When I started this blog, I challenged myself to be the most honest version of myself. I challenged myself to live unapologetically. To stop worrying so much about what other people think and be the real me. To stop apologizing for my feelings because they’re too intense for some, or not intense enough for others. To embrace the things that excite me and understand the things that unnerve me. For that reason, I feel that one of my first posts should be very personal and honest. In order to truly live by this principle, I feel I should share a recent experience that has inspired this journey.
I had all four of my grandparents until I was twenty-three years old. I lived within a few miles from both for almost all my life. I spent a lot of time with both sets of grandparents. We went out to eat together, I stayed at their homes, we went on trips together. I am very thankful for those times.
When I got older, I realized that as fortunate as I was, someday it was all going to end. Someday I wouldn’t have both sets of grandparents. Just as I was, they were only getting older. I hated that I sometimes thought about what would happen when that day came. I had never lost anyone of real significance in my life, so I had nothing to base these feelings on. There was no residual memory of this feeling to convince me to block it out. I had never experienced something like this, and my subconscious was secretly dreading it.
My maternal grandparents moved to our city when I was about eight years old. Before that, they lived an hour and a half away in the small town my mother had grown up in. I’d go visit them for a week or so at a time during school breaks. After they moved closer, I spent a lot more time with them. I went to their house every single day after school and continued to spend most of my breaks at their house. I won’t lie to you, I got very bored at their house. My grandparents didn’t go out much, so most of our time was spent at their house. We watched a lot of television during that time. However, I also learned a lot of valuable life skills that I still use today. My grandmother taught me how to sew. She gave me scraps of old clothes or sheets and let me poke and weave threads through the fibers until I figured it out. My grandfather taught me how to bake. He was a chef in the military during Vietnam, and still enjoys cooking to this day. I would bake brownies, cakes, cookies, whatever I wanted as long as he knew how to make it (and he usually did.)
When I got older, I didn’t see my grandparents as much. Soon, my parents trusted me to stay home alone after school and before I knew it, I had my license and a job. I didn’t go to their house every day anymore, and to be honest, I didn’t make much of an effort to see them. Don’t get me wrong, I still saw them often. We were together every single holiday and throughout the year for dinner at my parent’s house. I work in my family’s business, and they would stop by my office every so often just to visit.
My grandmother turned seventy-five in June of this year. A few months before her birthday, she sat me and my mom down and told us she wanted to have a big party for her birthday. We laughed and agreed to do what we could to make sure she had the birthday party she wanted. In the months leading up to her party, she called both of us regularly to remind us about it and tell us her ideas. She was so excited about her party! I found it endearing, albeit unusual for her. My grandmother
didn’t get very many moments that were specifically ‘hers’. She was always very quiet and humble. She didn’t want anyone to make a fuss over her. Which is why her excitement about her birthday party was so entertaining. She was determined to have a big party where all of her family was there, and they were celebrating her.
A few weeks later, my grandmother had a heart attack in the middle of the night. She was rushed to the hospital where she stayed recovering for almost a month. She was very sick, more so than anyone really imagined. She was always very proactive with her health. She went to the doctor regularly, tried to eat healthy and stay active. She still got around very well for her age. But the heart attack really set her back. I went and visited her a few days a week in the hospital. Some days were good, some days were bad. The entire experience was a nightmare, to be perfectly honest. At some point during this time, I realized that she might not be coming home. And she realized it too. One day when I visited her, she held my hand and told me how proud of me she was, and that she had always been proud of me. She told me that she loved me, and she looked forward to what life had in store for me. It felt like she was saying goodbye, and I wasn’t ready. Fortunately, that was not the last time I saw her. I still had several good days with her, talking and spending time together.
The last time I saw my grandmother I was with my mother. Three generations of women sitting together in one room. It is one of my favorite memories. We talked about our cats (I like to think we are three generations of crazy cat ladies) and laughed about something silly my grandfather did. My grandmother told me how much better she was feeling, and that she was making her own goals to move around more to get better faster. I had so much hope. For the first time in the longest month of my life, I felt like I had my grandmother back.
My grandmother passed away two days later.
Suddenly, I was living in the moment I had been dreading for so long. After twenty-three years of having both sets of grandparents just a stone’s throw away, I have now lost one. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I still don’t. It’s been almost three months since she passed away, and I now have an entire new list of bittersweet moments I am silently dreading. I am dreading the holidays this year, knowing that an important person in the background of all those memories will be missing. I am dreading the idea of my grandmother not being at my wedding in March. I am dreading the idea that she won’t get to be a great-grandmother to my future children. But the hardest part about all of this, is knowing that no matter what I do, I will never be able to see her again. This is a feeling I have never felt before, and I’m not sure what to do with it. For the first time in my life, I have no control over a situation. Nothing I can do will bring her back. This is the first time I have ever really, truly felt helpless.
Before you start, I already know she’s still with me in spirit. I feel her every single day. It’s not the same, but it’s comforting. And, it doesn’t quite make these feelings go away. Grief is a long process, and one I am still learning about. Every day is spent learning how to adapt to this new normal I am living in. There is one thing that truly comforts me, though. I believe my grandmother would have been very interested in my writing. She was always extremely supportive of all things creative. She still has my crayon scribbles hung around her house and hideous pottery I made in high school on display. She was happy with everything her grandchildren did. My grandmother bragged about her grandchildren to anyone who would listen to her. Any time I visited her church, her friends already knew who I was and whatever latest achievement I had made. They knew all about my cousin and my younger brother. She was extremely proud of us and loved us so much she wanted everyone to know. And as I sit here, crying in one of her old sweatshirts, I can’t help but smile. These are the moments I will reflect on when I miss her the most. It’s the knowledge that one day I will only reflect on her with happy, loving memories.
This is a moment I do not dread, but look forward to.