In Memory of Gertrude Winifred Ruston (nee Rockliff)
15th April 1897 - 7th January 1985
Photo taken at my wedding in 1977.
Ever had one of those conversations with your Mum? Well I had one in my mid-30s. Let me set the scene. Would have been sometime in the late 80's/early 90's and Mum and I had gone to Bingo (I cringe to admit that now) and at the end of the night before we got into our cars and drove home she said "I need to tell you something".
Now two thoughts popped straight into my head - 1. my Mum had cancer and 2. I'm adopted. On seeing the expression on my face, Mum straight away knew I thought she was ill, so she was quick to tell it me wasn't anything too serious. Phew - then the "what I'm 35 and she has waited till now to tell me I am adopted" thought jumped around even harder in my grey matter.
In the ensuing conversation what she actually told me was that she had been adopted. It was a very strange feeling to think that 35 years of memories were based on an untruth. I won't use the word 'lie' as the reason behind the untruth was one of love. It was because of the love my Mum had for my Grandmother. Grandma for reasons of her own had asked Mum never to tell anyone and so my Mum had honoured her wishes until a couple of years past my Grandma's death.
Now I will tell the rest of the adoption story in other posts, but January 7th 1985 was when my Grandma died and the rest of this post is about her. Maybe I should have named this post Grandma, but the adoption story is relevant to what is to follow.
To me my Grandma was a strong willed intelligent woman who overcame much in her life and went on to help others less fortunate than her. Since her death I have found that she was also extremely complex and wove a story of her life that was not always based on truth, but more by not saying all when telling a story. I think she did this because she felt abandoned by her father and was always trying to live up to his expectations. Interestingly enough she also had high expectations of not only herself but also of those that were her family and I am not sure that we ever lived up to those either. But for all her faults she was my Grandma and I miss her still.
Grandma and I shared a psychic connection that I thought was based on our 'blood' relationship. So I was a little taken aback when I found out that she was my Mum's adopted mother. She also had this psychic relationship with my Mum. Grandma seemed to know when she was needed and would turn up at my parent's house at strange times or would ring to check on things, always when she was indeed needed. The night of my birth was one of these occasions, as was the night of my brother's birth - and I should point out we were both born about 4 weeks early.
When I became pregnant at 17 I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone especially after my boyfriend broke up with me when I told him. I did go and see my Grandma who worked around the corner on a few occasions with the intention of telling her. I often used to pop around for lunch so this was not an out of the ordinary event. But I never got the courage to actually tell her. I was not showing and had no symptoms but she knew and eventually rang my Mum and told her she thought I was pregnant. Could have been a lucky guess but I don't think so.
The last time I saw my Grandma before she died was the night of my brother's wedding when we stopped at RPH to see her on the way to the wedding reception. She was recovering from some major surgery but was on her way to a full recovery - or so everyone thought. That night as we were leaving I stood at the end of her bed to say a last goodnight and she told me she would be leaving me soon, she didn't say it in words and no one else heard her, but I knew. I just looked into her eyes and she looked into mine and that was enough. In my head I heard her loud and clear, she said goodbye. I was so upset at the reception and kept telling my husband that Grandma was going to die but I don't think anyone really believed me. I also convinced myself that I was wrong, but within 48 hours my Grandma had died. I always regret not going to see her one last time but the night before she died was set aside for my brother and his new wife to visit and I didn't want to intrude on their time together.
Grandma's 'estate' so to speak was really only her furniture and my Mum gave me the recliner chair that Grandma used to sit in all the time. On nights when her arthritis made sleeping in bed hard she quite often slept in it as well. We bought the chair home and it had pride of place in our lounge even though it was quite worn and tattered but it was Grandmas. The very first time I sat in that chair I was literally catapulted across the room - my Grandma was sitting there still. I felt her presence as strong as if she had actually been sitting in the chair in real life. It was months before I could sit comfortably in the chair and not feel I was sharing it with her. Every time I went to church, which wasn't often, she was also there with me and I used to cry and hope that no-one was watching.
So blood tie or not, she was and always will be my Grandma and I just wish she had the strength to feel comfortable with me knowing her secrets while she was alive. Grandma I would never have judged you I just would have loved you just like I did and always will.