“’You’ll get over it…’ It’s the clichés that cause the trouble. To lose someone you love is to alter your life for ever. You don’t get over it because ‘it’ is the person you loved. The pain stops, there are new people, but the gap never closes. How could it? The particularness of someone who mattered enough to grieve over is not erased by anyone but death. This hole in my heart is in the shape of you and no one else can fit. Why would I want them to?” -Anonymous
I miss my Grandma. A lot. Every day.
She died on January 2nd of this year (2009) after battling bone cancer for a couple years. She wasn’t supposed to make it that long, but she was a fighter. She was German. Stubborn as shit. Compassionate as shit too- more than anyone I’ve ever known. She had the biggest heart, she was always looking after someone or doing something for someone. She knit afghans for the hospital to raffle off to raise money. She shoveled her neighbors sidewalk and took them to their doctors appointments.
I’ve been blessed to have many beautiful people in my life. Some of those people were my Grandparents. You see- my family is very divided. My paternal Grandparents have been divorced for over 30 years. Both were re-married before I was born. My Grandpa and Step Grandma lived here in Calgary, where I am now… while I grew up in a small town a few hours away, very close to my Grandma and my Step Grandpa. When I refer to my “Grandparents” I am typically referring to my Grandma and Step Grandpa. They were great. My Step Grandpa was a stern man, a judge and very wealthy. He used to count the cash in his wallet before he had a nap, and again when he woke up. He used to always tell me to stay in school and get good grades. I always thought he was kind of harsh, but as he grew older and softened up, I realized that it was just his way of telling me he loved me. He was good to me.
I saw my Grandparents almost every day growing up. We used to go for drives, that was our thing. We’d go anywhere, whichever direction. Grandma used to love going for “weenie roasts” as she called them, that was essentially going to this old camping spot in the middle of nowhere and roasting hot dogs. We used to go down to Waterton National Park and look in all the shops and Grandma would get us iced cream. She’d always get one for her two little dogs too- man were they spoiled. Anyway- Grandma and I were close, in case I hadn’t said that already. I could tell her anything. I could cry on her shoulder, I could vent if I needed to. She understood me. She loved me. She was my hero. Grandma gave the best hugs. After my parents divorced and I moved to the city, I didn’t see her as much. I would go home and she would be waiting at the door for me, jumping up and down, waving her arms and giggling, waiting for a hug. She would squeeze me half to death, but she oozed with happiness. Her giggle was contagious- everyone knew her by that. People say I have her giggle, that makes me blush but only because I know they mean that as a compliment. I hope I am like her, and often people will tell me that I am, but I always feel unworthy. I hold her so highly that for someone to say I take after her seems impossible. I do have some of her looks though, her dark features, her moles, or “beauty marks” as she called them. I also have her dirty mind- ohhh did she have a knack for saying things without giving a care about who was listening. Not much tact, and that I will admit- is most certainly a quality I have inherited. But you know what? I’ll take it gladly if it makes me more like her.
A few years back, well… I guess a couple years short of a decade now, my Step Grandpa finally passed away. He had been sick for quite some time- he was in his 80’s (20 years older than my Grandma). She had taken care of him for a few years and it was hard on her. My Step Grandma also passed away around this time, and during one of my Grandpa’s trips home to see his brother, he and my Grandma “hooked up” again. Yeah, I’m not even being sarcastic. My Grandparents started dating again, and got remarried a couple years later. Talk about throwin’ a girl for a loop! Here’s my Grandma- my best friend, marrying my Grandpa, whom I have to admit I don’t really get along with very well. What in the hell? That’s what I was thinking when I found out. Freakin’ weird. Grandma was so full of life. In the last few years, she even dyed her hair blonde, which was funny as she was normally very dark-haired. She said blondes had more fun, ha ha.
Shortly after my Grandparents got remarried, my Grandma was diagnosed with bone cancer. She had already battled breast cancer years before but we were told that this time it would be terminal. Though I don’t like my Grandfather, I do have some sympathy for him- he was going to lose a second (or would you consider this third?) wife. I will admit, he took good care of her in years when I was unable to. I have been pretty wrapped up in my career and my own life the last few years- too busy being an adult to make as many trips home as I used to. For the first while I didn’t go home much at all- I had a hard time facing the fact that my Grandma was going to die. I know it seems selfish but it was too hard for me to see her in so much pain, knowing soon she wouldn’t be there at all. It was also really awkward with my Grandpa there. I didn’t don’t really know him very well, and he was so protective of her I kind of felt like he was in my territory- I think he was actually feeling the same way about me- a bit jealous of the relationship Grandma and I had. I had a closeness with Grandma that even he could never have. That was something special.
