html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Rest in peace, Grandma Jeanette.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Rest in peace, Grandma Jeanette.

It is a measure of my deep love for Chris that I hauled my recently broken, recently sick self out to help him move for four hours in the rain tonight. It was especially hard to have to box and move his crap, since I just spent four days in Connecticut with my dad and aunt working ten-hour days to clear out my grandmother’s final apartment. Still, if there is anyone who can call on my time and effort, it is Chris. Chris has done some heavy lifting for me this last year.

I call on Chris first when things go wrong, and I’ve had some losses in the past months. When I heard my grandmother died, I had no hesitation about calling him out of his meeting to come over and take care of me. She wasn’t a nice person; honestly, we dreaded seeing her. It was no coincidence that her daughter put an ocean between them to the east and her son moved west until an ocean stopped him. She hadn’t been in her right mind for four or five years now, which took some of the guilt out of avoiding her.

Chris came over right away so we could talk about my grandma’s death. I can’t say that I felt grief. She could be horrible to be around and I hadn’t wanted to know her. Her death certainly didn’t open a wound in my heart. But that night I felt terribly sad for her life. The heartbreaking part of my grandmother’s nastiness is that she never meant to drive anyone away. She liked being around people and she loved her family very much. She never connected her poisonous comments and relentless nagging with her desperate loneliness; it was a mystery and great sadness to her that we didn’t visit or write. As we cleared out her apartment this week, I found hundreds of envelopes and stacks of stationary and cards. She would have loved to have a correspondence with me.

My decision to not be like my grandmother is one of the most powerful choices I have ever made. But the night of her death, I wanted to sort through her characteristics, to see if there was anything I could claim and keep. I found a couple – her strong will and determination has served me well. In an odd gift, she bequeathed to all of her grandchildren an unusually high pain tolerance. Chris sat with me as I cried for her loneliness and looked more closely at her than I had for years.

I wasn’t purely sad, so we were also joking. At one point I wondered aloud what would happen to all her spite. Now that it wasn’t contained in her body, was the world big enough to hold it? Chris corrected me instantly. No, he said. That’s not how it works. When someone dies, all the love they contain is released back to the world. The spite dies with them. “Look at you,” he said. “You haven’t showed this much compassion for your grandma since I’ve known you.”

I thought about that idea for several days and I am sure it is true. It isn’t the love each person generates; that is given away during their lifetimes. But the love people felt for them gets carried in their selves their entire lives. When their selves are gone, that love is freed for the living to feel again.

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Blogger Cladeedah said...

Sorry to hear about your Grams. It's odd that you were just talking to me about her when I came to visit. Was her death very recent?

12:49 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

She died about a month ago. I'll probably write about it a couple more times. I haven't wanted to tell people about it because sympathy isn't really right for the situation.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Sweet Coalminer said...

My dad's mom was a horrible, constantly-complaining, guilt-tripping angry unsatisfied woman, but the more I talk to the one person she was really close to (my 2d cousin), the more I realize that her life just started and ended crooked and never got straightened out so she could sit right.

I was sad for my dad's loss because she was his mom. But I was also sad that she became who she was.

I'm sure Mimi will feel much the same about her grandparents.

Good post!

12:11 PM  

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