Monday, 27 May 2013

Granny's Black Magic

When I gave birth to my first child, my grandmother brought me a box of dark chocolates called Black Magic; she told me I would need them to replenish my strength.  I laughed, but in the middle of the night in the hospital, while I struggled to feed my tiny baby girl, I reached for those chocolates and I can still remember how amazing they tasted.  I brought the last of them home and kept them in the fridge just for me. 

A few years later when it became clear she needed help; my Granny went to live in a nursing home.  It was a lovely place, the staff kind and caring, but it was still hard.  Visits with her could be difficult; she just wanted to go home.

A few months on and one day I brought her a box of Black Magic, her face lit up, she scoffed most of the box before we left her.  It became our thing.  I would bring her Black Magic, my kids who would have been watching the box in the house for days would get to eat some too.  She would seem more content and leaving her would be a bit easier. They were a little taste of heaven that always made her smile in the midst of her disappearing and sometimes confusing world.

She had been a power house of a woman in her prime, she ran her own businesses, raised three kids, two of whom died before her and coped with a husband who was dogged by illness for most of their 28 year marriage. 

Still, she loved life, food, cooking, took pride in her appearance, played bingo, bet on horses, had many friends, entertained all her grandchildren through various holidays for many years and watched the world go by from her window in the corner of the square she lived in for almost 70 years.

She was more complex than any other person I have known and probably ever will know. She was a tough, uncompromising, old fashioned Irish Catholic woman, but when she wanted, could make you feel like the centre of her universe.  There was nothing like being in her good books.

From when I was little right up until days before his own death, my father would remind me to visit her and keep the connection alive.  It was so important to him, he believed in her.  She loved my children and they her; they were three of her impressive seven great grandchildren, so it was easier with them.  They made her so happy.

Then, this morning, while I went through the favourites in my online supermarket shopping list, there in the middle of detergent, nappies, milk and all the usual necessities of family life were Granny’s Black Magic, but today, for the first time in years, I didn’t click on the box to buy them. 

For me it was a gradual loss, her memory faded with each visit and the last time I saw her, she had no idea who I was, no idea who my children were and when I left her that day, she was tiny and lost in the bed she was no longer able to get out of.  When she passed away earlier this month, I cried for her, but never so much as this morning when I saw that silly box of chocolates on the supermarket list.

At 95 and a half, her death was expected I suppose, but that hasn't made it any easier. She told me stories of her life I hope I don't forget, some that were so tangled up in the history of my own country that I once did a history project in school about her.  I wish now that I had kept it.  She was the only one of my grandparents that I knew and I have loved her my whole life.

I hope I don't forget anything - her giggle, the way she sat on the edge of a chair leaning her cheek on two knuckles, the smell of her bread & scones baking, the numerous baby blankets she bought my children, her joy at a plate of fresh cooked chips late at night, her incredible rhubarb which against all odds flourished for years in her yard, the care she took putting make up on a blemish on her face that only she really noticed, the flowery wallpaper in her old bedroom, how she always ate fish on Fridays and would hide the glass of white wine she was having with it if anyone called to the door during dinner and so many other little things.

Memories of those we love are so important, cherish them always.
In memory of Catherine Tyrrell, 8th January 1918 – 9th May 2013.


  1. And I loved visiting her in the summer when I was with you guys....especially for the beet root from a jar...I love beet root.

    1. She did always have beetroot and chef salad cream, I still love that stuff.