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Nov 18

November 18

It was twenty nine years ago that my grandmother passed away.  She was a smoker, and it was a long, slow, excruciating process, watching her die of lung cancer.   We had a hospital bed in the living room at their house, and I’ll never forget the way my mother and her siblings took care of their mother.  I’ll never forget watching my grandmother cry at how weak she was, how she couldn’t pick up my newest cousin, my aunt’s first baby boy.

It was twenty nine years ago, my mother was seven years younger than I am right now.  I was the same age my oldest daughter is.  I wonder how she got through losing her mother.  I can’t even fathom what that was like, to lose your mother.  I look at Jessie now, and wonder at myself at that age.  My grandmother died first, and in the next three years, I lost both my great grandparents and then my cousin Bridget died.  She was two years younger than I was, and I had grown up with her.  The deaths are linked in my mind.  One after another after another after another.

We were at my cousin Becky’s house the morning she died.  It was Becky’s  birthday, she had just turned twelve.  She and Bridget and I had been up really late the night before, and were playing in their bedroom.  Barbies – we always played Barbies.  Not that Bridget and I liked Barbies, because we didn’t, but Becky really did.  I remember my aunt Aimee telling us, not the words she used, but I remember being in her living room, and knowing that Grammy had died.  We all knew, on some level, that it was going to happen.  She was so sick, and had been for so long.  But it was my first experience with death, and I was shocked and devastated.

We drove down to my grandparent’s house in Maynard.  Aimee lived in Holliston at that time, and it wasn’t a long ride.  But we were mostly silent in the car.   What I remember most about going into the house was that I was the last one in, first Aimee and then Becky and Bridgett.  My mother had met us at the door, and I remember her hugging first her older sister, and then my cousins.

When you’re a child, you’re not used to being needed.  Being useful or of support.  You’re a child.  You are the one who needs comfort, you run to your mother for a hug when you get hurt, or when you have a nightmare.   But on that day, twenty nine years ago, I was achingly aware that my mother needed me.   She reached for me, and started crying all over again.  She was first and foremost a daughter on that day, and she had lost her mom.  I’ll never forget that feeling, that sense that my presence made it better for her, that being able to hold onto her daughter on that day made it a little bit easier.

I’m thinking today of mothers and daughters.  Of my grandmother, who died when I was the same age as my Jessie.  I think of Jessie’s relationship to my mother, how little she really knows her.  She loves her, of course, but there’s so much to my mother that Jessie just can’t know yet.  How much of my grandmother did I miss?  I loved her, but most of my memories are filtered through my mother’s eyes.  Most of my connection with her comes from my grandfather, who I loved and adored, and had until I was thirty four years old.  I’m realizing today that we missed so much with her.   I am my grandmother’s granddaughter, and raising her great grandchildren.   I am who I am, in large part, because of everything that came before.  Because I was raised by her daughter.   Her impact is still felt, it’s still a part of who I am and who my children are.   And today, I’m mourning the loss not just of the grandmother I loved, but all that we lost on that day.  A lifetime of  knowledge and love.  She never saw me as an adult, she never looked at my baby girl and saw her daughter’s eyes looking back at her.

She was just fourteen years older than I am right now.


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