Wednesday, August 22, 2012

PAGE EIGHT: when Grandma came to visit

Malcolm, David & Christopher with Grandma

In August, 1957, according to Mum's inscription on the back of this photo, Grandma came over from Devonport, Tasmania for a visit. Lillian Mabel McKay, Dad's mother, was an austere woman. Dad adored her, but his sisters were more sanguine.

Mum asked her what the children should call her and she replied: Grandmother! But we never did.
When we were children, having your photograph taken was a bit of an ordeal. The photographer always made sure you were looking directly into the sun and feeling as uncomfortable as possible. I think the picture conveys this pretty well.

During Grandma's stay, Mum got up from the lunch table to get something, and while she was away, I put my hand into the sugar bowl and grabbed some to eat.

Grandma immediately exclaimed:
Bea! Do you allow David to put his hand in the sugar bowl?

This was my only encounter with Grandma. She had been caring for Dad's brother, Don, but he was becoming harder to manage. She had him put into a mental institution and he lived there for the rest of his life.
Don and Trixie McKay, with their  father George
At the time, I didn't know that Grandma had finally been relieved of looking after Uncle Don, but was told this many years later. We were often told that Dad's brother was mad (meaning insane).
But when Joan and I reflected on all of the things we were told about Uncle Don, we came to the conclusion that he must have been not mad, but autistic. I feel so sad that he did not get the help that is available today that could have enabled him to have a fulfilling life.

Uncle Don was quite a clever person. He learnt the piano and I was given copies of some music that he had transcribed, including Handel's stirring March from Scipio. I was also given his Thompson Chain Reference Bible. Reading it through and following the chains was my first experience of systematic theology. I remember being captivated by tracing the development of the Bible's teaching on the divinity of Jesus and its trinitarian theology.

After Grandma went home, she would send us a money order for five shillings each birthday and at Christmas time. And we would always dutifully write a letter to her which said
Dear Grandma.
How are you? I hope you are well.
Thankyou for your kind gift of five shillings.
I have decided to spend it on ...
Your loving grandson,
When Grandma wrote letters to Mum and Dad, she wrote almost exclusively about three topics:
* the weather (bemoaning Devonport's damp, cold climate)
* what she was growing in her garden
* the jam she was making from loganberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.
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