I don’t do this often but by the time this is published to word press I’ll be driving from a vacation to bury my grandmother. I didn’t say much about it last Monday but Hal’s beloved grandmother died a Saturday ago. She was an incredible woman who had chose to go the way she wanted. During the fall, she had suffered a stroke which came to the attention of Hal’s very perceptive aunt. That was when it was discovered that she had stage four lung cancer. At that time she made the choice that she was going out the way that she wanted and that is pretty neat. And on the first full day of spring, she died quietly in her home like she wanted. I’m told they put her last cigarette in her robe so she could have one for the road. She was a formidable woman who was very matter of fact and made me feel welcome along with her husband and all of Hal’s aunts. Its truly sad to know that she is no longer on this plane of existence. She is not a woman who will be forgotten and we’ll live on because of the legacy she left behind not to mention that every picture I have of her three granddaughters all have the same angry expression.
Not to be outdone, my grandmother passed. She had died over night and was found the next morning. I don’t know how long she’d been in her dead when they found her but it was less surprising. My grandmother was 100 years old which we had celebrated just a month prior. I have no aunts or uncles on my father’s side of the family which is a fact that she would allow my father to be reminded of..constantly. This is where I sit because my father’s relationship with his mother was complicated and unusual and as such so was mine with her. I’ve come to the conclusion at this late stage that her love for me might not have been honest because of her hatred for my father. She had been jealous of his relationship with her father which was something that she had never had as a child. I had wondered if she had used me as a pawn to bother him. In response I had become a buffer tool for my father to avoid conflict with her as a child. My bitterness for both of them is unmeasured.
The story of Bunny and Ginny is the story of two women who were very different. My grandmother was born in the city to a wealthy family. She spoke Italian and nothing but because the nanny was Italian. She married my grandfather because I can hope she loved him. They look happy in those pictures but I’ve learned he was never quite good at expressing that. He moved her out to Tillson where she lived raising my father when he went off to World War II protecting our nation from the Germans from Missouri. She was the last one of her brothers to survive.
When I think of my grandmother who was an old tiny white haired old lady I’m not sure what comes to mind. She was particularlly happy during her life. In fact, she had wanted to be dead for years. There wasn’t much joy in her life. I haven’t really figured anything else out. I know that she might have liked me but I also know that the older he got the more abusive she became towards me. The things she said about me and to me during her time when she moved to assisted living in Virginia was painful. If she hadn’t been doing that for years with my father I would be more upset.
Bunny was a wonderful woman who seemed to be committed to be Bunny. I don’t have the memories of her like I should but I don’t. What I have is a woman who was sick telling me that her spotless house wasn’t clean like she wanted because she didn’t have the energy or the fact that the first tie I met her and PawPaw (as I’m told I was suppose to call him) that she only cooked a little bit of food which included a glazed ham, broccoli casserole, green beans, biscuits and mac and cheese (Hal’s favorite dish according to her) and there was cake and ice cream. She was a truly generous woman who I could imagine being the way she is in life running around on the other side of the veil.
Where does that leave me now? My Grandma Phyllis’s death was overwhelming for me. I had survived the constant death watch and never felt like I had real closure. My mother’s death was traumatic. Bunny’s death is sad and Dona Virginia? I find it exuasting.
I hope that by the time this is posted I’ll have found the right way to feel but I fear I won’t. I don’t know if I can. I know it conflicts with my Christian Faith but I do believe the spirits of the dead and the ancestors are with us. We are the people we are because of the people before us. Hal and I decided that the voice that tells you to not do stupid things isn’t Jiminy Cricket but your mother’s. I occassionally feel my mother still move on this plain when I see things and actions around. She’d be tickled to death that I would be going to Louisville for my book and to try to get my writing career off the ground. Its where she started her success too. Whether you want to believe that it is legitimately ghosts follow us or its psychological we are the sum of the people who walked before us and we honor them with our work.
I don’t know where you ended up, Grandma, but I hope you are finally happy and you got there safe.