My grandmother passed away February 2. She was 93. She had Alzheimers. If you had seen her periodically over the last eight years, you could see that it was coming.
When Mom called to tell me, my heart broke at the heartbreak in her voice. But Robert and I haven't lived in North Carolina in almost a decade. And in the physical distance, for me there was emotional distance too.
Before last week, if you'd asked me to use one word to describe my grandmother, I would have said complicated. She and I weren't super close, but we were family and we loved each other. I hope that she is in a better place now, finally happy and at peace.
I flew to NC Sunday morning. The viewing and the service was Monday. I flew home Tuesday. She was actually buried on Thursday.
At the service, I was sitting beside my brother and as the Hospice chaplain was speaking about my grandmother, I found myself trying to keep my face blank because I realized the woman he was describing was one I did not know.
This, of course, made me think. You grow up around family (extended family if you are lucky) and just take for granted these presences in your life, but how well do you really know someone? As the kids get older, I find myself realizing that I may have given birth to them and pretty much been with them since birth, but that's no guarantee that I really know them. Nor do they really know me. I'm not sure how to feel about that.
Women of my grandmother's generation rarely shared deeply personal things. The kids' generation seems to share every. little. thing. - often on social media. I never stopped to wonder how odd or unusual that must have seemed to her because it seemed so normal to me. Just like I never thought about her as a person, not really, she was my grandmother and that's the only way I really ever saw her.
I don't know what she wanted from her life when she was a little girl. I don't know what her happiest moment was. I don't know so many things about her. I don't know because I never asked. She wasn't easily approachable most of the time, and it never occurred to me to try and figure out why or to break through her barriers.
So as the chaplain talked about my grandmother, I listened...really listened to the way he saw her, my mother saw her, and my aunt saw her. And I promised that I would try to let my kids really know me and realize that at some point, I'm going to have to stop seeing them as 'my kids' and seeing them for the people they are and are going to be. And something tells me I'll never be regretful about that.