When her mother finally died after a long period of inertia, Debra Tidball didn’t know what to do with herself.
The social worker and mother of two craved respite from the physical and emotional exhaustion of watching a loved one slowly die.
It was when her daughter won first prize in a school competition by writing about her grandmother that Debra realized the long drives to the aged care facility where her mother lived had been worth it.
By making these visits with the kids in tow, Debra let a unique relationship blossom that her girls will remember forever.
Inspired by her daughter, Debra saw an opportunity to tell a story not often told - the love between a child and their grandparent.
Debra took this idea to Macquarie University where she completed a Master of Children’s Literature.
She has now published her first book, When I See Grandma.
Loosely based on her own experience, the book tells the dual narrative of a bed-bound grandmother in the present-day and the glory of her formative years.
On the left pages, “grandma” is lying immobile with her mouth curved in a perpetual, dreamy smile. On the right, she is depicted in various scenes from her past.
The children in the book provide the connection that bind the two pages together.
By singing songs, reading stories and giving hugs, the little girl in the story breathes life into her grandmother’s dreams, transporting her back to the vibrancy of her youth.
Debra said that talking about her mother’s past and looking at old photographs was very important for her children to understand that their grandma was a real person who had lived a rich and fulfilling life.
“We had an hour’s drive on the way to the facility, so we would use that time to talk about grandma’s history,” Debra said.
She said the storytelling gave a context and meaning to visits which might otherwise have become tedious.
“So often children resent visiting grandparents because it’s boring and they get nothing back,” Debra said.
She hopes When I See Grandma provides a concept for families in similar situations to confirm that what they are doing is valuable.
“My girls, now teenagers, describe the book as being a bit like a wake – a celebration of the vibrancy of life.”
When I See Grandma is available in all good bookstores.
You can also purchase a copy online here.
All author proceeds will go directly to the Hazel Hawke Alzheimer’s Research fund.