As some of you may have noticed, this blog has been a little quiet throughout December so far. This is partly because I haven’t really been reading, but mostly because of the reason why I haven’t been reading. And this is a post very different to my normal, standard book reviews; but it is something that I need to write, somewhere. Considering the fact that this is a post about a woman who loved books, and who shaped me into the bookworm I am today, I think that this is also an appropriate place for me to write this all down.
Just over a week ago, my Nan died, relatively suddenly, from ovarian cancer. Notoriously difficult to detect, it quickly became clear that the thing was also a bitch to cure (sorry, Nan, but I have a lot of anger right now), and two days after this diagnosis I was sitting in a hospital room holding my Nan’s hand as she slipped out of this world forever. I don’t think I will ever fully understand how someone so unselfish, so kind, so truly devoted to everyone other than herself, could be taken in such a sudden, cruel way. And I think much of myself will always struggle to believe that this is real. My Nan and I were very close, and not in the way people always say they were close to someone after they’re dead. Genuinely close. She was my friend as well as a caregiver; my Mum often said how alike we are, and I’m going to miss so much the connection that we had. No matter how stupid my problems might seeem to anyone else, she would always understand. We were on the same wavelength, we had the same kind of view of the world, the same mischevious sense of humour, the same tendency to lose a great deal of sleep at night worrying about things that we couldn’t change.
However, one of the most fundamental things that we shared was our love of reading.
Both of us had difficult relationships with sleep, and it was something we both learned to solve through reading. As a child, when staying at her house, I would crawl into bed beside her – generally with my mum’s childhood copies of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ or ‘The Secret Garden’, both of which she had left at my Nan’s house – and the two of us would sit there, propped up in bed in perfectly comfortable silence, reading (until I would, inevitably, fall asleep). We spent hours in charity shops and second-hand book shops finding new reads to devour, my Grandad patiently driving us around until we had each found a pile of books – which tended to last us around a week. Most of these books we would then swap, and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to share some of my favourite books with her, and that she did the same with me. When she first went into hospital over a month ago with a simple suspected infection, I didn’t know what to do to help. I decided the most important thing was that she didn’t get bored; so I took her two favourite books to the hospital for her. Sadly, in those last few weeks, she never felt well enough to read. The day she died I bought those two books home with me. One of them I have read, and one I haven’t; I’m going to save that one until I feel ready. They’re now sitting on my bookshelf, so that I can treasure them as she once did. I know she would be happy for the rest of the books to be given away, so that people like us could devour them as she did: but these ones are special, and I don’t intend on ever letting them out of my sight.
My Nan encouraged me in so many ways, and was always proud of me, always there for me, and for all of that I am eternally grateful, and I wish I had been able to tell her so. But one of the most special gifts that she has given me, that cannot be taken away with her, is the gift of a love for reading. It is thanks to her that I have my imagination, that I have my own desires to be a writer, that I am now finding so much comfort from my own favourite books.
In a way, it is thanks to her that I even started this blog.