My grandmother didn't dwell on the past, but there was so much we wanted to know

I want to know how it felt to be a child in the 1930s and a young woman in the 1940s

Share

There are lots of things I want to know about my grandmother’s life. I only found out the other month that while Doris was her first name, she preferred to be called Ruth, her middle name. My most recent cards to her, therefore, have been addressed to Ruth (I always worried that if I sent letters addressed to Nan, they might get delivered to someone else on her street who had grandchildren).

I want to know how it felt to be a child in the 1930s and a young woman in the 1940s. How she coped with the heat of living on an airbase in Aden and what life in 1950s Germany was like. Did she ever leave the base to investigate? Did she have any German friends, or was that frowned upon in the years after the War? I want to ask her what it was like to be widowed at 40, with three children to bring up.

It’s always been tricky to get information out of my nan but I thought that one day I’d manage to get her to open up and tell me more than the odd aside about life abroad, or what my mum was like a little girl.

But my nan, Doris, Ruth or Girlie to her old friends, died last week. I’m furious with myself that I didn’t ask her more when I saw her, but she wasn’t someone who dwelled on the past - she preferred to live in the present.

I spent yesterday afternoon with her three children; my mum and my two uncles. We were sharing our memories with each other, and with Caroline, the funeral celebrant (she writes the words for the service, we do the crying). I found out that nan had been a hairdresser by trade, and had gone into the Airforce in the late 1940s in that capacity.

Once she met her husband, the grandfather I never knew, she would ride on the back on his motorbike and take to the skies with him in a Tiger Moth. That she was as patient with her children as she had been with me and my cousins, endlessly helping to build Airfix kits, read stories and do jigsaws. I also learnt not to be too upset that I hadn’t managed to pump more information out of her - all my family said that they felt the same way but that she just kept some things to herself.

But what I would say is that if there’s something you’d love to know about your parents or grandparents, put this down and, if you’re lucky enough to be able to, ask them something you’ve always wanted to know about them. You never know, they might just tell you.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Arts Editor: The Great Character Actors of Football

David Lister
 

What I saw on the night my husband was hit by a car

Rebecca Armstrong
Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players