions about coming through ellis island in 1911, speaking Italian with him, asking him where his villa was in Atina. We live in a strange world that encourages us to look everywhere for happiness but where we are at the moment.

    Happy 93 to your granny! How fortunate she’s still here for you and vice versa. I’ve been grandparent-less since my early 20’s.

    Thx, G.

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Hey G. so nice to “see” you again. I love how you refer to the elderly as our ” fellow adventurers” – beautiful. When I hear that you have been grandparent-less since your 20s, I’m reminded again of how truly blessed I am. Thank you. 🙂

  10. Lauren Terblanche says:

    Sjoe!what lovely words Trace.We sure have a strong and beautiful Granny!!This message left me with tears in my eyes.We don’t get see gran that much but will always cherish and love her ALWAYS! 🙂 The pics of Granny are gorgeous,Thanx Tracy.luv and miss you all.mwa.xx

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Lauren, we are indeed very fortunate and blessed to have such an incredible Granny. I know that we all live far apart and a long way away from her but, just a little SMS or a quick call once a week or so is all that she needs to know that we are thinking of her and love her deeply.

  11. Norm says:

    Snap! on the make me cry thing… love this post!

  12. Sylvia says:

    Thank you for posting this beautiful tribute to your grandmother. Wish her a Happy Birthday for me and pull her ears 93 times.

  13. Anton says:

    What an awesome post about an awesome woman, by an awesome woman.

    Just like you learned (ans still learn) a lot from your Gran, I am privileged to learn from you.

    Please be careful with the 93 candles now – we don’t need another fire!

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Oh Anton, you make me laugh. Thank you for being such a loyal reader and always being willing to leave your comments. I really do appreciate it. Thank you for the compliments. 🙂

  14. Oh, I LOVE this post. I haven’t had a granny in many many years. And I lost my dear father 22 years ago. My mom is 84 now and has many wonderful character traits which are admirable. Unfortunately, although her body is amazing, her mind is slipping. There are 6 of us and one sister moved in with her last year when we realized she couldn’t remember how to turn on the oven.
    She reads her Bible through several times a year. She’s now on her second reading in 2011. I asked her one day if she remembers what she reads. She said, “Not really, but my heart knows.”
    I offered to buy her a modern translation, but she just smiled and said, “No, I’ll stick with what I’m used to.”

    Thanks for sharing about your precious granny, and tell her a friend in a faraway land says Happy Birthday!


    • Tracy Todd says:

      Jeanne, how nice to “see” you again. I’m sorry to hear of your mother’s poor health. You are so fortunate to have a sister who is willing to take care of her. I think that is probably one of my greatest fears, losing my mind. I think that would be the ultimate loss of control. But, unfortunately, none of us know how we are going to age. All we know, is that it’s inevitable. So, like my granny, we need to live each day to the full. 🙂

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