Friday, July 23, 2004

Comfort and Sadness

This is an old photo of my gram and pap. This post is a story I wrote for a class about 5 years ago and is dedicated to Sloth.

She gave me my grandfather’s pipes and dish soap so I could blow bubbles. She made sure that my favorite cereal was in stock in the kitchen cupboard for my breakfast. She always let me play house and water her flowers, no matter how much I drenched them. She never scolded me, she never reprimanded me. She spoiled me more than my father, even more than my mother. This woman was my grandmother, my mother’s mother. I haven’t seen her since I was 12, she died unexpectedly, in her sleep, almost exactly six months after my grandfather passed away. The only explanation that my father could offer me about why her heart had stopped was that it was broken from losing my grandfather. But I was still very young, and I didn’t understand that I would never see this wonderful woman again.

My grandma, Henrietta, was married to my grandpa, Steve, when she was merely 18 years old. If I were in her shoes, I would be married and have children by now. Henrietta and Steve would have been married over 67 years if they were still alive today. I can’t even begin to imagine what two people can go through in that amount of time. But I can believe that Henrietta died of a broken heart. She shared her life with Steve, and they went through a lot together. These experiences are what made my grandmother such a strong woman. She and my grandpa had six children, and lost three of them in her lifetime; Jimmy, who died as an infant, his twin Jerry, who was killed in Vietnam, and Larry, who had a heart attack in his early 40’s. The agony of losing your own child must be the most horrible thing a person can ever encounter. Grandma kept herself busy in spite of it all, always helping others, and sewing, which is one of the many talents she possessed. Keeping busy and the support of her husband and family is what helped her. Her strength in the most dreadful situations was radiant. And not only was she strong in personality, she was strong in her convictions as well.

Raised as a strict Catholic, she attended church every Sunday. My grandma was the most gentle woman I ever knew as well, I rarely ever saw her get angry, her patience was one of her greatest virtues. I remember my cousin telling me about a time when she asked grandma if she had been pregnant out of wedlock. Somehow she had miscalculated and thought grandma had her first child six months after she was married. Being so strong in her beliefs, Grandma naturally got upset and offended by this and she didn't talk to my cousin for a week. Of course she forgave her. This is the only time I’ve ever heard about my grandmother being angry at someone. She was ceaselessly kind-hearted and compassionate, which is most likely the reason why I could never believe that she could leave this world.

I can remember the day she died like yesterday. It was school picture day, eighth grade, and I was getting ready to catch the bus. My uncle Steve called my mother and hysterically told her "something’s wrong with mom, she won’t wake up." My father asked me and my brother if we wanted to go to school. I couldn’t figure out what could have been wrong with grandma, nothing bad could have ever happened to her. She was so loving, so gentle. Only six months before I had gone to the hospital with my father and seen her slaving over grandpa, the love of her life, as he slipped away. That couldn’t happen to her, not now.

We drove over to grandma’s house with my father, and by the time we got there, the house was filled with people crying. It was true, she was gone. I think the most horrible part of that day was seeing my mother sobbing, desperately trying to hold on to her mother. This was the first time I ever saw my mom cry. I wasn’t sure how to feel. At 12, being surrounded grown ups who were crying sort of made me uncomfortable. I rationalized, ‘well, grandma was old, and nobody lives forever.’ This actually helped me, at such a young age, not to be sad. The thing that hurt the most was when my mother emotionally cast herself on grandma’s body, weeping, and kissed her. This was very disturbing to me. Because I didn't truly understand death at this point in my life, I did not shed a tear at grandma’s funeral. Looking back, I wish I would have cried, I wish I would have shown some emotion. Actually, my lack of emotion made my mother more upset, and that made me feel the most terrible.

Now, with more than ten years without my grandmother, I miss her more now than ever. I always wonder how she would react to her adult granddaughter. I know that she probably would think that I am somewhat wild, considering her religious background, but I know that she would still love me, and she would accept me for who I am. I wish I could have had the chance to know my grandmother more deeply. I know she could offer me so much wisdom, but I will never know.

When I look in the mirror, I see my mother’s eyes, and in my mother’s eyes, I see my grandmother. I know that my grandmother lives through both of us, and I can only hope to become the kind of woman Henrietta was. She lives in my heart and in my memories, and I see her in my mother’s words and actions. I guess I’ll never know how she would talk to me as a woman, or the wisdom she could give me. All I know is that this woman lives in my memories, and she will forever stay the woman who gave me dish soap and grandpa’s pipes so I could blow bubbles.

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