Grieving the Unrealized Future

My grandmother died 3 weeks ago. It’s so hard to believe that three weeks ago I was standing in a parking lot hearing my mom say that grandma had died. It was so unreal. Hours before my father was telling me that grandma might have days. He said hours but I really just dismissed that. I figured he would have enough time to get to her but he didn’t. I think he really regrets that but really he didn’t have enough time. Travel just doesn’t work like that. She was gone in hours.

I still miss her. I find myself on facebook where her page is still active and all the sudden I am crying. Until I moved to Pasadena 5 years ago I would visit my grandmother every summer. If we do a bit of subtraction that means for 26 years I visited my grandmother for a weeks time or so. I saw her in person about 3 years ago. I wish I had been able to continue to visit her every summer but it wasn’t possible. Money got tight and school got in the way. They seem like ridiculous excuses now that she isn’t here. I wish that I had seen her every year like before.

Regrets really aren’t worth any thing. They help me confront the reality but beyond that they just suck. So I try to be done with them. So if I move from regrets I move to sadness over activities that will never happen. I get sad over the future.

My kids (I don’t have any but I am holding on to the dream that someday I will) will never know a great grandma. I didn’t know my parents grandparents as a kid either but I really wish that my kids would have gotten to meet Arleen Summers and Shirley Boyce and even Vi Waggoner. I have no grandmothers left. My grandma Shirley has Alzheimer’s and after visiting with her I know she’s not really there. We visited her twice. One day she was completely gone and the other she was kinda sorta there. I don’t know which was harder: seeing a glimmer of who she was or the shell of the person I love. My kids won’t know her and they definitely won’t know my Grandma Summers or Vi. I wish that was still an option. I wish my future kids would have gotten to know the strongest women I have every known.

I’m pretty strong. I have survived horrible acts and I live on to help others survive their horrible acts. But I don’t think I’m a fraction of how strong these women were. Arleen raised two sons after her husband left her for another woman. She had no education and yet she provided for them. She was a strong arm with little time for compassion, she did become compassionate in her later years (after all I only saw glimpses of the strong arm and saw more often the funny loving woman that was my grandmother). Arleen looked at her circumstances and got moving. She didn’t let her circumstances ruin her.

Shirley raised 7 kids after her husband died in a plane crash. 7 kids can you believe it? She did it all on her own. She was a history teacher and the love story of how she met the grandfather I never met is truly something for the story books. She was an incredible woman who loved word puzzles and fun facts. As a granddaughter I never really appreciated her thirst for knowledge until it was gone. She used to bore us with facts every where we went. We would call them Grandma Shirley minutes and groan because they always lasted more than a few mere minutes. Although as we drove through Colorado a few weeks ago I was remembering how she would go on and on about the different rock that was there and the different settlements that had come through. I still remember some of what she said. She also had this love of birds that she unfortunately passed to my mother. My mom will sit outside and ask what kind of bird that is and I just give her a look that clearly says, “I have no idea.” But grandma and mom used to sit on the back porch and when one would ask the bird question the other would have an answer or together they would look it up.

My fondest memories of grandma Shirley and I are the memories of sleeping at her house and having coffee with her in the morning. She would have it black and I would add about 2 cups of sugar and lots of milk and we would talk. She would ask me questions and I would ask her questions and she would offer me breakfast and wouldn’t stop until I ate something. She also passed this annoying habit to all of her children. I can’t step through the door of any of their houses before I’ve been offered everything in the cupboards and the refrigerator. It’s fine if you’re hungry but if you’re not it’s just annoying.

I even have fond memories of Grandma Vi. The short story of Grandma Vi is that she is the other woman that my grandfather left my grandmother for. I didn’t know the full story until after I had formed an attachment to my grandma Vi. I don’t like what they did to Grandma Summers but I had an attachment to Grandma Vi and I miss her too. She and grandpa rarely visited but when they did I always had fun with her. She always dotted on me, I’m not sure why but I loved her for it. My mother has always been a saver, probably because we have never had lots of money. So when we went shopping she used to put everything on lay-away (buy it now but don’t take it home until you have fully paid for it). I find it funny that not everyone knows what lay-away is but anyway. I would try on a dress or want a toy and mom would buy it/put it on lay-away and months later it was like a surprise present. So when grandma Vi would visit we would go to a department store and she would say that she wanted to buy me one dress. I would say okay and then I would start looking at price tags and ask for the limit. This one time she bought me a $100 dress. I couldn’t believe it. It was white with polka dots and I think it had a pink sash. It was more than any dress I had in my closet and I loved it. I tried on the dress and when I showed her she could see the joy on my face even though I was trying to hide it. I knew that we couldn’t afford something like that but she said to let her worry about the money and that I was getting the dress. I loved that shopping trip and it is one of my fondest memories of Grandma Vi.

Grandma Vi died my first year at Fuller and Grandma Summers died my last year at Fuller. They bookended my schooling. I wish they hadn’t. Grandma Vi died of Breast Cancer and Grandma Summers died of kidney cancer. And Grandma Shirley has Alzheimer’s.

They’ll never see me get married. Since I was a kid I have dreamed of my wedding day (it’s a girl thing). I knew that I would get married in my dad’s church, by my dad if he could do it (and now I have lot’s of ordained friends that could step in if he couldn’t) and that my grandparents would be there to see it happen and we would all celebrate it together. I have one grandparent left and we’re not that close. My dream is dashed. Now there will be flowers in their place. It’s really sad and I’m not even engaged. I can’t imagine how it will be on that day.

It’s probably really silly to grieve an unrealized future but I am. I’m also grieving that I can’t call my grandma and talk to her. I’m grieving that if I were to call Grandma Shirley, if she could talk in coherent sentences today, she wouldn’t know who I am and soon it would come out because she would guess that I have kids or pets or something like that.

Grieving can be a really pain in the rear. Just when I thought I was good to go I got sucker punched by grief.

Grieving the unrealized future is kind of like grieving regrets: it’s not worth much and it just makes me more upset.

Today I’m knitting and watching movies because one grandma was always crafty and the other had a killer movie collection.

I miss my grandmas.

The top photo is Grandma Shirley and the bottom is Grandma Summers. ImageImage


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