Today would have been my grandma's birthday. For many years, as my parents selflessly worked their butts off trying to provide the best life they could for us in a country that was new & amongst a population that was broadly suspicious of immigrants, my grandmother acted as the primary caregiver to my brother and I. But she was much more than someone who simply fed and watered us.
On rainy days we would play games that involved making up silly tongue twisters for each other. She would ask me to tell her English words that sounded like Turkish swears & cackle madly as I obliged. When she found out I was being bullied for being Turkish, she turned up to the school run with sweeties and treats for the kids - trying to show them that us Turks were not so bad. When my crippling shyness became a problem in school and my mum signed me up to drama classes, it was Grandma who took me to random church halls & far flung community centres after school and on weekends. On long car journeys we rode in the back seat together & played games where we had to make each other laugh with stupid faces & voices. Years later, when I was 22, we were on a long drive to the airport cause she was going back to Turkey. As I gazed sadly out the window, I felt a tap on my shoulder & turned to see her pulling a grotesque face at me with her false teeth sticking out, barely able to contain her giggles as she held the pose.
She was stylish as heck, and extra as fuck - even into her 60s and 70s she wore lacey, semi-see through blouses with a glorious array of blingy jewelry. She used to take me into department store beauty sections and encourage me to go and get as many free squirts of posh perfumes as possible. We'd ride the bus home reeking of glamour, giving all the other passengers a headache.
She was a magnetic woman who knew how to make people feel heard and seen and loved. Don't get me wrong: she was not perfect, cause no human is. She no doubt had her flaws and her secrets and made mistakes, just like anyone else. But for me, she helped make the strange, hard edges of this world a little softer, a little more bearable and a little more fun.
So today I dressed up real nice, just for Grandma. I wore a dress that hugged my curves, and a ring that used to be hers. And as I walked up to the tube through the haze, the sunshine and the laughter of school kids greeting each other at the school gates, I thanked her for her energy, her attention, her humour, her love, and her time on this earth.