Sunday, January 28, 2007


Well, we're home. Three days in the mountains, a funeral and about 100 Dora the Explorer videos later, we're home. Just in time to head back to work.

My mother is hanging in there. She is still very much in what we've always called "nurse mode" around our house (my mother is an RN - she and my father met in the emergency room of the hospital she was working at). She is very busy dealing with the details, and making sure everyone else is being provided a sufficient outlet for their grief. Of course, this begs the question, when will she deal with her own? My guess is that a few months from now, when my uncle has been placed in a group care facility, the house has been sold, and the rest of the details are finally dealt with, she will allow herself the luxury of loss, but not a moment before.

The funeral was not as horrible as it could have been. My brother provided his usual dose of levity during the receiving the night before, by trying to coax the six year old son of our cousin to look under the curtains surrounding the coffin to find out what was underneath. Gallows humor it might be, but we all needed a little break. All of my grandmother's home care providers came to pay their respects. After this many months, some of them had come to feel like family to us, and certainly to her.

I won't dwell on the awkwardness of trying to find a way to tell my cousin that it was ridiculous that my two year old was better behaved during the weekend's events than her 11 year old and almost 7 year old. Or on the incredible discomfort I left looking through her jewelry and trying to find pieces that reminded me of her that I would want to pass on to the Kraken someday. Everyone who's ever lost anyone knows how surreal those moments are, how detached from time.

Instead, I choose to marvel at the gift this woman gave her daughters in the last months of her life. She was cantankerous. She was obsessive compulsive. She was neurotic. But she was very, very sick, and the effort involved in escorting her through her end days brought my mother and my aunt to a state of union and harmony that I am not sure they have ever experienced, having all their lives walked on opposite sides of the fence. It is an amazing thing to witness, when you are used to sniping and long, measured pauses before responses, to suddenly see hands on shoulders, and heads ducked to ears in comfort and consolation.

I choose to remember that this woman, no matter what horror led her to leave her family behind at 13 and start a new one without ever looking back, lived in love with the same man for 50 years. Not something that happens every day.

I choose not to dwell on all the times I felt frustration with her, and all the huge life issues we couldn't agree on. I choose instead to think about all the times we watched the same Robin Williams movie at Thanksgiving because it was the only movie in her collection that didn't have Elvis in it.

I choose to think about all the pranks I played on her, because she so loved the attention. I choose to remember that I made the trek every year, and called her every week, and never forgot her birthday, even when she got so old and distracted that she forgot mine.

I choose to admire her. As different as we were, and as much as we sometimes didn't understand each other. She survived the Depression, almost certainly childhood abuse, the devastating and permanent incapacitation of her only son, and the loss of the love of her life. She was old, she was crazy, and she was a Republican, for pity's sake. But she was a tough old bird, and I loved her.

Whatever my own beliefs about the afterlife, I hope he was waiting for you, old lady. In his sailor's uniform, the way you always remembered him.


bon said...

That is a beautiful tribute.

I'm sure her sweetheart was there to welcome her.

oshee said...

What a loving and thoughtful way to think back of such a heart wrenching experience.

Piece of Work said...

Aw, SG. I'm so sorry> Your writing here is beautiful, and your choices are perfect.

graymama said...

This was beautiful. Your grandmother appreciates your words, I am sure. My gramms had a handsome sailor waiting for her, too :-)

Belle said...

A very touching post. I hope he's waiting for her there, too, just like she remembered him.

Bobita~ said...

This is incredible writing... and I am so very sorry for your loss.