Grandma Bebe- Olivia's story

Bernice, known as Bebe to many, was a straight shooter, maybe it was a subconscious download from all the Westerns she watched. The identity markers reeled off by her adult granddaughter, Olivia, come thick and fast and are representative of a female generation that were the disciples of frugality and stoicism, religious discipline and community values. Her connection to God was tangible in the way she connected her faith and beliefs with her values. Her upbringing was none too seamless, raised predominately by her Aunt when her mother passed away in childbirth and her Dad remarried a woman that didn’t have a strong maternal instinct. This contributed directly to her worldview and the way she connected familial dots. The extended family was a collective and the mantra ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ was exactly her experience.

Bebe had 4 children of her own and made a life for herself in the country with her husband that included homemaking abilities that were thorough, creative and thoughtful. Olivia tells of how she had her favourite pie or dish at the ready at the mere mention of a visit. She knew everyone’s favourite and she would make meals from scratch, savoury or sweet, making it seem effortless, the flavour better than any bought alternative. This custom meal preparedness made each member of the family feel that they shared a special place in her heart, each felt uniquely adored, the foundations were laid for [mutual] respect, loyalty and trust.

Her life was greatly interspersed with networking and volunteering, she had an uncanny knack for relating to people, regardless of age or financial demographic. Unlike her husband, a keen sportsman, she didn’t play competitive sport, instead utilised these hours to stay very well connected to her family and friends.

Bernie’s humour was on display when she subtly pulled her husband back to shore when he developed a keen friendship with 2 female golfers. In an act of early feminism, while laying out his attire for the following golf game, she tagged his white golf shoes with black marker with the name of each lady, a wicked reminder that she was all knowing and this behaviour, however innocent, would not be accepted. A word was never uttered and the ladies were not mentioned again.

Following her husband’s death, she spent 5 more years in the country, grieving and gathering emotional strength to make a bold move. Alone, in an incredible act of bravery, she moved to the city to start anew in her mid 60’s. She lived another 30 years and developed very close relationships with boarding school grandchildren, her many cousins and her church community. She was challenged by modern day values and new politics yet continued to make offerings - mostly baked! - that helped those on the receiving end understand the important role of her own entrenched thinking and traditional values. Bebe’s duty to her family was paramount, so they always got the biggest, most thoughtful piece of the literal pie!

- Olivia's story, as told to Nat Power

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