Anyway… ever since I was a little girl, my Grandma would tell me she couldn’t wait for me to have a little baby girl for her to rock in her arms. She used to do the motions, put her arms in that position and pretend, then she would giggle. I was so embarrassed, especially when I was younger. When I was 20, I met a guy who I thought was “the one”. He loved Grandma and she loved him. Eventually he told me he wanted to get married and he was going to start saving up. Instead of asking my Dad, he asked my Grandparents for permission to marry me. I wasn’t in the room when he did it and I couldn’t figure out why my Grandma was dancing around the kitchen- until he told me on our drive home what he had done. It seemed like one of the sweetest things a person could do- especially because he knew how badly Grandma wanted to see me married and having babies- but what he didn’t know was how fast Grandma could spread news. By the end of the week my entire family thought that we were officially engaged. Oh Gram- what did you do. I had to stop taking phone calls because how do you say “ummm actually he hasn’t proposed yet, he was just asking for permission” a million times over and over? My boyfriend at the time ended up getting so overwhelmed and freaked out by all the congratulations and hype that changed his mind about proposing. Eventually he did propose but by that time I was mighty pissed about the situation he had caused. In the end, we wanted different things (plus he was really screwed up) and we split. Grandma was so gracious about it. She would say things like “oh that boy was no good anyway” just to make me feel better. She never once made me feel bad for not getting married. We were going to have the ceremony in her back yard, a dream I’ve had since I was a girl. She had ordered flowers and done more landscaping (not that she needed to- her garden was incredible as is), and she was planning on hanging bells in the trees- ha ha… something I would have tolerated to make her happy. But no- even though all of those dreams didn’t come true, she never once made me feel bad about it.
It was less than a year after that Gram died. I never wanted to get married just to make her happy- I really did think it was right at the time, but I will admit that I will never stop feeling bad that she never got to see that happen. I wish with all of my heart that she had lived long enough to rock my children to sleep. I wish that in her last days I had the courage to tell her how much she meant to me, even though I’m certain she always knew.
I have mixed emotions about my last memories of my Grandma, but they are special to me none the less. Grandma had been getting worse and worse, to the point where she couldn’t really stand up… she would flop over in her chair and her head would almost be between her knees. She was in so much pain, and she barely mumbled. She didn’t make a lot of sense and it was hard to see- but a couple weeks before she died, I went to visit, and she was having a really good day. She was still a bit out of it but much better. I wanted to learn to make her from scratch sauerkraut… so I pulled out her recipe book and started cooking away- something we used to do together all the time. I would tell Gram I needed to get up to stir the sauerkraut, and she would mumble to me to come right back. I would barely be in the kitchen and she would show up right behind me and say “what are you doing? aren’t you going to come sit down with me?” and she would have tears in her eyes like a little sad puppy dog. It was so sweet, so much love. Now, Grandma had a knack for spoiling me. She loved (LOVED) shopping, either in store or the shopping channel on TV. Honestly, to this day I have several jewelry boxes filled with things still in the packaging. Anyway, this day- Gram got up and slowly made her way to her bedroom. She was sneaky- I didn’t even know she had gone. She came back and she grabbed my hand. She flipped it over and opened it up, and in it she placed a gold necklace. It had a beautiful gold charm on it, with emeralds (her birthstone) embedded in it. I also have my Grandma’s wedding ring and several other pieces of jewelry she’d given me- but this necklace is my single most treasured belonging, because she was half cut and barely walking but she still had enough in her to give me this last thing to remember her by. I wear that necklace almost every day.
The last time I saw my Grandma she was back to being really bad. When I had to go she kept mumbling “don’t, don’t, don’t”. She knew what I didn’t. I had feared for months, every time I saw her, that it would be the last. She knew that time that it really was. I wish I had stayed, because she died just a few days later, and I didn’t make it home in time.
I will always have a special place in my heart for my Grandma. She will always be my hero- the person I aspire to be. It’s one of my greatest fears that years from now I won’t be able to remember the way she was. The way she talked, the way she waved her hands, the way she hugged. I hope I never forget those things. I hope they stay etched in my memory forever.
I miss you Gram. Every. Single. Day. :)
“Without suffering there would be no compassion.” “Tell that to those who suffer.” -A Walk To Remember