IT’S FUNNY, YOU KNOW, BUT I think of her every time I eat porridge. The fact is, nobody – and I mean, nobody – could make porridge as thick and creamy as my mother-in-law could …
Mavis was her name – but we all called her Gran. I met her not long after I met her daughter, who took me home to show me off. And I remember feeling vaguely guilty. After all, I was heart-set on stealing her baby. But, despite my late-adolescent looks, my short back’n’sides and my weak sense of humour, I must’ve passed the test. Because, to put it bluntly, she thought the sun rose and shone out of her new son-in-law. (Which, of course, it did!)
Gran lived for her family, and her face would light up at the sight of us. She’d cook porridge for breakfast, pikelets for tea, and then warm our old wire-wove bed with her own hot-water-bottle.
She’d had a hard life, born second-eldest in a family of 18. And arthritis eventually crippled her hands and feet. But if she complained I never heard her. An invalid’s bed? A wheelchair? Not likely!
I can still see her carrying the coal bucket, its handle crooked in her elbow. I can still see her on her knees, stoking the fire in her old black range. I can still see her out in her garden, smelling the roses that bloomed in front of their ordinary little house. And I can still see her hobbling down the drive to wave us off when our visits were over.
That disease didn’t beat her. But it did cheat her. And early one morning, with no real warning, Gran’s tired heart announced, “Enough!” Typically, quietly, and without any fuss, she sneaked away.
I can’t prove this. But in that Not-So-Far-Away place where the last get to be first, and arthritic joints are unheard of … I reckon my mother-in-law’s still making porridge.
If you see her before I do, please ask her to keep some hot for me …
JOHN COONEY, GRAPEVINE’S FOUNDER & ‘BIG CHEESE’, ADMITS: “MY MOTHER-IN-LAW’S DAUGHTER ALSO MAKES A YUMMY PORRIDGE. BUT LATELY SHE’S BEEN DISHING UP MY CURRENT FAVOURITE – PEANUT-BUTTER ON TOAST!”