Growing up I never had nearby Grandparents.
My father’s parents, from Taranaki, had passed-on, and my mother’s parents were around, but living in Rangiora, where she was born and raised.
And so, I had a lot of adopted whānau. Cathy down the road, who was like an older sister, and Jenny too, further down her driveway, Wendy opposite our driveway, and so many more. This was the life of rural Āotearoa New Zealand. It was the village that raised the child and we were all connected: He waka eke noa.
Like with many of us, we adopt elders into our realm. People who are a mix of a grandparent, aunty/uncle, sister/brother and friend. They come into, and enrich our lives, and us theirs.
Sometimes, however, it is not until hindsight that we realise the gifts we have received from these “rellies”. As a child (when not playing of course!), I would often sit and listen to the stories shared amongst the adults gathered. Their tales and trials; some more embellished than others, depending on the narrator.
These stories, I have come to realise, are embedded deep within my DNA. They are a part of who I am; for which I am so truly grateful.
There is one very special person, however, who has had an influence on my life from a young child. Olga. In the photo below, Olga is holding a beautiful portrait of her late husband Alec, and the medals he won in war.
Olga very recently had her 102 birthday (yes, you read right!!).
She was a good friend of my mother, and is my pseudo Aunty-Grandma.
Any time I was in the presence of Olga, I would hear stories, or yarns, as we would call them in the King Country, where I grew up.
Olga even led us all to believe that she was only 98, until a year ago when she became a resident of a residential care environment, where we soon came to hear she was actually 101, and had even missed a card from the Queen. Why? You might ask? Well, as she told us with the ever present mischievous sparkle in her eye “I didn’t want anyone to think I was old!”. The wairua within her would never allow Olga to be ‘old’.
I have the stories of people such as Olga’s embedded in my DNA. Their teachings through song, jokes, yarns, art and action.
In this time of utter importance, where we get to choose our path forward, what stories will you take with you? Which will you hold close to your heart, and continue to tell to others?
Whose adopted Aunty, Uncle, Grandparent, Koro or Nanny are you? What stories and teachings are you passing on to them?
This is the time. Keep sharing them. You never know; they might just be listening.