It’s odd how things just sneak up on you. January next year will be 11 years since my grandma passed away & tonight, quite out of the blue, I sat in the bath & wept as if it had just happened.
I recalled the night & how I’d stayed at her house while my parents went with her to the hospital, insisting on waiting for family to arrive, I think secretly hoping that nothing would happen – that she’d be fine. Or maybe it was the other thing — maybe I knew she wouldn’t be, but I didn’t want to watch.
I remembered the doctor coming & the way they’d spoken in a hushed voice to my mum in the hallway, words like “hospital” drifting into the living room & thinking “she can’t go to hospital – she hates them. She won’t go” & then realising that she didn’t have a choice – they needed to make her comfortable.
I remember sitting in the bright front room, unable to sleep, flirting through movie after movie, “What Dreams May Come”, “Pride & Prejudice” & “Sense & Sensibility”, her favourite. My then friend, now husband, called me & we spoke for a while.
In the very early morning my uncle arrived & drove me to the hospital. We were told in the car park that my grandma had died. At least I think we were. Things sort of become hazy thereabouts. But she had died. She had died & I wasn’t there. I wasn’t there even though I’d spent every weekend, every holiday, every spare moment with her throughout my childhood. I’d shopped with her, cleaned her house, gardened with her, made endless cups of coffee for her obsessive “chain-drinking”, watched TV with her til my eyes went square, laughed & cried at Jane Austen, mused over “who’d done it” in her favourite crime dramas, even though they freaked me out but she loved them, listened to her favourite music “tapes”, songs, many of which were to become favourites of mine as I grew. She loved musicals & Barry Manilow & so many more.
I remember seeing her in the bed, extremely still, extremely “not there” & people crying all around me, their faces blurring into one, & someone told me I could kiss her goodbye & my tears didn’t show.
I remember excusing myself to go to the toilets & silently sobbing & screaming in the cubicle, tears burning my cheeks, til my throat hurt so much that I thought it would burst. I didn’t want anyone to hear me; I didn’t want anyone to know I’d been crying. I don’t know why. Perhaps I thought crying was a weakness – that I had to be strong. Perhaps I thought my grief was too much to be done in public.
Grief doesn’t end, it seems. It gets easier, in a way, as you move further from it, time allowing you to distance yourself, but the pain, if you truly allow yourself to feel it, does not go anywhere, it just waits.
My grandma used to speak of her “Leslie” all the time — spoke to him. My grandad who I never met. She’d sigh but instead of just a sigh exiting her lips, it was the words “oh Leslie”. She did it all of my life even though he had passed away many years before. Her grief never ended — or was it love? I think they may be the same. I think grief is just a word that we use to describe the love we still have for someone not with us anymore, a love that is empty & has nowhere to go or be projected. But I love her still. I suppose that’s why I grieve. I love her & I always will. Just like she did her Leslie.