Friday, May 24, 2013


This is the first year of my life I've had to face without my grandmother. Words will never express the unconditional love she had for me and my brother. She did not hesitate to let us know if she thought we made the wrong choice on something but not once did I feel like she withdrew her love despite her disapproval. I lost count of the times she bailed me out of whatever trouble I'd managed to get myself into.

But it was more than that. It was being able to pick up the phone and dial and her voice was on the other end. It was hours of picking apart our favorite soap and the characters or her 'story' as she and my Great Aunt - her best friend - called them. Just hearing her soft sweet voice brought my blood pressure down a few notches.

She was the only daughter. Sister to her older brothers who felt a tremendous responsibility and deep love for her. I heard it in the voice of her oldest living brother when he spoke to and of her. I read it in the many letters of the middle brother that he wrote during World War II. You see, my grandmother and her brothers lost their mother. My Grandmother was 8 when it happened.

My great grandfather, who had waited so late (in those days) to marry, who'd already had to bury their oldest boy at 3 days old, was left a widower in the Depression with three children to raise. And he did it well. My grandmother never doubted her father and brother's love for her. The three children grew and one was a Naval Engineer in WWII. One was a Captain in the Army Airforce and a lawyer. My Grandmother served in her capacity as a nurse.

I never remember my grandmother with anything but the softest whitest hair. It had an unruly curl at the front. Her cowlick, she called it and oh how it annoyed her. She learned to work with it instead of against it and mostly it held her crisply starched white nurse cap in place. My grandmother loved being a nurse. She always work a crisp starched white uniform with cap, hose and nurse shoes. She served in almost every capacity in her nursing career and only retired when medicine went from being a healing business to just being a business. She'd already beaten breast cancer at that point.

She loved to read - mysteries in particular. She adored the opera and collected music boxes. She loved Wilmington - it's soft river mists, the moss hanging from the cypress trees, the tea colored water of the Cape Fear River. It was home.

I only ever saw her cry - really cry - twice. Once was when her Daddy died. The other was when her daughter - my mother - died a mere three months before she did. It's a horrible thing to watch someone you love bury their child.

She and I had a special bond. I would and did ask her things my mother never dreamed of asking her and she always answered me. We looked at the world the same way - she - part of the Greatest Generation and me - part of the Generation Reagan. My mother and I were polar opposites in almost everything and I always felt as if I were a disappointment to her. I did not feel that way about my grandmother. There was nothing left unspoken between my grandmother and I before she died. No regrets other than I didn't want to let go of her. I didn't tell her that of course. She felt bad enough about leaving us though I know she was ready to go home. My prayer was that she entered Heaven's gates and her mother and father and her brothers - all three of them would be waiting along with my mother. All those she loved and loved her. She went quickly - pancreatic cancer works that way - and as a nurse she knew only too well what to expect. I think she welcomed it - both her father and oldest brother had lingered for over ten years - bedridden - before they passed. She did not want that for herself. The only pain she couldn't handle came in the last three days and Hospice helped ease that. They knew she was one of them and they treated her like a peer. The nurses treated her like royalty - they told her what they were doing and why. They asked her permission. They never talked down to her. I loved that. She deserved that.

My mother thought she was weak minded because grandma generally deferred to other people. I thought my mother was wrong - my grandmother - like so many ladies of her era - had a quiet grace and strength about her that I could only pretend at. She had survived so much and was such a quiet tower of strength.

She adored my boys and they adored her. My husband doted on her. Like me he was his grandma's baby and she reminded him of his own grandmother. She always always sent cards on birthdays and holidays. The first time I really fell apart after her death was on my birthday when there was no card.

There was so much - conflict - between me and my mother that it has stifled the grieving process for me. I'm still trying to work through it all with her. Still waiting to miss her.

I did not wait to miss my grandmother. I missed her from the moment she breathed her last. I missed her from the moment they told me I would lose her very soon - that the cancer was too far gone and she was too weak to fight it.

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