Photo: Welp…my first attempt at this rag doll pattern didn’t quite work out as expected. Though I’m disappointed, I learned a lot about my sewing machine and pattern reading. I think I know where I went wrong and how to do better. Best of all, I have enough “soil” for a re-attempt. It’s inevitable… if I break out my sewing machine, something is bound to go wrong. Another inevitability: if you try something new, something will bound to be learned.
Our grandmothers are dying.
Two different women, two different states, two different diagnoses with two different timelines. Two families are trying to make a series of decisions and, as expected, there are two different approaches to the same inevitability: Our two octogenarian grandmothers, beloved and wonderful, will leave us sooner than we want them to.
One thing that is similar in both situations is that the adults in our lives are sorta losing it. In shock and grief, demands are being made and duties are being evoked. Events must take place, formalities must be paid. As adult grandchildren, we find ourselves in very strange positions. We have awareness and obligations that we would not otherwise have if this was happening while we were significantly younger. Yet, as the generation “least” impacted, we are not party to decision-making, nor do we have any place in discussions as such. Indeed, roles are suddenly more taut than usual, with everyone expected to know their place on the stage and act accordingly. That mostly means being on the phone with our parental units, listening and obeying.
On The Husband’s side of the family, it means a summons to the homestead so that the Matriarch can lay eyes and hands on The Babies. All of them. The Brother-in-law and his crew, too. It’s ambiguous who is doing the summoning. I suspect that it’s my father-in-law thinking he’s doing the right thing by his mother, rather than his mother actually making the request. It doesn’t actually matter, I suppose. Anyway, $2000 spent for four plane tickets and the other accouterments to go out to Missouri to do what has been asked of us. It is not a small expense and it will not be a small disruption, as it happens right before school starts.
On my side, it means keeping secrets and speaking in code. The four adults are fractured over who to tell and how and what… I have to call my grandmother on Sunday knowing that I know more about her health than she does. Knowing that it’s imperative that I not be the one to tell her. It’s so stupid because I know that the adults in my life are denying themselves and their mother the chance for a bit of peace. I know exactly what she is going to say and I know exactly how she is going to say it. I think my aunts and uncles know, too. Once she says the words, they have to abide. So they aren’t giving her the opportunity, and that just sucks.
There is a lot of management involved: managing my husband’s feelings of guilt and pressure, managing my mother’s sadness and frustration… managing to keep this ship on course as much as possible, because Camp Mama is still open and school is (finally) on the horizon. Otherwise powerless, though, this is all that I can do. Sometimes, I feel like this is my only function in life: keep all others comfortable. Listen solemnly, speak briefly and softly, provide earnestly and often, ask for little while giving all.
Such function, though, makes management of my own feelings a solitary affair, reserved for the very few moments of my day without husbands, babies, or any others in the constellation of our life. I feel a healthy mix of grief and peace. Grief because of my love and admiration for this woman who has become so much more than my grandmother. Grief because I know how lucky I have been to have had her for so much of my life, and because I realize how much of her is in me. But peace because I know that this life must end and that hers has been full, that she has reached a status that can only be described as holy. She has come to the end of this life. She believes that there is one waiting for her beyond it. Who am I to have any opinion on how or when she passes between the two?
Especially because her life will echo for long and far and wide. 3pm on Sunday will always be our time, even when we are no longer able to share it as we have.
And that is where my Quiet Thoughts are. In the chaos, in the fraying of the threads that connect these two family clusters, there is peace in the knowing and the inevitability of it. Their lives, full, joyful and beautiful as they are, are ending. We must honor and celebrate all who they are, all that they’ve done. We must, in time, cling to the little pockets of their life and times that will remain. Physical spaces will remain and be transformed, designated times will recur and be marked, while memories will echo at all times and in odd places, evoking laughter, and tears. All of this is inevitable. All of it.
Even the pain, and there will be that, too.
In the meantime, 3pm on Sunday is as powerful as it ever was. Not to be missed. Not to be taken for granted. There are so many more stories to tell. This week’s feature? Major’s guitar lessons. My grandmother will be so freaking thrilled. I can hear her laughing already.
On this Friday, hot and humid after a rare and brief rain, I wish you the cool breath of a passing breeze. I hope it takes you to another place and time, to a person or to a lesson. I wish for it to fill you up and make you smile, lightening your load and lifting your spirit. I wish you laughter this weekend, full-throated and belly sourced, enough to make you lose your breath and grab your sides. I wish you good food prepared outside, marinated and toasted, acidic and sumptuous. I hope you share it with excellent company. Tell someone a story this weekend, Dear Reader. Hold a hand, smile, kiss someone on the cheek. Wrap your arms around someone and tell them how much they matter to you. Tell them their place in your life. Know that you hold such a place in the lives of others, Dear Reader. Know, in the deepest regions of your heart and mind, that you are loved profoundly and your life and times is a wonderful story that someone cares about deeply. What you do in this world matters, Dear Reader. Don’t ever forget.
Until Monday, be bold, be kind, be loud, love deeply, and take care.