I was 19 years old before I experienced the loss of a grandparent. Today, 18 years later, the last one remaining has left this earth (third one from the left in the back, next to my grandfather). Granted, she really hasn’t been *with* us for quite some time, and to be honest, I haven’t spent a ton of time with her since Alzheimer’s stole what was left of her from us. But nonetheless, when I got the call this morning, I cried……. a lot more than I thought I would.
I’m not sure why I was crying. She wasn’t the grandmother I knew my whole life anymore. She didn’t know me, she didn’t recognize many of us. Any mourning I had to do for her was done after I walked away from her when I visited the home back in October, or the first Christmas my dad’s side of the family spent together where she was unable to play the piano while we all gathered around and sang together. Or even at my fathers funeral five years ago when I’m pretty sure she didn’t completely understand what was going on then. And last year, when my uncle passed away, I’m not quite sure she knew who he was. Or if she did, she probably forgot mere minutes later. All of it a reminder that her time was coming and that an era of my life was slowly fading away.
I’m pretty sure that’s where my sadness is coming from today. Don’t get me wrong, because I loved my grandmother and I will miss her, but she’s been gone for a while. The grandmother I knew, the one who I remember spending days with researching family history, driving around the places she lived and knew as a child. The home in Abbottstown where my dad spent the first two years of his life, the country club where my grandfather caddied for a wealthy man who planned to send him to college if he committed to continuing his own golf game (par 72). But my grandmother became pregnant with my aunt and a total of seven children later (including my father) and the only golfing he would do again would be with us. I never got to golf with my grandfather, but I did have a day of golfing with my father, just us, and I’m pretty sure that even though I was in my 20’s he didn’t let me drive the cart.
But I digress, kind of. The fact is, that now I am my mother and my mother is my grandmother and my children are me. It seems like just yesterday when I was my children, sitting in the same house I am, learning how to garden from my grandparents, sitting on what is now my porch husking corn, learning a kind of living that most people don’t even know of any more. And it makes me sad because I had a really awesome childhood and it’s because of the knowledge and living that the “old folks” did and knew of that molded me into who I am today. And now I am in the position to give that to my children.
And some day, it will be me in the place of grandmother, watching my children and their own children make their way in this world, a world that is another generation removed from the simpler living that my grandparents knew. And as I drove to a meeting today, death was heavy on my mind. While I am sad, I’ve had much more experience in this the many ways of losing a loved one, and I admit that this is one that was actually welcome. I’m still figuring out my own beliefs when it comes to spirituality, but I know that wherever my grandmother is now, she is not miserable.
Eventually we all leave this earth. All the more reason to live every day with intention and truth. I know it’s a huge cliché’ but life is short. The older I get the more I realize this.