One year ago yesterday my grandfather called to tell me my grandmother died. I knew it was him on the phone, I knew why he was calling. I made Ron answer.
I didnâ€™t cry, then. I cried the week before when he called to say she slipped into unconsciousness, for we all knew she wasnâ€™t waking up. The day before that, I had told her as usual I would be back to see her in a week. â€œOh, I donâ€™t know..â€ she said, with her voice whispery and wavering. I smiled and held her hand. â€œItâ€™s okay,â€ I whispered, â€œItâ€™s okay.â€ Then I kissed her and left.
Well itâ€™s one year later, and sheâ€™s still dead and itâ€™s not okay.
I cried a lot at the funeral. I thought I would be just fine yesterday, and I almost made it. All the week before I had trouble sleeping, which I thought was due to Emma. Turns out I had been tossing and turning enough to wake her up, which in turn woke me up. Yesterday was not a good day, and went slowly down hill until I crashed around suppertime. And finally I cried again.
She didnâ€™t like it when I cried, and seeing me this way would likely make her cry too. And I wouldnâ€™t want to make her sad would I? Then again, I hold back from crying because what if, I ask myself, what if I canâ€™t stop?
We all went to my motherâ€™s last night, to check on her after our trip to the library. She wisely ignored the bags under my eyes, my constant searching her cupboards for comfort food, and the fact I knocked my drink over. She asks if I heard from my grandfather and I give her a snappy answer which means drop it. On our way out the driveway, she hollers out the door that I will get through it eventually. Because she cares, she knows what it is like and more importantly she knows I donâ€™t want to talk about it, I just want to move on.
It takes all my remaining energy to not think about deep despair, longing and angst. It takes a bit more not to write about it. Itâ€™s hard to focus on the good, because in the end sheâ€™s still gone, a pile of bones deep underground.
My grandfather sent photos of the grave site I donâ€™t want to visit, the new headstone, and the flower they planted around it. She isnâ€™t there to me. Iâ€™m not sure where she is, but I know I want to go there when I die. I donâ€™t want anyone to tell me any different, for if it is, what then do I have to live for? Why have children if you only have them a short time? I was going to say I am far from God these days, but I guess Iâ€™m not, really. I know he is close by, it is all the religion I am far from. I canâ€™t see me being happy sheâ€™s with him, because now she is not here with me.
I think about doing some sort of memorial site or page, but I canâ€™t. The ideas toss and turn in my head, but nothing seems to do her justice. I want to make a font of her slanted square handwriting. I want more pictures of her than I have, big pictures hanging on my wall. I want to have what my uncle calls â€œa shrineâ€to my grandmother, like my grandfather has.
Most days it stays buried in the back of my head, until I catch a glance of a phot and let myself think for one second thatâ€™s all I have left. Or I see something of hers hanging on my wall, the spoon collection, the thimble collection, a plate even and I stop and think it is here on my wall because she is gone.
Her voice exists only in my memory and one scratchy cassette tape. I can hear her saying goodbye to me on the phone. â€œNight sweetie, love you, God bless.â€
I miss her chocolate chip cookies, even though she hadnâ€™t made them in a good ten years. And of the 19856834 times I have made chocolate chip cookies using her recipe, only once have they ever tasted just like hers.
She called Emma her millennium baby. Emma rolled over for the first time at her apartment. Now Emma walks and talks and gives kisses and hugs and she can only see it from above. Point to pictures of Nanny and Grampy and one day Emma will say â€œWhere is Nanny?â€ and someone else will have to explain it to her.
I remember what she smells like, something between lilacs, lace and old lady, even without going upstairs to the attic digging out the suitcase with her sweater in it and burying my face.
In my mind, I can see my hands in hers. My hands are smaller, not the same size like they really are. Her hands are freckled and bony, large at the joints, every tendon showing all the hard work. The hand washing of my grandfatherâ€™s collars she did at the sink with a bar of yellow soap. The gardening. The scraping of the peels off new potatoes. I remember that while peeling my own. Her fingers showing me how to hold a needle and the time I quilted her blender cover to my nightdress. The ends of her fingers are hard, like a callus on your foot. I amused myself in long Sunday sermons on hot summer days by pushing down on the pads of her fingers and watching them slowly pop back up. I can taste a linty life saver rescued from the bottom of her purse.
I remember the time when Grampy had his heart attack a few years ago, and her saying repeatedly that she always thought sheâ€™d go first. I think about how other people handle these things, and I realize she had to handle it too. Her mother died, then her sister, each time warranting a trip back to England, which wasnâ€™t so merry anymore. But she went on, as I have to go on.
I honestly donâ€™t know how people do it. My head knows that I swing one foot over the side of the bed, roll over and off, follow the children – they know what they want, but my heart wants to lie back under the covers and piece itself slowly back together. This is a test of the emergency response system to see how well I handle emergencies, for someday there will be more and they will be worse. My husband cradles me, my head in his hands, and I know someday he will be gone, and it will be much, much worse.
My grandmother was ever-faithful to her church, and even more so to God himself. But quietly. Only now I realize how strong it was indeed. Itâ€™s all I hang onto now, her strength not mine, for mine is failing. Mine wants to lash out at institutions and hypocrites and dogma.
I thought I could handle it better, and maybe by next week I can. Itâ€™s not only the dates involved, but the day of the week. To me, she always died on a Monday, just before Grampy was leaving to see her, so the hospital had time to call and catch him, and we had all day to make arrangements, and at the end of the month so her pension payments were not screwed up. The funeral will always be on a Wednesday, the middle of the week, on a blisteringly hot day.
Today is Wednesday, so we shall see what tomorrow brings. Maybe Iâ€™ll be okay.