Death & Dying

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My grandma died.

There is no cuter way to put it. No poetic way to say it.

Because death is final. In a physical way. Death ends opportunities. No more conversations. Sure, you can try, but they’ll always be on sided. Unless you have figured out a way to speak with the dead – if so, I don’t know to suggest whether to contact me or contact your closest psychologist.

My grandma and I had a roller coaster relationship.

When I was little we were best friends. No better way to put it. She was the coolest grandma. We would wake up every morning I stayed with her, took a bath together (totally not weird), drove down the road so she could buy a paper, drive back to her house where she would torture me while skimming it, then to Perkins for breakfast, and then to my Mecca – Maplewood Mall. Every. Single. Time. Without. Fail.

I grew up and hit those years were you don’t understand how luck you are to have these older people in your lives who are chalk full of such fascinating knowledge. Our sleepovers happened less and less. I started to dye my hair. I got sick. All of those pesky expectations… I was’t becoming the woman she thought I ought to be. Which is painful to type, let alone feel.

Grandmas should be squishy love bugs who envelope you in their arms and don’t judge you (well, they probably judge the shit out of you but behind your back). Not my grandma. She was opinionated, loud, no filter (sounding familiar to anyone else…)

I’ll never forget a particular occasion her saying to me, “teenagers should be seen and not heard” or when I went to her house with black hair, “you look worse than Britney Spears” – this was during the height of Britney’s meltdown. It kind of became a turning point. Until that point and after, there were quips about my hair, how I dressed, how I expressed myself… how I wasn’t really sick enough to need an assistance dog… how my first tattoo, one so incredibly powerful for me to have as a disabled person all she said was, “well that’s how they are going to identify your body when you’re laying in a ditch after a car accident”…

Stuff I guess looking back, despite in the moment it being incredibly painful, were just coming from a woman who was angry about something. Which is very sad.

I don’t know why she was so angry for the last several years. I know she was always ‘that way’ – my dad had a box of her things when she moved to senior living and I found letter after letter of hers, typewritten, sent to the St. Paul Police Chief, clippings of my dad’s letters to the editor during his high school years. She volunteered for Dorothy Day, working with the homeless. She was an activist. In her own way. Hell, she was a feminist in her own way. She would never admit it and I am sure voted for he-who-shall-not-be-named. She will probably haunt me for saying she was a feminist. She was irritated with the “women’s liberation movement” and thought women should appreciate being a woman – which is kind of what feminists fight for (just in an equal way)… she wanted to chain herself to a dead tree in my dad’s yard to save it as my cousin’s husband stoked his chainsaw. (insert smiley crying emoji here)

She was a walking contradiction. Perfectly human. Maybe not the epitome of a grandmother. She was my grandmother though. The fond memories I have of her far outweigh the sad ones. Which is why I find myself typing away before the sunrises, I don’t even know if she lived to see yesterday’s sunrise. She was my grandma and best friend at one point and while I have been telling myself I had grieved that, the truth is I hadn’t. Because I always held onto hope one day we could foster some type of relationship beyond being civil to each other.

I know she loved me. I also know why we didn’t get along. Because we are too alike. We are not wallpaper women (sorry to steal your line Blythe), we write angry letters, we find strength from helping those less fortunate than ourselves. I learned to love animals from her.

I loved hearing the stories of her dad rescuing baby deer, “breathing life” into woodchucks, bunnies, all kinds of animals they would have stumble up to their shack of a home in the mountains. She rescued a ring-necked morning dove at least 20 years ago and nursed it back to health. Her name is Elvis and only until the last several years she was still laying eggs.

These are the memories I choose to put in the front of my mind as the next few days come and go… that we are more alike than we are different. We all are really.

She got to die how she wanted to. In her sleep. In her bed.

All I can hope for is she has found peace. She followed my grandpa and uncle and I can only imagine them all sitting around a table, grandma yelling at grandpa for something and catching up with my uncle Rob. She is surrounded by the thousands of animals she has rescued in her life.

Maybe I’ll go dye my hair blue or get a tattoo in her honor… maybe a ring-necked morning dove so when I go wherever the hell I go when I pass she can identify me, as her granddaughter, the feminist who used her words to fight for what she loved and believed in, who loved animals, who had no filter, who inherited her nose and her boobs. Grandma wrote in a book I have she always knew I was different… I think she respected it as a woman and that’s good enough for me.

I love you grandma. I hope you are proud of me in some way.

MW

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