My grandmother died.
I know that’s a thing. It happens. Grandparents die. Probably everyday. It was inevitable. She was 97. N-I-N-E-T-Y S-E-V-E-N That’s a good long life. In fact she had just turned 97, a week and a day before she passed.
A week and a day and I didn’t call her to say Happy Birthday. I know. I am a huge jerk. Total creep. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that I didn’t call her. It definitely doesn’t look good. I could have easily not mentioned it. It’s not like I didn’t remember. I did. I even planned a few times when I could call her but I didn’t. Shifted and shuttled for one reason or another and those appointments just didn’t happen. Usually, I made it a point to call my Grams to check in and say hi , for holidays, etc. I loved these calls. Cracking up at her silly ways, like always answering every call on speakerphone so both she and her latest husband Don could be included in the chat.
So why was I pushing it off? It sat heavy on my shoulders. Running around my head. Why not call? Why am I filled with dread and darkness at the thought. I pushed it off again. Weird feeling unexplained. My planned spring break visit pacified my nagging uncertainty. A visit is better than a phone call any way….Spring break was only about a month away.
She only had a week and a day.
When I got the call that she was in the hospital I was struck by the twisted irony. My sister held the phone up to her ear so I could say goodbye but I know she was already gone, only a shadowed shell hardly breathing. She passed and I drove to San Diego any way. To be with my mom and sisters. To help my aunt and uncle. Because even in light of admitting to being a gigantic asshole, I am not THAT much of an asshole.
Knowing it’s coming doesn’t stop it from hitting you.
The night was spent in prepared disbelief. We gathered photos, reminisced and discussed preparations. The next two weeks a flurry of texts, emails and phone calls. Somehow I have become the archivist for my family. I blame the strong hoarder gene and my ever present desire to connect this family by something more tangible than blood. And I’m crafty. So I got to work scouring the photo albums.
Selecting enough to cover nearly a century of living by someone who loved to take pictures I made 3 large poster boards for the funeral and I got to relive the life of my Grams. I got to meet her as a baby, in a photo album I’d never seen. I met my great grandparents as a young couple starting a family in the roaring 20’s. Through Confirmation photos, a High school yearbook and another from her single year of college, I met the young woman who would soon marry my Grandpa. Decades of RV trips, lots of seagulls, several wired hair terriers named either Sparky or Sammy, a few different homes and husbands, always surrounded by family and friends my grandma’s life lay before me. I watched her grow up, grow old, grow deeper wrinkles around her adorable smile.
The funeral is over and my house has become the intermediate for all her material possessions.
We now must decide what to do with a lifetime of memories, three boxes of yarn, at least 4 dozen crochet hooks & knitting needles, 2 drawers full of sewing patterns, plus a few boxes of material, a cache of not the best quality costume jewelry, 14 rosary’s, toys we played with as kids, a Christmas card holder my Gramps made with the outline of a squirrel smoldered on each end, all my Great Grandfathers art supplies and of course, lots more pictures. Searching through cobwebbed and musty boxes not for hidden monetary treasures but for valuable connections to her through her cherished belongings. Each box I opened was another avenue into who she was.
I no longer wonder why I hesitated to call her.
Any guilt or melancholy has evaporated. Everything happens for a reason. I wasn’t meant to have a final conversation with her. Instead I am to prepare for our next one.
Can’t wait to see you again Grams, we have so much to talk about.