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My grandmother was the center of my family. She was like my second mother. She always seem to know the answer to any question that Alex Trebec throw out. She chain smoked while doing the cross word, and almost always drinking coffee. I spent summers, winters, and time after school, with her. She was a legend in my mind. I thought that she would never leave us. That somehow, she was going to out last us all.
But then, we got a low blow, almost four years ago. She had been acting odd on her last visit out to see my mother and I, and we couldn't put our fingers on what it was. Little things, like calling our dog by the name of a long dead one, not remembering the nicknames she had given our cats, or my boyfriend at the time. And my grandma, who was always social and loved babies seemed to have no interest when my friend brought over her eight-month-old son.
It wasn't until months afterwards we found out why. She had Alzheimer's. We knew what that meant. She had worked with the elderly for years, longer that I've been alive. I had been at her side when her clients began to go downhill. I knew what was to come. I knew she would forget us all, how it would start. First, the younger grandchildren would disappear, and she would have to be reminded on who they are. She would lose points in our lives, like my graduating college, completing my two degrees. Instead, I would still be in school, sometimes high school, sometimes college. Depends on her day.
There were funny moments. Like when she would sundown, calling us at 6, complaining about typewriters on her porch and never seeming to be able to understand that she had called like ten minutes before about the same thing. All you could do was laugh. Otherwise, you would just cry.
She went downhill fast. There was a lot of inaction on my uncle's parts, my mother and I pushing to get moving on either aging her in place or getting her in a home somewhere. Grandma was a strong woman still, and she was smart. She had been hiding things for years, so who knows how long she was under the effects of the disease? There were note books filled with her feelings. She knew what was happening to her. She felt we saw her as a stranger. It's so hard to think we made her feel that way. She spent two more years in her home before she was moved into a nearby nursing home.
She lived two more months after that. I spoke to her the day before she passed on my phone. Our connection was so bad, all I could think about was how she sounded like R2 D2. I made a joke about how I thought she would live forever, and that I was going to be there tomorrow. She was dead less than 24 hours later after that call. My mother and I had just touched down in Phoenix. I remember the numbness. I couldn't and still can't truly understand a world she isn't a part of. The past year and half, there has been this sadness hanging over my life. I have saved all her voicemails. I have one of her wishing me happy birthday.
I know my family is lucky. We never had to see her infantile, losing her children and grandchildren. We never lost her while she was still here. We never had that half-living person that could have become her. But it doesn't make it any less painful.
I don't know if I will ever fully move on. All the funeral stuff seemed to drag on forever. But I still don't want to say goodbye. She was someone who took life by the neck and dragged it around. I hate seeing something she would have loved, and knowing I can't just mail it to her. That I'll never be able to hug her again. Never have her mac and cheese again. Never hear family stories from her lips. I know it will slowly get better.
But there are some losses you never get over. As terrible as it is to say, I lost my other grandmother a few years before her, and I never remember feeling this bad. This low for this long.
I know funerals are for the ones that are still here. That it's for us to mourn. And I'm still mourning. Still trying to hold it together. I find myself weeping over her, hard. Some days it feels like I know she believed in Heaven. I know she wanted to see her mother she lost in childhood to polio. And I hope that happened for her. I know she now is laid to rest with her parents, resting on her mother's coffin, with her there at least once more. But in a sense, I know she isn't there. She isn't the box we put in the ground the day after my birthday. It was the only Funeral I had ever been to in Lousiville, KY that didn't have rain. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. But she is somewhere else.
I hope we may be reunited one day. I know many don't believe in the afterlife or that nothing happens after we die, and until her death, I really didn't care either way. Now, and I realize it's a little silly, but I hope there is now. I just want more time.
I think we all do in the end.