The first time I dealt with death is when my Granddaddy died when I was 6. We found out about his death on the way home from a family vacation from up north. My mom got in the back seat and told my sister and I so we were prepared when we got home. I never got to say good-bye the reason he died was because of a doctor error so it was unexpected (as most deaths are.) I didn’t cry and I wouldn’t look at pictures of him for at least a year. I never went to his funeral and I don’t regret it. My parents got a book about death to help me understand but I didn’t so they got me a dog and his name was Buddy. I loved Buddy so much but then they told me he ran away. (When I got older I found out he was hit by a car and died. My dad buried him on a dirt road somewhere.) I would come home from school and ask about him everyday and nothing. When I cried about from what I was told they think that is when I finally cried for my granddads death. (We don’t tell our daughter that animals ran away we just say they died.) I love you Grandaddy.
Who knew what would happen 2 years later. It was February of 1993 and we are all sleeping when my mom gets a call/knock at the door (I can’t remember which) letting her know my dad was in an accident at work and was at the hospital. He was there all through March. I know my mom tried her best to take care of us and stay with daddy and it wasn’t easy for her. Athens is 45 minutes to an hour away and she was constantly going back and forth. My granny and my grandma helped take care of us while my mom was in Athens with my daddy. I never understood how she did that or why she didn’t just stay home with us until my grandma got sick. On March 25, 1993 my daddy was supposed to come home from the hospital. My mom had one of my friends parents pick us up and they were watching White Men Can’t Jump (I can’t watch that movie to this day.) and she came to drop us off at home. I remember how excited I was when I got out of the car. I ran up the ramp they made on the porch for daddy until he could walk good again and the bed was empty. The hospital bed was empty and even though I knew already my mom told us. He died in surgery due to an air pocket/blood clot I don’t remember which one now. My mom sued the hospital and the doctors which I never understood because no matter what happened it would still never bring him back. I remember when everyone came over to our house bringing food and giving condolences and love to our family. I didn’t go to his funeral either. I thought by not going to their funerals it wouldn’t make it real. I went to a birthday party instead. I love you daddy.
When I was 12 or 13 my nana (my mom’s grandmother) died. She was an alcoholic and not really involved in our lives very much until she moved in next door. We would go over to her house but it was always stuffy and hot, she never really spent much time with us. I don’t have much to say about her because I don’t remember much. When she did die I remember someone telling me they were sorry for her death and I said, “Why you didn’t kill her?” And ” I didn’t know her well anyway.” To think at 12/13 years old I was already so jaded by death that I completely made myself numb. There is a funny kind of morbid joke about my Nana’s death. My grandma brought her back to Canada to spread her ashes and when she got to the border they asked if there was anything she would like to declare and she said, “My mother is in the trunk.” It still makes me laugh.
When I was 15 (yes this keeps going.) my Nanny died. ( my dads grandmother.) I am just numb to everything at this point, it is almost to the point where I don’t even care I was happy to see family we hadn’t seen in awhile. My Nanny was a sweet lady one thing you could always guarantee on a hot July day in Georgia the weather outside was cooler than the weather inside her house. She had cancer on her nose, tongue and somewhere else. I always liked visiting my Nanny she was feisty before she broke her ankle. She drove herself everywhere in her big purple car even in her 70’s. She was always going but then she broke her ankle at church and her age caught up with her. She had the coolest garage and back yard. I loved playing out there with my cousins. I still miss her sometimes. I try to find pictures to show my daughter of her. My sister was closer to her than any of the other great grandchildren.
When I was 17 my granny died (Dad’s mother) She too was an alcoholic, but I don’t resent her for it anymore. I understand now how easy addiction is and how you would rather numb the thing that is hurting you instead of dealing with it. When she was really sick in the hospital I was at summer camp and I remember calling home and no one answering and then calling my moms work and being told she wasn’t there and I knew something was wrong. We came back from summer camp early and I got to see her one time again before she died. Her funeral was the first one I ever went to. I saw her in the casket and then remember why I didn’t want to go to funerals. I was never completely sad about her death because she did drink herself to it. Whenever I hear the song “Whiskey Lullaby” I think of her. She was a good person other than her drinking and I know that more so as an adult. It is sad how it takes all of that to realize the truth about people in your family. I knew that for her I was hard to look at because I look liked my daddy (and acted like him sometimes). I always said I was the forgotten grandchild. (This is when we cringe.) My sister was the oldest grandchild, my cousin who is 3 mere months younger than me was the first grandson and my youngest cousin was the baby and I was just in the middle somewhere. My husband came to her funeral wearing a suit he borrowed from his uncle. I remember my sister had these amazing things to say about her and while they were true that wasn’t how I remembered her, she was an alcoholic who was embarrassing to go out with in public, always had a screwdriver in a Gatorade bottle, almost completely burned cigarettes because she was drunk, falling in the fire, a nuisance and then a bit of hatred because I never understood why we weren’t enough to keep her from drinking. I wonder if she knew how much I disliked her at the time how ashamed of her I was. I feel horrible about it now. I know she can hear me when I tell her I am sorry for resenting her so much and I knew why she drank so much and I wish I understood more when you were alive to help you. I love you Granny.
Now lets fast forward to 2017 and I am 33 years old. We got a bit of a break in the middle of death when my grandma was sick. She’d been sick for awhile but she was a tough woman and survived a stroke, heart bypass, drs that sucked she was a fighter, but I remember when my mom called me crying saying they had to intubate her and I called my sister and rushed up to the hospital. This is when I learned how hard it was for my mom when my dad was sick. I called out of work just went on leave and stayed with mama the most I could. I took my meds late came home randomly to shower and see my daughter and my husband but mostly I stayed at the hospital with my mom. I wanted her to go home and do things she needed to do knowing someone was sitting with her. My aunt and uncle from New Hampshire came down and while that was a complete cluster fuck they sent grandma home. I stayed with her and mama to help as much as I could. It wasn’t just because she was my grandmother it was also to help my mom deal with this. She’d taken care of my grandma for many many years by herself. I was there when she took her last breath and then helped my mom and aunt clean her up with the nurse before the funeral home got there. I saw way more than I needed to and that fucked my brain up. I tried to help do everything I could so it was all on one person. I even had a Priest come out and do her last rights before she died. They weren’t practicing Catholics but I felt this would ease everything and I do believe in God so I felt it put everyone at ease. We had her service at the local community center and once the dust settled I couldn’t go back in her house. I just couldn’t and I think it is hard to this day for people to understand. I watched her die in her living room and helped take care of her after she was dead in the room. It really fucked my head up and now 2 years later it still fucks with my head. My daughter has pictures and things of hers that I hide because I can’t deal with it. My daughter knows where to find them and not to show them to me. We still talk to my aunt and uncle in New Hampshire and I am glad my daughter had a chance to meet them, but the whole ordeal is something that is still processing and until I am ready I really don’t want to talk about it too much.
This is the conclusion my brain doesn’t process death well. I have random moments when I bring someone back up and talk about a memory with them, but my husband knows not to push it with me and to let me share when I am comfortable. I tell my daughter stories sometimes and she loves them and one day I hope I will be comfortable enough to share more of them. This almost felt like therapy but again I probably need a therapist.