-I thought losing a grandparent as an adult would be different from losing a grandparent as a child. I was 15 when my mother’s father died. I thought Nanny’s death would be easier somehow. But in the final analysis, adulthood is meaningless where this particular loss is concerned. The death of a grandparent reduces you to childhood regardless of your age. You remember things you have not thought of since age 7*. You feel very keenly the desire to crawl into someone’s lap and cry. The trappings of adulthood fall away very quickly when you pass the casket for the last time, leaning forward to pay your last respects in the form of a hurried kiss. You grasp for that modicum of control you assured yourself you would have throughout this ordeal, but it is nowhere to be found. It is wherever you left your grown-up self, and it has been replaced by an empty feeling so big that feeling small is inevitable.
-In spite of feeling like a lost little kid for the past several days, I did manage to keep my emotions mostly to myself thanks to the one piece of my adult life I couldn’t lose hold of–my daughter. I didn’t want to frighten her, so all of my energy at the wake and funeral was divided between caring for her and keeping myself together. But when I got home last night the get well/Mother’s Day card I had sent Nanny, full of pictures of her holding Mia at Easter, was in my mail box. I had sent it to the rehab center she went to after her fall, but it must have arrived a few days after she left. God only knows where it has been since then, but it was waiting in my mailbox all these weeks later–RETURN TO SENDER, UNABLE TO FORWARD. I cannot bear to open it, and I don’t know what to do with it, and I have given up trying to keep my emotions to myself.
-There was no family brawl. My dad and Uncle Ed, who until last week had not spoken to my Aunt Mary in almost a month, did not ignore or snub their sister. My Uncle Joe, who has not spoken to Nanny, his own mother, in 13 years (because she sold the “family home” and moved out of a neighborhood that was going to seed), and who does not attend family functions, was in attendance. But. When it was time to pay our last respects as a family before we went to the funeral, Joe went out the back door of the funeral home chapel so he could avoid walking past the casket. Ed would not go near the casket but did walk out with the rest of us. There was a definite thread of something–tension? bruised egos? healing but still hurt feelings?–between my dad and his sister. Still, Dad, Aunt Mary, and their youngest brother, my Uncle Palley, stayed in the chapel together, without their siblings, until it was time to go.
-I’ve never seen my father’s hands so clean. He has been a machinist longer than I’ve been alive. His hands, even when he has just showered, are always calloused and stained from his work. This week they were as clean as Mia’s hands.
-One of the hardest parts of this whole ordeal for me was witnessing others’ grief. My little brother (age 23, 6 feet, 7 inches tall, but still my little brother), who was a pallbearer, a task I cannot fathom. My cousins Kelli and Kristin, with whom I spent countless hours playing at Nanny’s house. My Aunt Mary, who heard the words “I love you” from her mother for the first time in her entire life just a few weeks ago. My dad. When I was little my mom’s sister was in a car accident one winter, and one of my great-uncles saw the wreck and stopped to collect her, cut and bruised and sobbing, from her totalled Granada. When they brought her home I was so overwhelmed by her crying that I hid under the kitchen table. That’s how I felt this week–I wanted a table to hide under.
-I am glad it is over, and it will never be over.
*I was 5 or 6, and Nanny and I were grocery shopping at the Piggly Wiggly, and I wandered ahead of her and around the end of the aisle. When I realized she wasn’t beside me I turned and ran for her and threw my arms around her legs. But when I looked up I realized I had thrown my arms around the wrong legs. I stepped back quickly and spied Nanny right behind the lady I had assumed was her, and even though they were both laughing at me, it was a relief to be reunited with Nanny’s legs.