Tribute to Nan

  • Downhome Magazine
  • Posted: Sep 12, 2016 12:00 AM

It takes special people to love like angels - people like my grandparents, Brian and Rita Walsh. Nan was born on December 25, so she really was my angel.

I was three years old when my mother died from cancer. My father, who was working out of the province a lot and was only on the island part of the time, asked my grandparents to help him care for his only son. They should have been both retired and enjoying life, but they said yes. So we went to live with them in Colliers, Newfoundland.

It was common for Nan and me to be together all the time. We would walk to the trout pond together. She taught me to clean fish with a pair of scissors.

Nan didn’t like to punish me when I did wrong. As she said, “What more punishment could she do to a little boy who lost his beloved mother so young?” So she would hide my stuffed rabbit and threaten to burn him until I behaved.

Pop taught me I could do anything I wanted to by putting any doubt “out of my mind.” By the time I was four, he had me holding one end of the ladder fully loaded with wood as we walked it into the house to the stove. (Nan was afraid of fire and never wanted to talk about it. She would put out the stove every night, no matter how cold it was outside. I counted nail heads covered with frost instead of sheep to get to sleep.)

Nan loved bingo on Sundays. No matter how sick she felt, the closer to the hour the bingo bus was stopping outside their doorstep, the better she got. One year at Christmas the door prize was a Cabbage Patch doll. Nan won the doll and had to fight off other ladies to bring it home to me. I still have it.
Nan and Pop never learned to drive and tolerated my motorcycles from an early age.

Pop died when I was 18.

When I moved out West for work, I never missed a day when I talked to Nan on the phone. One day the cafeteria lady at Firebag was furious that I refused to shut off my phone. Finally, I said to her that my nan wanted me to pass her a message. The message was that this was the only time her Carli was able to talk to his grandmother. There’s a three-and-a-half hour time difference and we had not missed a day yet in all the years of him being out West. After that the cafeteria lady was silent and let me finish my call. Nan could sleep after talking to me at night, but not before.

When I met my Charmaine, Nan was glad to see that she didn’t have to worry about me. Charmaine even phoned her, too. It was the highlight of both their days. They never met face to face, but they were so much alike - two peas in a pod. Nan liked her a lot.

Nan lived on her own until she was 93, when she went into the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex in St. John’s. We talked every day until, due to her dementia, we couldn’t.

Nan knew that I was not wanting to have my final memory of my second mom to be one of a hospital bed and her dying in my arms. So when she took sick, she hung on long enough to know I was coming home. She took her last breath just as my foot touched the step of the Hoyles Home. She didn’t want me to see her suffer. Nan was two months short of her 99th birthday.

I was the last baby she raised and she will be missed more than words can say. We love you, Nan. - Submitted by Carl Walsh, Pierceland, SK