This photograph may be the greatest thing to come out of my parents’ marriage. It’s from their 1975 wedding and features all four of my grandparents. The maternals are on the left – Nanny looking glam and somewhat unimpressed; Poppy rocking a checked suit and tremendous sideburns. On the right are the paternals – my lovely grandfather standing proudly beside my ravishing-in-red grandmother, Dotto.
I can’t quite remember why she was called Dotto. I think it was because she didn’t want to be a Nan or a Granny; she was too young for a creaky title like that. So, Dorothy became Dotto.
She was feisty, funny and blunt with her opinions. She played golf and loved old Hollywood movies. She’d look annoyed if you arrived for a Sunday visit while a Parramatta Eels game was on, interrupting her date with the handsome Peter Sterling. She took meticulous care of her skin and was always perfectly groomed, wearing lipstick and smelling fantastic.
Every time I saw her she’d tell the same two stories from my toddlerhood: 1) how I once walked up to her, placed a book in her lap and commanded, “READ!”, and 2) the time I told her I loved her “silvery purple” hair.
Everyone would roll their eyes at the repeat, but I loved hearing it again because every time she’d add a new embellishment.
She passed away on Saturday, aged 87. My siblings and I texted the same thought when we heard the news, “I thought she’d live forever”. Maybe it was the always-coloured hair, but mostly it’s the beautiful eccentric spirit. She was pure character… how could someone that wonderful not always be with us? I hate being so far away from Oz right now. There are so many people I want to hug and cry with.
Because my parents were relatively young when I was born, it’s always felt like the living family tree was huge; shading and sheltering above. These last few years the branches have begun to thin out. It’s such a heavy thing to comprehend. But I have a comforting thought that maybe somewhere else, my dear Poppy goes walking by and waves hi to Dotto. And she’s as spunky as ever, snarking about so-and-so’s thick ankles and still rocking her lipstick.