2. There’s never a bad time to have a good time.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t smiling when I was around Nanny. I have never frowned because of her in 15 years of living under the same roof and innumerable exchanges since. But she was more than happy; she was also a lot of fun to be around. Nanny taught me that anything is fun with the appropriate company and attitude, whether it was dancing in the aisles at an Elvis Presley lookalike concert, looking out at handsome guys, or going to a musical. I’ll miss her mischievous smile when she realized she was up to no good, but I’ll keep her legacy alive by attempting to have as much fun with others as I did with her, and by attempting to be that much joy to be around as well.
3. Never underestimate the power of a tiny act of kindness.
It was the year 2009, and I was in a very bad situation. I was in the hospital and having a particularly difficult time. I recall the nurse bringing me Millie’s cupcake, which was my absolute favorite. She informed me that my grandma had come to deliver it to me, so I inquired as to where she was so that I could thank her. After all, the hospital was an hour and a half away by train, and Nanny was using a cane at the time. It took a lot of effort for her to travel so far to see me. I contacted Nanny to inform her that she had left.
“Where have you gone, Nanny?”
“I’m on my way back to you, sweetheart. I arrived to deliver your favorite cupcake after hearing from your father that you weren’t feeling well. I had to go since I didn’t want to bother you. I wish you a speedy recovery.”
Needless to say, every piece of that cupcake made me feel better, and that one act of kindness remains one of my favorite of Nanny’s many wonderful memories.
4. All it takes is a simple phone call to show someone you care.
When you’re sick, there’s nothing worse than being tucked into a warm duvet in a comfy bed and then having to leap out of bed and dash downstairs to answer the phone before it gets to voice mail. Unless, of course, it’s Nanny on the other end of the line.
“Hello there, sweetheart. Your father informed me that you have a cold. I simply wanted to check in with you to see how you’re doing.”
“Hello Mariya, your father informed me you didn’t sleep well last night, and I just wanted to make sure you were all right.”
I would get a phone call every time I was unwell, without fail. When I’m unwell, I’ll replay that phone conversation in my memory and recall how good it feels to know that someone cares so much about you and will always do so.
5. Make the most of the opportunities that come your way.
Albert, Nanny’s father, and my great-grandfather served in both World Wars for England. His knee was injured by shrapnel during the Great War, and he developed a limp as a result. In the second, nerve gas caused him to develop a chronic cough that lasted the rest of his life. Nanny was 9 years old when the war ended, and she used to tell me about how she was sent to the countryside to stay safe throughout the war. Witnessing the war, I believe, gave Nanny a sense of life that she carried with her and lived by for the rest of her stay here. I will always remember her for always looking on the bright side, enjoying each moment, indulging herself, and selflessly committing herself to her loved ones, and it is how I aim to live. Every cloud had a silver lining for her, and anytime I was sad, she would advise me to look for it “It’s all right. You can’t change what happened in the past.” She’d simply go on, forgive, forget, and be content.
Nanny, like life, had a unique perspective on death. “Mariya, after I’m gone, I’m coming back to torment you. I’m going to turn on all the lights and scare you!” The lights in the house flickered every day for nearly a week after she died. “Hello Nanny,” I said with a smile.
Nanny gave me a pendant with a nice poem on it a couple of Christmases ago. “Nanny, you’re not dead yet!” I exclaimed as I read it. My mother chastised me as a result. I’m going to construct a memorial for her grave with the poem she gave me, and I’m always wearing the necklace.
“Those we care about do not abandon us.
Every day, they walk beside us.
Unseen, unheard, but never far away,
Still adored, missed, and cherished.”
6. Take pride in your looks at all times.
When I think about how many of my peers relate to their grandmothers, I realize how fortunate I was to have had the relationship with Nanny that I did. My grandmother was experimenting with her hair color when other grandmothers had grey hair for years. Nanny was always up for a change, whether her hair was red, light brown, auburn, or blonde. We had mani-pedis, haircuts, and shopping outings together… I felt like I was with my best friend rather than my grandma, although Nanny played both roles. Her hair was always styled, her nails were painted, and she wore rouge and crimson lipstick all the time. Up until her dying breath and beyond, she was confident and gorgeous.
7. Leave voicemail messages
Voicemail has been obsolete since the introduction of caller ID.
On the day Nanny died, I returned home to find new messages on the answering machine. People had heard about it and we’re calling to express their sorrow. There are 38 messages in all, some of which are old and some of which are new. We received a warning that there were only 2 minutes of recording time remaining and that we would have to delete some of the messages because we expected many more individuals to call, which they did.
Nanny sent message after message.
“Hello, I’m just checking in to see how you’re doing.”
“Hello there, Mariya. Could you please phone me back, dear? Thank you very much.”
“I like hearing Mariya’s voice on the machine; I miss her and admire her heart.”
And then there’s my personal favorite:
“Hello. Who do you think it is?!”
It gives me great comfort to know that I have Nanny’s voice recorded and can listen to it whenever I wish. Each message shows her personality: kind, compassionate, hilarious, mischievous… and I feel like I’m talking to her again every time I hear it. So, no more simply missed calls; instead, I’ll leave a message.
8. Pets add value to your life.
Nanny adored cats, and surprise, surprise, I adore them as well. We had two cats growing up: Leo, who was ginger, and Tommy, who was black and white. I have a lot of happy recollections of touching and playing with them. I decided a long time ago that when I have my own house and have my children, I’m going to buy a cat so that they may experience how comforting and entertaining a pet can be. Both of our next-door neighbors have cats, and every time I pet one, it brings back memories of my childhood and my frequent encounters with Nanny’s cats.
9. The written word is superior to all others.
My father came home one day and informed me that Nanny had given me a card. That struck me as unusual. It wasn’t my birthday or Christmas, the two times when Nanny would always send me a card. I opened the card, perplexed.
I simply wanted to express my love for you and let you know that I am always here for you. I wish you happiness and that all of your aspirations come true.
Hugs and kisses galore,
I still have this card in my memory box after all these years.
10. Life is a delight
“What’s for sweet?” Nanny would ask at the end of each dinner. Dessert is a must-have for any meal. My brother and I had taken Nanny out to lunch a week before she died, and that was the last time I saw her.
“Nanny, where do you want to go for lunch?”
“That candy shop!” exclaims the narrator.
My brother attempted unsuccessfully to persuade her otherwise. The restaurant was about a ten-minute drive from our place and a half-hour drive from Nanny’s. It meant I’d have to travel back to the restaurant, drop Nanny off, and then drive back home… an extra hour of driving. Nanny was definite about her want for the dessert.
We got our burgers after ordering Nanny’s usual, a bunless lamb burger.
Nanny said halfway through her lamb, “I can’t eat anymore.”
My brother and I completed our meals, glanced at each other, and exchanged the naughty grin that Nanny taught us both.
“Okay, Nanny, let’s go home. We can beat traffic if we leave now; otherwise, we’ll be stuck in rush hour.”
“How about dessert?” says the narrator.
“You said you’re full, Nanny.”
“I left a little place for dessert, just there!” Nanny replied, tracing a small circle on her abdomen with her finger.
Nanny finished a sundae that was meant to be shared by 2-3 people, so I’m not sure the space she saved was as small as she stated.
My brother and I have her sweet craving, much to the chagrin of our future cardiologists, I’m sure. Nanny, on the other hand, taught us to always make room for the things we enjoy!