With the recent death of my Grandma Alma, all my grandparents are gone. I am no longer anyone’s granddaughter. I feel older. I feel a step closer to being next in line to die, though I know there isn’t really a line.
She went quietly, suddenly, apparently peacefully in her sleep in her recliner, glasses folded on the table beside her. Since graduating college, getting married and starting my own family, we drifted apart. She was no longer a daily or even monthly presence in my life. I can hold the grief at bay easier than it must be for her six adult children who have lost both parents in six months.
At summer family camp-outs when I was younger, Grandma and I sat around the campfire, mutually befuddled by the noisy chatter of everyone talking at once. We often wondered to each other who was listening if everyone was talking. In the dark night, in the glow of the fire, swatting mosquitoes, Grandma and I chatted quietly, sporadically. Both observers. Both listeners and thinkers connecting in a way that didn’t seem possible in bright daylight.
There’s more. I know there’s more. The words and images tumble and smear. My defenses fly up and I think that the driveway needs shoveling, the dog needs a walk, I need a shower. Nausea overwhelms me. That’s a new symptom of grief for me. I’ve experienced mind-numbness, hunched shoulders, shuffling feet, lack of appetite, tears, and exhaustion; my body flips out when I’m grieving. But the nausea is new. I see a picture of my grandparents and I turn away to keep from hurling on my computer. My gut is rejecting this. The hearse pulls away with Grandma in the casket and I retch at the side of the church. I hate this, but I’m feeling it, I’m getting it out viscerally.
How can they be gone?