Grandma Hazel

Tears are running down my face as I type this. 53 days. It’s been 53 days since my grandmother left us. It was the worst possible way to end one year and begin another. At 1:14 am on New Year’s Day, when mother’s phone rang, I already knew. Grandma was gone. It’s still hard to believe. Covid robbed us of more than enough. I’d give up another year of my life to have her back. I’ve never been so heartbroken. Crying never hurt so much, so deeply. My chest and back are killing me from the hysteria I’ve suppressed.

I’ll never forget the last time I spoke to her. It was New Year’s Eve. Someone in the hospital was kind enough to call me from her room and allow me to speak to her. She was drugged for comfort and couldn’t speak. I told her it was me and I was sorry I couldn’t visit, but they wouldn’t let me. I told her I loved her very much. In her moaning and grunting, I know she said “I love you more.” That’s what she always said to me. I said nothing more. I didn’t want to say goodbye–though I knew it was. I was slightly hopeful she’d get better, but I knew she wouldn’t. I didn’t want to say goodbye because I was afraid she knew, too, and I didn’t want her to be as sad as I was/am. And if she didn’t know, I didn’t want her to be scared. So I just left it with “I love you.”

I’ll always wonder if she knew that would be our last conversation, if she understood anything that was happening, and if she missed me, too. I’ll always wonder if she felt any pain, if she was also heartbroken, and if she was at peace in that last breath. I’ll make myself crazy over answers I’ll never have. Those are the ones that do it, ya know. It’s never the things we know that hurt us or break us down. It’s never the things we think we cannot recover from. It’s the unknown. It’s always the unknown.

Some people have said grandmother would not want me to be sad, so I shouldn’t be. They’ve said I should think of the good times and all the memories and they shall carry me through. While there may be truth to those statements, it’s difficult to find comfort in them. I shall try, I suppose, and days will pass, and eventually time will lessen the pain. I don’t think you ever heal from it. Even then, however, I bet it won’t be until I’ve lived longer without her than with her. That would put me to 80, and I hope to be back with all my loved ones by then.

It’s a lonely existence since the pandemic. All this time away from family and friends has left my mind to wander anywhere and everywhere. It’s left the huge hole in my heart wide open and the thoughts swirling in my head like water that never goes down the drain. It’s sad and extremely difficult but quiet and beautiful at the same time. It’s also dangerous. But she is with me. My grandmother: One of the toughest ladies I’ve ever known.

She raised four children on her own after husbands ran out on her. She traded skiing for adulthood and eventually, her piano for rent money. I know a part of her died as she watched a truck haul it away. She did what she had to do. She gave up the one thing in life that was hers and for herself for survival. That is a strength I’ll never (hopefully) know but one I admire with all of my being. She’s not the first and, sadly, probably won’t be the last. The tears are flowing like Niagara Falls now. I wish she were here. I wish I could buy her another piano and listen to her play it. I wish she could teach me. I let her borrow my keyboard when she was still living on her own, but she never played it. That part of her died when the truck drove away.

My grandmother had a sense of humor that couldn’t be matched. She wasn’t your average grandma. She wasn’t all sweet and baked cookies and shit. She wasn’t the grandma who came to your sporting events or wedding receptions. lol. She was a tired old lady who retired from being a bank teller and just wanted to sit in her chair and watch the Cleveland Indians. If you understood where she came from, understood her journey, you couldn’t feel mad about it. It certainly had nothing to do with her love for any of us. I wasn’t bitter. I loved her and made time for her, anyway.

Grandmother loved whiskey sours, country music, and giving back the insults. She was very quick with them, too. I’m sure her mother would’ve been proud. I certainly was. I also realized I may have inherited some of that directly from her. She loved to drink iced tea from her tall, gray Tupperware cup. She would put 2-3 ice cubes in it. No more. And no sugar ever swam in that cup. It was as bitter as I’m trying not to be that we’ve lost her. Grandmother also liked to drink Squirt and eat peanut butter toast. It had to be the crunchy kind. And fish. She loved fish sandwiches. And in the center of her dining room table was always a bowl of apples, bananas, and oranges. Some were plastic, some were wooden, and all were sometimes dusty. lol. I never saw that woman eat any fruit in her life–unless you count those peaches in a cup. Mom brought her plenty of those when she moved into the nursing home. I don’t count those. She was a different person then.

She raised four children alone. She worked hard her entire life. She retired as she deserved. And what Dementia didn’t take from us, Pneumonia and Covid did. But she loved us. And we loved her. And that’s all that matters. Because if you look at life long enough, you’ll see the rest is just noise.

As I wait for the memories to comfort me and time to lessen the pain, I will think of the funny insults, the way she looked at my shoes whenever I came to visit, and her love for ice cream and all things made of sugar. I will try to forget the unknown, the time I took for granted, and the regrets I have for not seeing her more when I could. The tears will continue to flow, and I will try my best not to suppress this deep sadness I have never known.

For those of you who’ve lost a loved one at any point from anything, take comfort in two promises:

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18

Goodnight. Much love. God Bless.

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