Before continuing with my Norwegian series, there is a bit of stream of consciousness I need to get out of my system. This won’t be like my other posts (which are mostly structured); rather, I am writing & publishing this in the hopes that it can rid me of the writers’ block I’ve been plagued with the last few hours. Of course, if it helps anybody in a similar situation that’s a bonus I will gladly take.
On July 30, 2015 at 3:17pm my last living grandparent passed on. We weren’t related by blood-she was my mother’s stepmom-but she was who I had known from birth. We rarely saw eye to eye which led to countless tiffs when I was younger and, as the years passed, a begrudging respect for the others’ stubbornness on certain matters. When I first heard the news, much in the same way I learned of my uncle’s death two years prior, I was numb once again. I didn’t feel a heart-wrenching pain the way I did when my grandmother died the day after Christmas. The nausea & ringing in my ears, so suffocatingly present when I learned Jim had jumped from a bridge, was conspicuously absent. Not a single atom in my body felt the weary, guilty relief that blanketed me when my grandpa left us (and his own suffering) last St. Patrick’s Day. So when I heard my mom utter the words “well, Fran died,” all I could muster up was “oh.”
Was I such a terrible person that I felt nothing for her death? Could the years of tension, the back-and-forth between laughter and debate, have really numbed me to her existence? Could I be so apathetic, so sure that the only sadness I felt was from knowing my mother was in pain?
I spent an entire afternoon and night wondering if it was possible to know somebody for 23 years and not feel an ounce of grief over their passing. As I worked through a busy Friday afternoon, slightly sleep deprived and still in awe at my lack of sadness, the guilt of nothingness, of not one spilled tear, gnawed at my insides. When I finally got home I went to bed straightaway, exhausted from work and the late hour, surely.
This morning I woke up sore and a bit groggy, nothing out of the ordinary except I only really feel that way after a difficult workout or a night out with friends. I had done neither the day before. As I made my way downstairs I saw a messy kitchen, dishes and recycling and paper towels all over the place. Dad had fixed breakfast and, noticing how tired I had been the night before, let me sleep in instead of waking me. He left things out for me to fix my own breakfast with, and though I was thankful I wouldn’t have to root around the fridge to find the eggs I was irritated. Why wasn’t everything put back where it was supposed to be? Was it really so tough to take the recycling out? That ice cream container has been there since LAST NIGHT. We got into it, me venting my frustration at feeling as though I was always cleaning up and he retorting I left my dishes out on occasion, as well.
And then I broke. All the exhaustion, the inexplicable & inexcusable irritation, the desire to wear the coziest, warmest clothes despite the 90-degree weather…it all gave way to tears. As I secluded myself in the library, curled into my dad’s old leather chair, the tears flowed. Salt water and shaking and sniffles and that burning in the back of your throat when you want to cry more but your eyes can only release so many tears at once. My grieving had finally made its grand entrance, bearing the decades of memories, the excitement-turned-anguish at losing Fran two weeks before I was supposed to see her, the realization that she and I wanted the same things from my life. I won’t say we saw eye-to-eye because most of the time, we didn’t. But as I sat, crying and holding myself and letting wave after wave of sadness cascade through me, all I could think of were her final words-written in a letter so similar to those my grandpa and I traded throughout my college years:
“What a wonderful adventure you are living. Hope this gift of love helps you along the way. I love you. Fran.”
Through it all, in the end we both wanted me to create my own way, to live the life I had always dreamed of, and I never got to thank her for that. I found & opened the letter on Thursday after learning she was gone. There was a time when I could have told her how much it meant to me, how I did love her in our own strange little way, but that time is gone. That chapter ended at 3:17 on July 30th. And with this new existence of a world without Fran, all I can do is hope she knew what she meant. From insisting on my trying her key lime pie, to forcing me into a shirt three-times too big so I wouldn’t burn more, to walks with her & Duffy as she smoked her tenth cigarette of the day, Fran shaped who I was.
When we lose people, no matter how big or small a role they played in our lives, they leave an impression on us. It may manifest in open grief, a delayed reaction, a sudden new perspective on the world. We are all connected to one another, through our human essence and desire to love & be loved. Although we do not get to choose when particular eras of our life are over, we do have a say in how we move forward. Do we try to stamp out somebody’s impact on our life to spare ourselves the pain of their absence? Or do we allow the sadness/emptiness/shock/pain/[insert emotion here because whatever you feel in the moment is okay] to flow through us, to lead us to our new life without that person?
I don’t know. And that’s okay.