Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Grandma Lorraine and her amazing smile.
(I'm the blondie in the pink shorts!)
My grandma Lorraine was one of my favorite people. I never doubted for a second that I was one of her favorite people. She came to stay with my parents for an extended stay (a week? more?) and would often tell me about the important bonding we did during that time. That bond remained strong until she died. I wrote about the depth of our connection on that day, promising that she would always be in my thoughts.

Then I stopped thinking about her.

I didn't know I hadn't been thinking about her until last week when I was talking with a dear friend about my family tree and the bonds therein. It was only then that I realized how little I had thought about Grandma in the last decade. It's not like I forgot she existed or I stopped loving her... I just...didn't think about her.

As my friend and I talked, it became obvious that my lack of thought was out of self-defense. Thinking and talking about her brought up an ocean of self-recrimination.

I wasn't there for her when she needed me.
I didn't go to her when she had her stroke.
I was in a movie theater in California instead of by her bed in Minnesota when she died.

Although my mind could rationalize all the truths behind these perceived failures--I had a job and a life in California that didn't allow for hopping on a plane whenever I wished; we had a very tight budget that year (and many years before and after); I didn't know she was going to die that day or during that two hour block of time--my heart never forgave itself. I spent the last ten years blaming myself for failing her.

As these things came to light, my friend and her beautifully empathetic horse helped me sort through them, helped me recognize the pain for what it was and forgive myself. She asked me to remember the bond my grandmother and I shared and feel her presence around me even now.
My beautiful aunt, when she was much younger.

The next day, my mother and her sister came to visit. My aunt has Down's Syndrome and paranoid schizophrenia. Despite being born in an era when children with developmental disabilities were regularly shuffled off to care facilities and forgotten about, she was never treated any differently by my grandparents. She went to school, held a job, had a boyfriend and even lived in her own apartment for a while. After my grandfather died, she moved back in with my grandmother. She spent more time with my Grandma than any other person on Earth, I think.

During her visit to my house, she kept turning to me and saying, "You look different." This didn't surprise me much as A) my hair is currently purple and B) my aunt often lives in a world of her own making comments that may or may not be relevant to what the rest of us are experiencing. We spent several lovely hours together. As we walked out to the car together to say goodbye, my aunt became weepy. She clutched my hand and cried. When we asked what was wrong, she simply repeated, "I'm losing you!" I assured her that I was not going anywhere and that I would be coming to visit her soon.

A few days later, I saw my mom again. She told me that my aunt had remained sorrowful for most of the two hour trip home. Usually, her emotions are fleeting and her thoughts are distracted by pleasurable things (like the cheeseburger she got to have on the way home), so this was strange. As we talked about it, we realized that I am not only the person in the family who looks most like my grandmother, but I am also currently the same age as my grandmother was when my aunt was a young girl. It's very possible that when my aunt told me I looked different and that she was sad to be losing me, she was actually talking to my grandmother.

I can't think of a better reminder that she is always with me.
Grandma and me.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely remembrance. It's amazing how you go throughout your day and all of a sudden you remember someone you've lost, and all the times you shared together, or didnt; come flooding back. I'm glad to read, you've begun to forgive yourself and heal.