Christmas is a respite for my grandma from her home without love - Alexander Brown

My Grandma was born poor and suffered the loss of her mother when she was young.

Her father later remarried and when new children arrived, she became a second-class citizen in her own family.

Attending a Jewish school in Liverpool, she grew up full of hope only to marry an unkind man.

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People walk past a Christmas tree market. Picture: Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty ImagesPeople walk past a Christmas tree market. Picture: Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images
People walk past a Christmas tree market. Picture: Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images
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To make matters worse she had children with him, binding her to someone who doesn’t make her feel loved.

Rather than leave, she stayed, sacrificing her own chance of a loving home to give one to my mum and uncle.

After retiring from her job at the SPAR, she moved closer to my family, along with my grandpa.

She left her friends and life behind to be closer to family, giving her even more time with him.

These experiences, these continuing horrors would be enough to have poisoned her attitude or how she treats people.

Instead she continues to find light in the darkest of situations, or inspire others to carry her with them.

Bullied by a woman in her walking group for slowing down after falling ill, her friends made a new one without her antagoniser, which she calls the "barely walking" group.

She also retains a lust for life. Despite being an 86-year-old Jew, she now goes to a singing group in a church.

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Hating her own voice, she goes along and mouths the words so she can enjoy the company and biscuit selection.

When I asked a question at the Downing Street press conference, she told me she’d recorded the briefing to re-watch me speaking when she feels down.

Even in the worst and most terrifying years of our lives, she finds solace.

This is not to say she is some soft touch, and her dedication to a grudge has lasted longer than most of my relationships.

When I was working in radio, there was a comedian who was incredibly rude to me.

She has muted the TV or radio when they appear ever since, telling me “you probably have forgiven him, but I never will".

And this love extends to our conversations. I try to call every week and our talks now retain a script-like quality to the beginning and end.

Asking how she is, without fail she answers “all the better for hearing from you”, and closes with “thank you for calling”, as if in some way a brief call to hear from my hero in some way puts me out.

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And I can’t wait to spend Christmas with her, especially after being so cruelly denied it last year.

Coming to my family home is a time she feels loved, knowing any negativity will be drowned out by the joy greeting her every word.

She will be among an adoring crowd, with a family who try and love her as much as possible in the short bursts we see her, knowing that warmth and affection is her shield.

My grandma has more grace and strength than anyone I’ve ever met, and naming a daughter after her is the only reason I want children.

Stay strong Norma, I can’t wait to see you.



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