I lived a fairly grief-free life after my 8th year, when my dad’s dad passed away. I understood the concept of grief, but it didn’t often affect me as I grew. And then I lost my great grandfather when I was 16.
Still, I wass young enough that I dealt with it and only occasionally still had surprising – for me, at least – pockets of grief. I still do from time to time, because my Granddaddy was a good man. But it is heavily laced with nostalgia – a nice patina of time and childhood to make it mostly a set ache.
Nothing on my life prepared me for the loss of my grandparents, little more than a year apart, not the heavy guilt that weighs worth my grief. Those who knew my grandparents know what a blessing it was for them that they went close together. They are who I hope Sir Joshimus and I are when we are old, who I hope to model in some way. I grieved very hard for both of my grandparents.
And sometimes, I still do. As I lay in bed tonight, getting ready to fall asleep, I let my mind ruin onto next month, when we go to Texas. I’m extremely excited about it, to the point that I’m worried about annoying my sister-in-law before we even get there. But, as my mind is prone to do, it ran 100 directions and landed on my aunt who also lives in the same town. I recently got a Christmas present from her and my mind built the scenario of being asked if I would see my aunt while I was in Texas. The answer is no.
When I was a teenager, she used me, and then humiliated me and told me that I was a horrible person and the whole family thought so. My mom is one of five – the whole family is a lot of people. It was traumatic for me, at a hard time in my life. Of course, later I learned it wasn’t true, she was just being cruel, but it doesn’t make me dislike her any less. And for years I had to pretend like I didn’t hate her. And back then, I really did. You see, she became the gateway to my grandparents, and then my little brother – three people I would walk through fire for. But I don’t have to now, so I won’t. I don’t hate her now, but that is for me, not for her.
But back to my grandparents. I realized that my grandfather, my Pappaw, was one of the only people on my entire family who ever genuinely made me feel special. This isn’t a condemnation of everyone else – we were a large family and several members like my Momma and my Mammaw were very good at making us all feel equally loved, which is a hell of a trick. I never felt less than loved by those two wonderful women and this isn’t a complaint. But I never felt like the favorite.
I did with my Pappaw. I don’t even think I actually was his favorite, he just always made me feel that way. He and my Aunt Sharon. And with that realization, a pocket of grief was ripped open with a fierceness that took my breath away. I’m still breathless and weeping. I miss my grandparents, miss the unadulterated love that made me feel both capable and child-like. I don’t know what I’ll do on that horrible day, hopefully far far far in the future when it’s finally my mother’s time to go, but there is no one that loves you the same way a grandparent does, whose love fills you the same.
I never had to go through what (I hope, anyway) all children must go through when they transition to adulthood, and learning an adult relationship with their parents. It was a difficult transition for me – occasionally still is, and I have one of the greatest mothers on earth. But I never had that with my grandparents, and I don’t know if it was just them or some ability of grandparents everywhere – but I could feel that childish innocence and yet they treated me like an adult, even before I actually was one.
I know I’m a conundrum for my family – the rainbow sheep, as I’ve always joked; the square off in a round hole. But my grandparents had a blithe way of making it seem that they didn’t notice that I didn’t fit in. And, Gods, I miss that. I don’t mean this as a condemnation for the others who have always loved me. My Momma never understood the strange shit that motivated me, drove me, but she never let that stop her from being my number one supporter. My Aunt Sharon always celebrated my individuality and head-strong uniqueness. And, heavens knows, I needed both. But I think my grandparents are the only ones who never made me feel like I was different, nor that I was expected to behave a certain way. Most of those who pretend I’m “normal” do spp by expecting me to go with the flow.
My grandparents were amazing people and amazing influences in my life. I only wish my husband had gotten the chance to know them better. And having shared this, I hope I’ve down up this pocket, at last enough to sleep. I know I have found peace sharing them with you, found joy in my memories.