Nervously, I asked, “How do I repair a relationship when the other person doesn’t want to or can’t?”
“You mourn the loss, so you can move on. And if you can’t, then you come see me.”
That conversation has been on my mind for a few months. I had attended an event with the women’s organization at my church, where a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist was presenting on strengthening and repairing the various relationships in our lives. The whole time she spoke about repairing damaged relationships, I thought about my grandma.
We recently lost my grandma to manipulation. We were helpless as people she should have been able to trust took advantage of her age and vulnerability. Eventually, it ended in my grandma disowning our family. I miss her terribly.
Losing her in such a dishonest way has been agonizing. There is so much anger at what was taken from my family, the pain they put us through, and the thought that even if we took them to court to prove they were lying, it wouldn’t matter. She won’t change what she has been convinced is reality. Not being able to tell her that she’s getting another great-granddaughter hurts. I’ve taken it out on my husband and child through my impatience. I have gone days without talking to any of my siblings or mom because I didn’t want the reminder of what we were going through. This is not who I want to be.
I’ve spent the last few months thinking of how I can mourn and move on from the pain. I spent many hours with her recording her family history and loved every minute. My mom has said several times that I would be the one to give her life sketch at her funeral. The odds are not in our favor that we’ll be notified when she passes, so I thought it fitting that I could mourn her loss by paying tribute to the amazing woman that she will always be to me.
“Love you first!”
When we were kids, we used to race grandma to see who would say “I love you” first. The phrase eventually became “I love you first!” and was our standard way of saying goodbye to her and the entire family. Even my husband says it.
That is just one of many wonderful memories of grandma. Christmas Eve parties every year, the giant ceramic pig piggy bank in my living room that she made me, painting on shirts, teaching me how to make latch rugs, tons of camping trips with her RV groups, her telling her friends that I couldn’t have wine coolers because I was Mormon and only 9 years old, epic trash talking during any game she’d ever play, and don’t forget all of her crazy homemade costumes that we’d borrow, because who doesn’t want to be a Christmas tree for Halloween? Anyone who knows her should be able to hear her voice in their head when she’d say, “Oh gawwwd!” In addition to the memories she created for us, I learned a lot from her.
Grandma was a good friend. She was born in 1927 in upstate New York and to this day she can probably tell you the name of every friend she has ever had. She still is in touch with a few of her old friends from New York, and if they have passed, then she still talks to their kids. Her albums may have more pictures of her friends and boys she dated than of her own family. She would talk your ear off about her friends, who they married, their kids, where they live, and funny stories about them.
Grandma had a strong work ethic. In high school she got a job with New York Bell and began a career with “the telephone company.” She became a troubleshooter and traveled all around New York fixing problems at different locations. After she married, she continued to work because she liked it, not because they needed the money. She worked in the evenings so she could still be home with her girls, but loved working and the independence she felt. She came out of retirement in her 70’s to work as a receptionist at a senior community and she never shied from telling us how much they all loved her there because she was just so good.
Grandma was positive. She didn’t talk a lot about the trials she faced in life, though there were many. Her family was very poor. She once told me that her father had always spent all of their money anyways, so the Great Depression didn’t impact her family much. Even in light of his physical abuse when he was drunk, she described him as “a really good guy when he was sober.” That era was tough for many people’s physical health, and family and friends of her’s died from things like diphtheria and malaria. Not to mention the people she knew who died in World War 2, including a brother-in-law that she still adores. She also experienced a drastic change in her husband’s temper as a result of a traumatic brain injury that he refused to see a neurologist for. Ultimately, it led to a divorce, though she says that he’s the first person she wants to see when she gets to heaven. Even as her health began to deteriorate, she’d say that she would go to bed and hope it would be better in the morning. She was never a complainer. Pictures throughout her life show a huge smile, laughter, and happy to be doing whatever she was doing.
Grandma loved life. She soaked up as much fun as she could. She laughs when she tells a story about how her mom thought she had drowned as a kid. The stories of her young adult life will have you romanticizing the heck out of the 1940’s and wishing you were at the dances with all the men in uniform. She loved to camp, fish, go to the lake, and explore the world around her. She was always making crafts and taught me how to make jewelry beads out of dried potatoes. Her positivity helped her to see all of the good things around her to enjoy.
Grandma made me feel loved. There are so many ways she did this that I could go on and on, but that’s the simplest way to say it. She wasn’t perfect, but she was amazing. The ideal grandma. I like to imagine that when she does leave this life, my grandpa will be there to welcome her home, give her a hug, talk about what happened, and then wait for us to all be together as a family again. It is so tragic to think of this strong woman’s life ending in the way it is, but I know that in her right frame of mind, she still loves. And as one of her several namesakes (which she also likes to mention), I will try to live up to her and the example she set for me.
Love you first, Grandma.
If you would like further information on Elder Abuse, please check out the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.