Renate Maria Alex Anna Wallace. I feel privileged to call such an amazing woman my granny.
When I think about what she went through in her life, it is just incredible. Not many people are able to say they have had such a broad and diverse life experience as her. My friends often light-heartedly joke about my German heritage, but I am proud of my Granny’s roots. I am proud of her actions as a young woman in Germany, and I’m proud of her achievements after it.
Early in her life, she recognised that people are all different, but that, no matter what their beliefs, everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. She, along with Ert, instilled this in her children and thus, her grandchildren. She is my role model, and I’m sure some of yours too.
Many people grow up not really knowing their grandparents. I am lucky enough to not only known my gran, but to have travelled across the world with her. From Germany to Belgium to Australia to America. She seems to have had friends and relatives in all four corners of the globe. And even though you had to get to the airport at least 4 hours early, it was always a great trip.
I’m sure some of you have experienced an exciting trip with Renate too? If not a trip across the world then a white knuckle ride in her Fiat Punto, possibly? She was the only person I knew that drove like a boy racer but, as a passenger, shrieked if you went above 20mph!
I was extremely close to granny. So close, in fact, that at one point she was a housemate living in the adjacent room. She would often come in and ask what all the banging around was. (It was usually me pinning Jake to the floor). Then, in such a calm and nonchalant way, she would resolve the issue without you even noticing — and you’d end up at the table playing a civilised game of Reversi!
I still love a board game now, thanks to granny. And as many will tell you, I don’t like losing. I now put this down to the fact that Granny used to very subtly let me win. Just a hint of her kindness and generosity.
Always dressed immaculately (or ‘shic’ as she would say), she never had a hair out of place. Legs crossed and hands clasped, she would sit with Regal dignity. Even in a hospital bed she looked smarter than most of the doctors. Yet somehow she was as far from vain as you could get. I don’t think I once saw her even glance at a mirror. She just oozed elegance and class.
Did you know that in all my life, I never once saw her smoke a cigarette? She was so careful to be a positive role model, she would rather stub out a freshly lit cigarette than let me see her smoke. As her hearing started to fail, poised as ever, she would still laugh along at the jokes across the dinner table. (Even though we knew perfectly well she couldn’t hear a thing.) And that’s the kind of woman she was. She took pride in her appearance and always wanted to give off the right impression.
When I was much younger I actually used to get a little protective, even possessive over my gran. She would always have friends or relatives or friends of relatives or relatives of friends visiting. She would get frequent phone calls from across the globe, as she was such a skilful problem solver and an expert mediator. But she would never that interfere with quality time. She always made time for you. She was a master at giving you a complement or a smile to make you feel special.
Now I’ve grown up, I realise why so many people wanted to be around her. (And it wasn’t for the food!) She was simply wonderful company. She always wanted to know how you were doing. What was going on in your life. And how it’d changed since she last saw you. Her interest in you never ceased. And talking through your life with her always resulted in a clearer mind.
As I got older, I not only relinquished my possessiveness of her, but I actually started showing her off. Now all of my friends know my gran (many of them even staying in her house). She might not know their names — but I know something about her remains with them, as they always ask how she is, before asking how I am.
And the same can be said for myself, a part of you will always remain with me.
We are going to miss you Granny. But you will always live on in our hearts and in our memories.
WORDS BY… Ben Hardy