February 20, 2015

on regret and remembrance

My grandmother passed away in November of 2014. It was unexpected, it was shocking, and it still catches me off guard. There will be a song or smell or something that will make me remember her and then when I remember her, I remember that she's gone.

Growing up, my grandmother was one of my favorite humans. She had this beautiful house in San Clemente, California that I loved visiting her at. Her house backed up to a golf course and I grew up fishing golf balls out of the bushes, washing them in her bathroom, and selling them back to golfers. She would always collect them for me and encouraged me in my little entrepreneurial efforts.

GT in Waikiki in 1967. 
She would always take me for pie when I would come and visit. It was our little thing. Sometimes we'd eat it in the restaurant and other times we would take it back to her house, eating it in bed while watching television shows like Golden Girls and Unsolved Mysteries. I don't remember what she would order, but I would always get Dutch Apple. I would take pie over cake any day of the week and I think that love started on those pie dates with Grandma. 

My grandma's life turned out to be a lot different than she imagined. She found herself divorced with three young children in the 70's, got remarried in the 80's to the person I grew up knowing as my grandpa and while he was a fun grandpa, he was not a good husband. They divorced and she remarried a childhood friend in the late 90's. He was a safe man, but he was not a warm man. Her marriage with him put somewhat of a wedge between her and her grandchildren. It was not terrible, but he wasn't the easiest or most comfortable man to be around. He was an old cowboy. What he wanted was peace and quiet, which isn't exactly something that grandchildren are great at. 

Years later, they experienced some financial troubles, he developed Dementia, and eventually, she moved in with my parents while he moved into an expensive facility. This happened while I lived in Korea, and I think I resented her a little bit because it was inconvenient, she even moved into my old room. This whole situation did something to me that I'm not proud of- it made me ugly inside. It made me short and generally unkind to my grandma. I wasn't terrible to her, but I wasn't gracious and compassionate with her. I never empathized with her and that's something that makes me so sad. Even as I write this, tears are rolling down my face because I wasted so many opportunities to show God's love to someone that was in such an uncomfortable situation.

GT on her 72nd birthday blowing out the candles on the "Better than Sex" cake she requested. Typical GT.
One of the last times I interacted with my grandma was in October. I had flown to home to go on our annual family vacation to Mexico. The day that I was supposed to fly home, my grandma asked my mom if she could come to the airport with us and take us both out to lunch. I told my mom, privately, that I'd like to see some friends in San Diego and would like to spend some time alone with her instead of sharing that time with my grandma. That was my last interaction with my grandma. She died several weeks after that and all I could think of was how selfish I had been. I was so unwilling to be flexible and to love this person who had always shown me love.

My grandma was a story teller. You mostly never knew if what she was saying was entirely truthful. She loved to exaggerate things and the truth would always become buried in whatever story she was telling. It was something we made fun of and was hilarious, but I think part of it was her desire to believe the best in people. To my grandma, I was the funniest, smartest, most beautiful girl in the world. She believed all of those things. To her, they were biblical truths. 

I'm terrible at impressions, although I like to think I'm the next Dana Carvey. The only impression I can do, that is actually on point, is my impression of Ethel Merman. My grandma loved this impression. It would send her into a giggle fit where nothing could be heard but honks, gasps, and old lady wheezing laughs. I wish that I had the opportunity to do this for her again. It made her so happy, and I didn't spend enough of my time with her trying to make her happy. 

It's been three months since my grandma passed unexpectedly and I'm still not over it. She wasn't old, she wasn't unhealthy, and it just doesn't seem fair that someone should have a stroke and die without there being any warning, without me having the opportunity to wrap my mind around everything. I wanted more time although I didn't even realize that until it wasn't an option any more. 

I'd like to live with no regrets, but at this point in time, I regret so many things about the way I treated my grandma over the past couple years. I regret not loving her as much as I should have and not showing her grace and compassion in the moments where she needed it the most. I know that she knew how much I loved her, but sometimes I wish that I could just remind her. I wish I could thank her for being my biggest cheerleader, believing the best in me at all times, and teaching me that pie was always a good choice. 

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