Today, the world lost a great citizen; Mexico lost a Grand Dame; and I lost my grandmother, Lady Dolores Francis Hadow.
Lola (or Lolita), as she was known to her friends and Ata, as she was known to her grandchildren, was born in New York City on March 23, 1917. Her parents (both American) were living in Mexico, where her father had a mining and lumber business. Soon after she was born, my great grandparents returned to Mexico with Lolita in tow. Aside from her days in boarding school and college, Lola never lived in the United States again.
In 1939, Lola married my grandfather, Joseph Turner, in Mexico City. Two years later, my dad, Michael, was born, and eight years after that, my aunt, Gay, came along. Grandad, a Mexican national by birth, had duel citizenship with England and served in the Canadian Army during World War II. My father's first international trip was in 1944, when he and Ata flew up to New York to visit my grandfather during one of his leaves. They went on a DC-3, which was a 2-engine, 21 passenger plane that had 2 wheels under the wings and a little one under the tail. The plane cruised at about 160-170 MPH and took two full days to get from Mexico City to New York.
In 1954, Lola and Joe divorced, and a couple of years later, Lola married Michael Hadow, a British diplomat, in London. During their years together, Michael served in the Foreign Office in London, was Minister in the British Embassy in Paris, and served terms as British Ambassador in Tel Aviv, Israel and in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 1972, Michael was knighted for his services in the Foreign Office and Lola became Lady Hadow. Michael and Lola divorced a few years later, and Lola returned to Mexico to live with her daughter, Gay (whom we call "Tia").
This was when I got to know her.
I loved my grandmother deeply. Even as a child, Ata always treated me like an adult. I don't remember her ever using the grandparental "baby voice" with me, and I certainly don't remember her ever really scolding me - (which is probably why, as a kid, I loved hanging out with her so much). I don't recall there ever being many toys for us to play with at her house, but she did keep three notebooks (one for me and each of my brothers) in a drawer next to a box of coloured pencils. On Sunday afternoons, I would sit in her living room and colour, while she and Tia visited with my parents. After I'd get bored with colouring, I'd wander around the house, looking at all the black and white photographs hanging on the walls.
No, Ata was not your typical grandmother. I thought of her more as a friend, a person I loved talking to and spending time with. I was fascinated with her life in Europe, the Middle East and South America. She was my living, breathing (and equally as beautiful) Ingrid Bergman. Despite my incessant questions and fascination with her life - the places she'd lived, the things she'd seen, the people she'd met - she rarely spoke of them unless asked. And when she did, it was with an almost passive voice - as if she could not understand what all the fuss was about.
Lolita loved animals, especially dogs, and had the most beautiful smile and exquisite hands. She loved watching PBS, especially "All Creatures Great and Small" and the Agatha Christie "Poirot" series. She had a very close circle of friends in Mexico, getting together often for "Ladies' Lunches", which were never complete without the standard glass of sherry or tequila (or both). She was always impeccably dressed and accessorised, even when she was dressed down, and her beautiful, long nails were always painted a light rose. Lolita had a beauty mark above her lip, which she accented with a sharp eyeliner - something I always thought was so glamorous, and even tried out once or twice myself (with little success).
I deeply regret that in the last few years of her life, Ata and I didn't see each other very much. Living so far away, with a full time job and two children made it very hard for us to visit, especially to a place like Mexico City. And Ata's health made it difficult for her to travel long distances. I'm grateful though, that although she never met my son, she did meet my daughter (whose original due date, ironically, was March 23rd- Ata's birthday). I spoke to her often, though in hindsight, not often enough. What I wouldn't give to hear her voice again.
Godspeed, Ata. I love you.