I am so sorry to those who have been following my Unknown Horizons posts. Due to a recent and most unexpected loss in my family, I have found it not only hard to write, but also hard to even read, making my historical research for my books impossible.
I have witnessed many friends lose their grandparents and agreed it would cause some grief, but never understood the level of grief one could experience until I have witnessed it first hand. My grandmother was my mother’s rock. She was the first person to touch me when I was born as back then, there was no first hour skin-to-skin with the mother. Sleepless night of colic and sickness, she was there to help my mom with me. She helped my mom through the troubling winters that my asthma left my mom unsure how to cope or help me. She gave everyone nicknames, me being “Sweet Angel,” my sister “Chickadee” or “Half Pint” and my brother “Dennis the Mennis,” he truly was that growing up. My son even became “Peanut.” When me or my siblings were sick, she would pick us up from school, no problem. When I reached my early teen years, my father and I began to have the most horrific fights. I will admit, some of this could have been avoided without my teen sass, but majority was unwarranted. My mother and father were always at odds, and being the oldest, I saw much much more. I was able to witness the fun loving dad I had in my childhood turn to alcohol and abuse. My grandmother was the rock and outlet my mom and I could turn to cope with our messed up home life.
My grandmother gave me a key to her house so that whenever I needed to escape, instead of running away, I could go to her house as a safe haven. When my parents separated for months at a time almost once a year, we would pack up and head straight to grandma’s, usually at 6 or 7 at night. She always opened her home to us, and provided support for my mother. She would always go to garage sales with my siblings’ and myself in mind. When my son was born, she always shopped for him and would treat him with as much love as I saw her give my siblings. She would spend months trying to find the perfect birthday and Christmas gifts for us, and then my son included.
I will never forget her phone call a few months ago when she found out she was going to need a lung transplant. I think it was such an extreme medical situation that my mother and I remained in a state of disbelief, trying to tell ourselves it wasn’t as severe as she made it. She was known for over exaggerating some things when it came to medical situations. But perhaps it was this instance that instead of playing the disbelief card, we should have treated every day as the last. We always pictured her to live well into her 80’s just as her mom had. When I did call her about once a week, I would make sure to ask her how she was doing, if she heard anything from the doctors, etc. So perhaps I did all I could. Living 8 hours away from home, whenever I was in town, I made sure to have brunch with her almost every day. Of course, we always went to hers and my grandfather’s favorite daily spot, The Waffle House. She knew all the workers there by name, and some she even gave nicknames to, and would always introduce me as “My Sweet Angel in the military.” I was 21 and she still introduced me as this. At the time, I would flush crimson in embarrassment. But now, I realize it was her unending love and pride in me.
For 20 years, she went to every dance recital of mine and my sister. She would always give us cards and a red rose, her favorite, and praised our dancing, even if we were dreadful as toddlers. She watched our plays, musicals, band concerts. She was always there to provide encouragement and support. Every summer until I was in 7th grade, she would babysit my siblings and I over summer break.
When I joined the military, I remember her spending all day at my graduation/going-away party helping my mom in the kitchen, set-up, take-down. She was always there. Having to say goodbye to her when I was stationed on the other side of the US was painful. We cried, but she provided her loving hugs and was always a phone call away. She was always verbal on how proud she was of me accomplishing so much in my career. Of my family I have made for myself. Of my goals I wanted to achieve.
I have heard it said, “Treat every day as its your last with your loved one.” Recently my mother and I reflected on that. Though in some ways this is a good statement, it is flawed as well. If I went every day imagining it was my loved ones’ last, I would be able to accomplish nothing. I would never live for myself. And possibly, I would live in a state of fear. I gave what time I could with her, and every moment was special and full of love. Not one minute went by that I didn’t appreciate the time we had together.
But even still, I live with regret. Why didn’t I call her multiple times a week like my mother? Why did I not go home more to see her? Did she know how much I loved her? Did she give up in the end, on life, on family, on us? And most of all, did she truly know the severity of her health issues and just not share them with us?
All questions I will never have answered. All questions that will haunt me. I can only reason that she is now free, without pain, without the need of a cane or walker, or oxygen tank. I only pray she find peace in the Summerland.
Grief is a terrible cloud that shields you from living in the sunlight of happiness. It cloaks you in unending darkness. I feel until I blindly find my way through this dark tunnel, that I will not be able to find my muse, my love for writing and reading. These were two past times that I developed in my early childhood to run away from my problems, depression, and anxiety. But without being able to find that motivation to get back to these things, I am unable to escape these feelings of grief.
Grief comes in several stages that though they may be painful and dark, are a healthy necessity to make it through. Perhaps by writing this, I am making it through those steps. But a rock has crumbled from my foundation, and until it is rebuilt, I will remain listing into the undulating sea of grief that is present at my feet.
I finish this post with a small jingle I learned from my grandmother that I would sing to her since I was 3. “Have hope, faith and charity. That’s the way to live successfully. How do I know? Cos Grammy told me so.” Those 3 traits I truly did learn from her.