For the second time in three weeks, I am going to be traveling the 7 hour drive back to my hometown. The last time was for my baby shower. When I was there, I had all kinds of feelings and I wrote this post for (the blog exchange) about embarking on this journey as a motherless mother.
Losing my mother, watching her die of cancer, was one of the hardest things that I ever did. There was so much, there is so much, that to go over it all here and now would be akin to me just pulling off my bandages and showing you the open wounds. Not too many people are up for that. There’s not enough distance yet. Not enough metaphor. There’s no charming sepia color to the images, they’re all still too vivid, Technicolor. So, as time washes in and out like tides and wears down all the sharp edges, I’ll wait it out. Show it to you when it looks like beach glass. Smooth and beautiful.
One of the less grisly and more ironical aspects of the whole journey, though, is that both my mother’s parents are still alive. They are 82. They have been married for over 60 years. Drive a little further into Ironyland and you’ll note my grandmother’s dementia. Which began somewhat slowly as confusion and misplaced words and progressed to the point that she wasn’t fully aware of what was happening around her when my mother died. The irony for The Little Sister and I being, of course, that although she’s alive, she is no longer the bearer of the family history. In the lineage of mothers and daughters, she’s been a placeholder. The questions that we never thought to ask my mother—about her childhood, her pregnancies, our childhoods—all those my grandmother would’ve answered. If she could remember.
Last night I got word that my grandmother was in intensive care, with bleeding in her brain. She is not expected to live. They are giving her palliative care, making sure she’s comfortable. It feels like when it’s over, we’ll have lost her twice.
So, I’ll be traveling the 7 hours back to my hometown. To be a comfort and a support to my grandfather. To say goodbye to a beautiful woman, a part of my history, a part of my life. For a minute, The Little Sister said she felt like we were losing the last link to our mother.
Later on she changed her mind. She said this:
“Gramma isn’t really our last link. There are still links to mom living in my son and in your daughter. She’s in us and she’s in them too.”
And I thought:
Ain’t that something?
So’s Gram. And her mom. And her mom. All the way back up the tree. My daughter comes from a long line of strong, awesome women. Maybe I’ll do a little more documentation than my mom did, just so she has something to hold onto when I’m gone. She'll get to know my mother, her mother and her own self that way. Through my tangible words that tell the story of her history from before she was in it.
I'm talking about something other than this blog, if you can dig it. Something that she can squirrel away or leave out or keep under her pillow at night.
Something that--you know--doesn't have so many swear words in it.
**Edited to add: Thank you so much for your well wishes. My grandmother passed away today at about 4pm. Thanks again for your emails and comments.