Tag Archives: grandmother

The stories we told

Last nephew’s dedication was yesterday. (I say last because for my generation- it’s not longer an option.)

Got the usual “When are you getting married!” questions..

“thanks.. I’ve had my fill of other people”.

The whole event was good for my mother.  My father having passed in December, my sisters and I are trying to convince her- after 43 years of changing her schedule for him, now she can do whatever she wants whenever she wants.  Its a hard learned habit to instill; every opportunity we have to get her together is a step in that direction, I think.  With Dad gone, its pushed Mom and I closer- we speak more, I see her more, its all easier as horrible as that may sound.

But the kinda neat part, my Aunt (Dad’s sister) and I got to talking.  She and I will be spending some time in Nevada.  In our talks we discussed social anxiety, and less than anxiety, just lack of motivation to have to be social.  Its something she and I always had in common.  Our conversation got to my father.  My parents never separated, and he was in my life as long as I remember; but I never really knew him.

I say that, not because we had nothing in common (we didn’t), or that we didn’t share the same interests (we seriously didn’t).  Even in later years as I was a young man and he wasn’t physically scary to me anymore, I just had nothing to say to him, and he had no desire to say it.  There was a lot that I wanted to say- but we were just never the same people, and by the time he died, we were decades in to accepting the fact that we wouldn’t have closure, let alone a relationship.

My aunt started telling me stories about when she was younger,  how horrible my grandfather was (not even sure how we got on the subject).  A horrible man like you read about.  I never had that a bad experience with my grandfather, I was 12 when he died; and really the only memories I have of him were his dogs, a constant smell of alcohol and his bristly 5 O’Clock shadow.  The last memory I have of him was his liver failure-thrashing in delirium and demanding a gun so he could kill himself.  They didn’t bring me back to the hospital for those visits after that.

One story was about her and my grandmother having to hide in the attic because my grandfather was going to shoot them.  I had mentioned that I didn’t feel like I ever really knew my father, and I didn’t have any good memories of my grandfather either- she had a few stories about the things that had made him shut down over time.  Not like that serves as any excuse, but she tracked it back quite a way through my father’s side of just really bad men.  She said she thinks thats why all the women in our family are so strong- they’ve been tempered that way.  My grandfather was an apex-saint.  I’m sure many people put their families matriarch on a pedestal, but this woman was at such another level I couldn’t put it to words.

But our conversation closed with her telling me she never saw any of my father in me, only my mother.  I don’t know if that was to make me feel better, but it did.  It legitimized a lot of what I hoped in general.  I always did like her the best 🙂

It won’t be forever

Don’t Walk Away

Many people I’ve loved, truly loved, have walked out of my life. At 31 years, I expect it to be an occurrence that will happen more than a few times going forward. My Grandmother was afflicted with dementia. The year before she died, I traveled to Arizona to escort her back to the east coast. I had shaved my head, and grew a goatee, but she remembered me (even though she thought I was going to fly the plane home). She barely remembered anyone anymore, but she knew who I was.

When she passed, she did not go quickly. For a week I sat by her bedside, talking to her, and holding her hand; she made me cry many times during this exchange.

“I want to go home…” she said.

“You can go.” I told her. “But I’ll miss you.” She aimed her face at me, that same face the told me to listen in church, and assured me everything would be ok, and once told me I’d have enemies everywhere, but I was the one that I needed to worry about; I could almost feel her hands, like paper, touching me, assuring me.

“It wont be forever.” She smiled.

That stuck with me. Now, I can convince myself it was the dementia, but with eyes closed she told me “It wont be forever.” Her mind may have meant something else, but to me it didn’t, it wont ever be forever.

One day, she held my hand. I’m sure she was asleep, I’d been sure of it for days, but she squeezed, she introduced me to her parents, whoM I had never met and had passed many years before, but she wanted me to meet them so badly. She’d sleep while I read Neil Gaiman to her. She smiled from time to time, and I told her stories from when we were both younger.

When she passed she knew everything I said, and she had a lifetime of people waiting for her. Anyone who knew her would expect no less than an army of souls waiting to greet her.

One of the last days I waited by her bedside, there were a small group of people at her bedside, holding hands and letting her know we were there. An old friend, Barbara, came to her. She held her hand, and stroked her hair; I sat in my same chair on my grandmother’s right side. From her left, Barbara said to her:

“You might not remember me, but I sure do remember you”

In my memory, she smiled. But I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t care, really, I just care that she smiled. “I sure do remember you.’

I couldn’t even scratch the surface of what she did, of the person she was; and who she will always be to me. She anchored me; and I’m sorry she will never see the man I might become. Any belief I carry in me, is not for me its for her. So she might be there to see what happens to a sheep; so very lost by its Shepard.

Frances Barnett was loved. She was my grandmother; and because of her, three children, and seven grandchildren, and a gaggle of great grandchildren that might not remember what a hero actually looks like, I will remember her; she left us one day in October, I’ll miss her, but she taught me, “it wont be forever.”