Monday, February 22, 2010
The last valentine
Above, my grandma and my step-grandpa on their wedding day.
Two weeks ago I spent some unexpected down time making a Valentine's day care package for my family in Oregon. I made candy, bought cards and a little pink bear for my cancer stricken grandmother. I mailed it off figuring it would arrive if not by Valentine's day by the following Tuesday. Unfortunately, my grandma never saw that little bear. On February 15th she succumbed to cancer-- her pain, ever constant for several years and agonizing for the last few days is at last over. I went through last week in a weird swing from a crying daze to completely fine and in denial. My brother does not have a phone right now and having to go physically track him down to tell him the news was tough. Even tougher, was when I arrived at her house on Friday after a 6 hour train ride. Something about being there and seeing her things without her there was overwhelming.
In the end, it was an incredibly cathartic weekend. I helped my mom go through grandma's closet-- I get my love of clothes from her. She always looked completely chic and put together. She also was incredibly tiny-- at 5'5, she never weighed more than 115lbs-- usually much less (in her later years she struggled to keep her weight above 90 pounds). Still, she had a strong presence and it wasn't until I held her clothes to me and tried on her rings that I fully understood how small she was. Many of her clothes, size extra-small she had modified to make the waist even smaller. She made many of her own clothes and though I myself am not at all large, most of her pants would only make it half way around me. She had a few shirts that were cut larger (she often wore things on the baggy side, perhaps to make herself appear larger) and those now belong to me, as well as a number of pieces of her jewelry-- I am now wearing her wedding ring from her second marriage on my pinky-- the only finger it fits (and it's snug).
We spent hours going through old photo albums-- at one point grandma must have just decided to put everything in albums quickly-- there were several albums that were a complete mishmash-- a picture of my mom in high school, followed by three pictures of her second husband's family, followed by pictures of me when I was a baby followed by pictures of my grandfather, who died before I was born. My dad made a slide show of pictures from her life for the funeral, from which I learned so much more about who she was when she as young-- she was a baton twirler in high school, very outdoorsy as a young mother (they took lots of backpacking trips) and always, always looked put together. She wore things that would look absolutely ridiculous on someone else but that completely worked on her. She liked large substantial necklaces, asian art and high waisted, wide leg pants with short boxy tops.
The funeral was an exercise in self-restraint-- it wouldn't have been appropriate for me to cry hysterically through it, though I kind of wanted to. It was a little more formal than we're used to, due to the unavailability of the Presbyterian church (all it's staff were on retreat all week) it was held in the Episcopal church. It was a nice service, but what had me in tears was so many of her friends and family telling me how much she had talked about me and what a wonderful lady she was. Grandma loved cats and had tons of kitty trinkets around her house. Mom and I each wore one of her cat pins to the funeral, and I think she would have loved that.
When I came home Marc asked me if I had been close with my grandma. In the last 10 years or so I have only seen her a couple times a year and so perhaps not. But when I was a little girl she lived with us and she read to me every day and took me for walks all over Eugene. We had some kind of connection that I can't quite explain that was different than with anyone else I know-- I loved her very much and I wish she had lived closer so I could have spent more time with her.
So though I will miss her, going to her funeral, seeing that my mom and uncle are going to be okay and being able to say goodbye in that way gave me a sense of closure and peace about her death that I don't think I would have had if I had stayed home. I still get teary if I think about her (like in writing this post) but I truly feel she has gone to a better place.
And today the sun is shining and I feel more at peace than I have in quite a while....