Call Your Grandmother.
A little over a month ago, my mom called to tell me my grandmother was in the hospital. She was admitted just a day or two before her birthday, February 13th. I called that her day, and when I got off the phone I told my mom she didn’t sound like herself. Her voice was weird, and she was asking me questions about things that had never happened.
We went to visit her that weekend and she seemed somewhat more together, but things still weren’t right.
About a week later, I woke up in the middle of the night in tears, very shaken by a vivid dream. In the dream my father had suddenly passed away. I couldn’t remember the exact cause, but it was quick and it happened naturally. For about 3 or 4 days I couldn’t shake the dream, partly for the obvious reason, but also because deep down I knew it meant something else. One night, February 26th to be exact, I sat at my computer and started to write, determined to work out what it was that was bothering me. On to the pages spilled this:
My grandmother isn’t doing well right now. She’s in her early 80s, and her health has always been shaky, but currently her mind is what’s taken a turn for the worse. Though she doesn’t suffer from dementia, she has been in an unexplained delusional state for almost two weeks now. She’s angry, disoriented, and not showing any signs of significant improvement despite hospitalization and rehab.
Grandma hasn’t been happy since Grandpa died almost 20 years ago. He was only in his late 60s at the time, and she being a few years younger was widowed at an early age. Unlike my mom’s parents, who always held very active and independent social lives, my grandfather and her sons were her entire world. To be honest, I don’t think she’s been happy to be alive since the day he took his last breath.
The other night I had a dream my father passed away. I can’t tell you exactly how, or what led up to it, but I can tell you I woke up in the middle of the night in tears, and haven’t been able to shake that feeling since. I have this gut-wrenching feeling it’s somehow tied to my grandmother’s state, and for some reason I also think it’s connected to the anniversary of my grandfather’s death. (He died in March 1993.)
Do you know what thought crossed my mind today, as that wave of fear engulfed and choked me on the train ride home? I thought to myself, my grandmother may never live to see me in love. She’ll never know the person I end up marrying. She’ll never see my wedding dress, or witness what I looked like on the day that was essentially one of the only things she has lived for.
Sure, we’ve talked about my travels, and my many careers. We’ve had heart to hearts about boys, and about dating, and every now and then I’d have a name to offer her of some guy that turned my head or touched my heart. But I may never see the look of joy on her face when she meets the man who finally knew me, and loved me still. As her only granddaughter, I was the sole source through which she lived vicariously. Though I know she is proud of everything I’ve done, and admired my courage for it, I also know she’s felt sadness in the lonely course my life has taken. I feel almost ashamed, though I know I can’t control how things turned out, and that for whatever reason the time hasn’t come for that part of my life to begin.
But tonight, that’s what I’m afraid of.
The day after I wrote that I confided in a few friends that I thought she might die in March. The very next morning, my mother texted me to tell me Grandma had been rushed back to the ER.
My grandmother passed away this past Tuesday, March 19th. It was exactly 20 years and 7 days after my grandfather’s death. Her doctors said physically she had been doing well. According to my parents, she was mentally in good spirits this weekend, and they all had hope she had made the turn. I went to visit her on March 3rd, just a few days before my book release. Everyone was telling me how much better she was doing, but when I looked in her eyes I knew. She couldn’t speak, because of the breathing tube, but when I leaned over to talk to her I said, “Listen, I’m not getting married any time in the near future. So you better get your shit together.” She laughed… I guess at that point we both knew.
Today, on my plane ride home from Texas, I’ll be working on her eulogy. How I’m going to sum up the love and memories I’ve cherished for 31 years, I still don’t know. Nothing prepares you for death, no matter how much you are expecting it.
There’s an old Italian proverb that goes, “If nothing is going well, call your grandmother.” Grandma, I will miss our phone calls more than you’ll ever know.