Monday, January 11, 2010

25 years later

Saturday marked the 25th anniversary of my maternal grandmother's passing.  We were living on the opposite side of the state from her then.  I was 13 years old, and just home from school when the phone rang; it was my grandma's county sheriff.  He asked for my mom, who wasn't home yet, and when I told him that, he asked me how old I was.  When I told him I was 13, he said to have my mother call when she got in and had me take down the number.  When I hung up the phone, I went into a quiet panic, (a panic I realize only now is "my way."  I recognize it now.)  Young as I was, I knew that a call from the sheriff wasn't going to be a good thing.  And it wasn't.  My grandma's death was not the first for me, but it was, until A died, the most significant, and the one that left a deep mark.  I still remember the winter light coming in the window, and where I stood as I answered the phone, and how I hid out in my bedroom until my mother came home, locked in that terrible knowing that something was very wrong, but not yet knowing what. 

My grandma's was a sudden death, though she was 75.  We'd just seen her at Christmas, and she'd had a cold, but otherwise seemed fine.  A heart attack took her.  I worked myself into a tizzy every night for months after she died, fearful that my parents would die, too, and leave me and my brother alone.  One night, after lying in bed, scaring myself into tears thinking about it, I finally got up and went out into the living room to talk to my parents about it.  They swore to me that they weren't going anywhere.  And eventually I came to believe them.  Thank goodness, they're still here.

I started worrying about my parents again after A died.  He was a year younger than my mom, two years younger than my dad.  Sudden death had stolen from me again, and I was too old to believe my parents, or myself, or anyone else, had any kind of immunity to death.  Anytime the phone rings unexpectedly, I brace myself.  Such are the continuing dividends of sudden death.

I still miss my grandma.  I miss all the good times we didn't have.  I mourn all the conversations we didn't have as I grew old enough to get to know her story better, to ask questions.  I wish she could've known me as an adult.  25 years later, when I talk or write about her, I get misty-eyed.  I still love her with the unquestioning love of a child who thinks her grandma is the greatest, because we didn't have the time for me to ever know otherwise.  And because she was the greatest.

Sometimes, new widows will panic, worrying that they will forget their loves.  I've worried about that, too--how can I know what I'll remember in the future?  But then I think about my grandma, and how a quarter of a century has passed, and I still remember all the little things she did for us, and all the love she showed us, and I still love her so very much.  And I know that where there is love, there can be no forgetting.  And though there may be tears, I find that comforting in regards to A.  He isn't going anywhere either.

I had a dream awhile back where my mom, my grandma, and I were having lunch.  At some point in the dream, my mother left the table, and my grandma and I were left to talk.  During the conversation, I looked into her face, and her eyes were not her own; they were A's--startling, intelligent, blue-green hazel.  It was a gift, no doubt from the two of them.  The loss of them both has carved deep lines and valleys into my soul, and for that, they are intertwined:  my experiences of loss and grief.  By the time I've spent 25 years missing A, I'll be 60 years old, and probably have lost others I love.  I have no idea who I'll be then.  Hell, I'm not sure I know who I am now.

This life; my life; I can only shake my head at it, because I sure don't understand it.

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