Today is May 14th. For seventeen years, 19 weeks and 3 days, I knew it to be my mum’s birthday. Then, seven years ago to the date, my Turkish grandmother — my babaanne — passed away. The date that had brought one wonderful lady into the world had taken another away, and as a family we were forever changed.
My mum could have been a nurse. In fact, I’m confident she would have become one if somebody had helped her believe in herself. Instead, she became a carer — a compassionate one — the kind of individual who was rarely forgotten by the people lucky enough to welcome her into their homes. Growing up, mum was often by my side. With an overactive imagination, a clingy nature, and a worrying mind, wherever she went I wasn’t far behind. But she never made me feel unwanted, or a burden. It didn’t matter if I’d repeat the same story a million times. She never seemed to mind.
It may sound cliché, but if I could publish anyone’s book, I would publish my grandmother’s. Born in rural Turkey in the 1930s, she never had the opportunity to learn how to read or write. Instead, she was brought up, as so many were back then, to be a good wife. When she was barely into her forties, her husband — my dede — passed away from cancer, and she was suddenly forced to provide for her family on her own. Despite this, she was the strongest person I was ever privileged enough to know. She made sure her children were well educated, breaking the poverty cycle with some of my aunties and uncles even achieving a university degree. By the time I was born, she was no longer poverty stricken, but she was always humble and kind. She would go around her small town with food and money, as I recall when my sister and I went with her once, and help the families who were struggling the way she once had. Perhaps most inspiring was her ability to wholeheartedly accept my mother — a white British woman — into her family and home. So many often assume that an individual without a proper education, or a middle-Eastern woman brought up to be a good housewife, is incapable of accepting those different from themselves. My grandmother proved this wrong. In fact, she proved that no matter a person’s cultural or religious beliefs, people can practice acceptance without limits. She may not have won the Noble Peace Prize like Mother Teresa, although she ironically looked like her, but she showed that anyone, regardless of their circumstances, has the power to leave a lasting legacy in this world.
So, today is May 14th — a day that will always be bittersweet — and this is my thank you to two of the women who inspired, nurtured and shaped me.