When my Nana got really sick, an ambulance came to rush her away to the Wellington Hospital where they found out she had gotten a blood clot in her leg. The hospital people said she had to stay in bed with her leg strung up in the air for six weeks, even while she was asleep, to stop the clot moving to her heart.
Dad drove us in the car to visit as soon as we heard, but only mum got inside because once again, kids were not allowed. We waited with dad, sitting on the grass in front of the hospital. I tried staring carefully up at all the windows, trying to catch a glimpse of Nana, but had no luck.
Mum came out to give dad some money from Nana, to buy me and my sister some lollies. At the Basin Reserve dairy we chose minty tasting sticks with red and white twisty stripes going round and round, that I tried to suck off.
After the hospital, Nana was sent to get better at a ‘Convalescent Home’ a large old fashioned house, hidden away in bushes, high up in the hills of Mount Victoria. On our visit, the road up there was so steep and twisty dad’s car bumped around all over the place.
After she recovered, Nana came visiting again, she told me she had been very lucky because she had nearly died, but the doctors had saved her. This made me really happy because I loved her lots.
My school put on a, Jesus story play, at the end of the year, and I got to be the donkey. For my part, teacher wanted me to crawl alongside the Joseph and Mary kids, doing a circuit of the classroom and making donkey noises. Mum sewed up some stuffed ears and a tail out of brown paper and stuck them onto me with hair-clips and safety pins.
On the big day, mum sat watching, with the other mothers on the little, kids’ seats, set out around the walls. I can remember, I really liked it when everyone did a big laugh at my funny donkey hee-haws.
Dad, had another one of his big ideas and decided to build a petrol, and car repair, garage on the other side of the train tracks at Waiwhetu. He was going to be the petrol man and have a mechanic to do the fixing bit. Mum and us kids went for a nosy to see the building work going on. Dad was busy carrying in the ginormous sheets of asbestos to nail on the walls.
Doing my usual after school dawdle home, as I got near to my house, I pricked my ears up at the sounds of a loud kerflufle going on inside. I knocked on the front door to be let in, worried about what could be happening. It was a surprise when Nana opened up our door and quickly shooed me down the hall into my bedroom.
Having a quick squiz passing by our kitchen, I saw all crammed inside with mum and dad, heaps of mum’s farming cousins. Huddled up in our bedroom with my sister and Nana, we listened as the rellies from our old town, were shouting with angry voices in the kitchen. Nana said the big barney was because they were mad at dad. According to Nana, they reckoned he had been sleeping with mum’s, no good, cousin. Her husband had found out and given her a hiding he now wanted to give dad one as well.
My brain couldn’t figure it out, why would dad want to do that when him and mum had their own big bed. It was dark time before it went quiet and everyone, including dad, had gone. Mum was really upset and we never ever saw the rellies on that side of the family again.
Our other Grandma, on dad’s side, came to New Zealand on a big ship from Newport in Wales with her father. After marrying Granddad she had seven children, dad’s brothers and sisters who were all grown up. She lived in a different house to Granddad, a very small ‘state flat’. It was one of two, stuck together in the middle, beside the train tracks, just down the line from us, at Epuni.
This Grandma only had one leg and used a crutch to hip-hop along. Someone, had once made her a wooden leg but it was too heavy and she couldn’t get the hang of it. I asked dad about what had happened to her leg. He said, one time Granddad got really mad at her and started chasing her with a knife, so she hid under the bed, but her leg was sticking out and he cut it off. Not sure if he was having me on or not, I told her dad’s story and she had a big laugh.
Years later, I found a cousin on dad’s side who told me the true story. Grandma as a baby had gotten sick with the measles, while also at that same time, somebody had dropped her, but not noticed her foot was broken. When it was noticed, her foot had got infectious, it was too late to save it and the doctor had to cut her leg off.
Going on shopping trips to Lower Hutt town with Grandma were difficult and always made me feel sorry for her. She had a very big struggle to clamber up and down the steep steps of the Railway’s buses. I would hold onto her wooden crutch for her, while she, clinging onto the handrail, used a combination of pulling and hopping to drag herself up into the bus. Then I would sprint up behind and give her the crutch.
All the time, the bus passengers would be straining to get a gander at what was holding the bus up. They stared down at us from the big windows, and after getting onboard, their eyes switched to glue on Grandma hip hopping up the aisle to her seat. They made me feel terribly embarrassed and it was a huge relief to slink down in my seat out of sight.