The last time I had a lucid conversation with my Grandma was at my wedding seven years ago. She was 92 years old. I made her a cup of tea. She loved her cups of tea. I made it and brought it over to her and put it in front of her. She looked at it and said "David you know I don't have milk in my tea".
Three years prior, at my oldest sister's wedding, she was meeting Kim my then-girlfriend and now-wife. She said to me "nice to see that Kim is keeping you well fed".
Thank you Grandma.
I don't see her very often. She lives in Melbourne. We fly over when we can. Last year my wife and daughter flew with me to Melbourne where my other sister was getting married. Grandma had just turned 99. Greta, my daughter, was 9 weeks old. They got to meet each other. Neither was cognisant of the other's existence and neither remember the event. But it was pretty special for the rest of us.
At the moment, Grandma is in palliative care in Melbourne in a hospital. I will be flying over pretty soon. In fact by the time you read this I may already be there and she may already be gone.
About 15 years ago when Grandma was in her 80s she did a pilates class. She got an award at the end of the year for being the "most inspirational" member of the class. She told me that was as meaningful as getting the most improved player award in a sports' team. She laughed and said she only got it because she was old.
Now she's older. She's not doing pilates.
As I write this she is lying in a hospital bed, not really conscious, not really anything. My mum is conducting a vigil at her bedside. But really she's waiting for her to go. Everyone is.
Periodically Grandma bursts into some kind of consciousness. A couple of days ago she sat up and croaked "help me". That breaks my heart to hear. I wish my mum didn't have to witness that. I wish my Grandma didn't need help.
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When I was very young, Grandma used to look after me and my two sisters after school while mum and dad were working. Sometimes we would stay overnight with her and my Grandpa. She used to make muesli. I remember the muesli. My sisters said it was the best muesli out of all the muesli they ever ate. I never liked muesli. And I didn't like the muesli Grandma made. I never told her that I didn't like her muesli. But I liked that she made it for us.
I never liked your muesli, Grandma.
As a teenager I was staying at my Grandma's apartment. My Grandfather had been a prolific author. He died 30 years ago. Grandma had all his books on her bookshelf. I asked her which of his was her favourite.
"Oh I haven't read them" she said. "They're badly written and you have to be a bit stupid to like them."
I like them. I must be a bit stupid.
A couple of years ago we flew over to Melbourne for Christmas. There was a thought that it might be Grandma's last Christmas so everyone descended on my cousin's house in Melbourne. The old woman who was wheeled into the house didn't really recognise many people and wasn't sure why we were all there. That wasn't my Grandma.
The whole family went to Melbourne for her 95th birthday. We were going to surprise her. Despite my misgivings about surprising a 95 year old, she didn't have a heart attack when she came around the corner and we all cried out "Surprise!". She didn't recognise me then either. That woman was not my Grandma.
My Grandma is the woman who straight up called me fat at my sister's wedding. She's the woman, who at age 92, flew in a plane for four hours and had to get a cherry picker to get her out of the plane so she could attend my wedding and tell me I make a crap cup of tea. She's the one who did pilates into her 80s and laughed about getting pointless certificates for being old.
She's the super smart woman who went to university decades ago when not a lot of women attended, started a law degree, got halfway through, was told women couldn't have careers in law so did a degree in Latin. She's the woman who when pregnant with my mother didn't trust the facilities at Wellington Hospital so took a flying boat to Sydney so mum could be born there.
The 99-year-old lying in a bed waiting to die is my Grandma's body. But it is not her spirit.
I love you Grandma. I've missed you for years.
• David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green parties and interned for Bill English while studying.