Some of my favorite moments in the past few years were watching my great grandmothers holding my babies. Grandma Bobbie loved to hold a baby and she would wait with great anticipation for the moment when you handed off your little one for her to hold. I regret that I didn't make it an absolute priority to see her more often than we did - she only lived 45 minutes away but we just never seemed to find the time.
My biggest regret is not completing a Life History with her. I did one with my other grandma as part of a semester-long Anthropology project, and I had always planned to do one with Grandma Bobbie as well. I never did. One thing in life led to another, and ten years slipped away. After my grandma Betty passed away in April, I resolved to do it this winter. And now it is too late to capture her words, thoughts and feelings in a recording. Yet I will not let this hard lesson slip by - her three youngest daughters, my aunts Susie, Kathy and Cheryl will now be my source (although they don't know it yet), and their knowledge of the family history will see this project through.
I am so very thankful that I got to see my grandma just this past Sunday at a family gathering at my dad's house. It was a birthday/Oktoberfest/Thanksgiving meal kind of thing. Most of the family will be in NYC for Thanksgiving for the Macy's Parade, to watch my nephew Connor march with his high school band, so we had Thanksgiving early. We had a wonderful, relaxed afternoon. The kids played several Minute-to-Win it games to entertain themselves, and we had a ton of great food. Grandma held Colin on her lap for a long, long time. I had my camera with me, but I never took a picture of that. I was busy trying to get a close-up of a bee on some flowers in the garden. When I heard the sad news of her passing, I immediately pulled up the picture file that I had downloaded from the camera a few days before, and I noticed that not one picture was of her specifically. I only had the back of her head. I felt so sad and angry about that. Cheated. What was I thinking!? I always have this mantra, 'get pictures, get pictures...' because you never know if it will be the last time.... This time it was. I also didn't get to talk to her very much at the party. I have her a hug hello, put a baby on her lap and then later on said goodbye. The rest of the time I was chasing kids, arranging crockpots, changing diapers, eating, talking with my brother and SIL, and eating some more.
I got the sad news Friday at lunchtime as I was out for a walk in the neighborhood with the kids. Grandma had just been rushed to the hospital after having yet another seizure. I was far from my house, on foot, with kids who would struggle to move much faster. We hadn't eaten lunch yet. The little ones sorely needed a nap. For a couple of hours I felt completely trapped with responsibility - and resentful of the kids like it was their fault that I couldn't just drop everything and rush to a hospital 45 minutes away. I would not have made it anyway. But maybe... I just need to reconcile the fact that there was nothing I could have done differently. My sadness and anger is misdirected - I am just stunned that it happened so fast and that she left so quickly.
All of my grandparents are gone now. As well as their brothers and most of their sisters. Only two great aunts and a cousin are left from that generation (at least that I am aware of and have semi-frequent contact with.) Gone are the stories, the memories, the connection to our past. It is an unsettling feeling. I count myself lucky that my grandmothers lived as long as they did. Grandma Betty lived thirteen years beyond the death of her husband, (my grandpa Orin) and Grandma Bobbie lived thirty years beyond the death or her husband (grandpa Lee). They were both such strong women with gentle spirits... They helped bind the family together and kept us moving forward, even as the family dynamic changed with each marriage, divorce, move, and birth of a great grandchild.
I will miss my grandmother's cooking and good humor the most. She made some of the best food in the world. Every year, without fail, about a month prior to Thanksgiving, all I could think about was her turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and apple pie. And let's not forget the creamed peas. I hope someday soon my aunts will give me cooking lessons so I can learn her secrets... Family meals were a huge event when I was growing up. Now they are even bigger. When I was little, we all crammed into grandma's small kitchen and sat from one end to the other. You couldn't move. Forget going to the bathroom. We fought over the coveted spot by the bedroom doorway that would lead out of the kitchen - your one chance to escape if you really needed to go. Now we all gather at my brother and SIL's house - that way we can all fit. We have added 5 spouses and 12 grandchildren to the mix over the years.
I don't know how much this will now effect the family and change the dynamic, but I suspect the changes will be significant. My aunts, who have dedicated themselves for the last thirty years to the care of my grandmother, will experience the most change. Her medical needs had been so significant at times over the years... they sacrificed so much to take care of her, and they did it with such an admirable amount of love and compassion. The entire family was so grateful that grandma was being taken well care of. They took her to baseball games, trips to the mountains, a cruise and a ton of family events all over the place. They provided constant companionship and care. I am looking forward to seeing how they pursue the new direction their life will take, now that their responsibilities have changed. I think that the glue that held us together will still hold, yet I know things will be different.
Never forget where you came from...
Cherish your family each and every day.