Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Notes on Grief

There are certain things I will never write about on my blog. For example, I'd never write about my students, never say negative things about my clients, and never complain or talk bad about my family or friends. I'm not saying I'll never talk about politics, but it's pretty unlikely. This is primary a blog about quilting, and I want this space to be about that.

A blog is also a public space, and my real name is attached to this one. I wouldn't want careless words that I would say to friends to get around and hurt people, or have potential employers read my blog one day and say "no thanks" because of what I've written.

I also think a lot about the tone of the blog. I want it to be upbeat and interesting to read, but, in many ways, it also serves as a diary, or journal of sorts. I occasionally like to read back through the whole thing and see the little things about my life I've forgotten. I cringe at some of the stuff I've written, but it's a nice record of what I was thinking and feeling at the time, even if I don't love what I wrote now.

It is sometimes the darker things that I struggle with knowing how to talk or write about. It's different than the sort of black and white world of "what is appropriate to blog about" and "what is inappropriate to blog about". Now, I've never, ever read a heartfelt blog post from someone and felt that it was inappropriate. Writings that come from a place of sadness and pain are very real, and sometimes also very raw. It is sometimes difficult for me to judge what I should or shouldn't write about in terms of personal grief.

I mention this, because this morning my grandmother on my mother's side passed away. I've been thinking a lot about what to say about it. I want to record this experience in some way, and I've run through a lot of scenarios of what to say, and have struggled with finding a balance of emotionalism, and eliminating needless back story. In strange way, it's helped to run through what I want to tell people about this experience, and to think about how I would parse it for an audience.

My grandmother was always well dressed, and was sharp as a tack.

My grandmother was 97 years old. This is, in so many ways, not at all unexpected. She had congestive heart failure, and my aunts and cousins tell me that she wasn't in any pain when she passed. She was unresponsive after the heart attack, and they took her back to the nursing home so she could pass in her own bed, which she did.

She and I weren't particularly close. She lived in Iowa for most of my life, and I saw her maybe once a year.  She outlived two of her five children, and is survived by eight grandchildren, and countless great-grandchildren. She wasn't the kind of grandmother that made you milk and cookies and asked you about your love life. She wasn't known for being a particularly kind woman.

This doesn't mean she didn't care. Through prudent financial planning, and some incredibly lucky stock picks, she (and my grandfather who passed away when I was very young) set up all her grandchildren with the financial means to pay for a college education. She used to go on a world cruise every year, and every Christmas would send us exotic gifts like worry dolls from Chile, paint sets from Hong Kong, and wind-up knock off watches from Singapore. She saw the whole world, including the North and South Poles. She was a breast cancer survivor. She liked liver and onions, and terrible reality TV, right to the end.

My cousins in Iowa let us know on Sunday that she had the heart attack, and my aunt called me this morning to let me know that Grandma had finally passed. I'm surprised at how sad I am, considering her age, and our general lack of contact. Please don't misunderstand, I loved my grandmother, but I thought those things would make it easier somehow.

I should know by know that death is never easy, no matter how prepared you are for it. I feel like a lot of this grief I'm feeling now is mixed in with the underlying sadness I feel for my own mother's death, even though it was almost seven years ago now. It's complicated. I'm, as my friend Jennifer would say, having a lot of feelings.

I was going to try and keep this post a little more upbeat, but I guess it didn't quite turn out that way.

When I was a kid and my grandmother would come to visit, we would always buy Cracklin' OatBran and prunes for her to have for breakfast. We'd never get those things other times, so they are very linked to my grandmother in my mind. She also loved ice cream, but never ate it because she was lactose intolerant. So last night I went to Fred Meyer and got those things for her.

 As you can see, Fritz was very interested in these things when I was taking the picture. I had this idea that maybe he was responding to my grief, that he was one of those pets that understood when their owner was upset and responded accordingly.

It turns out that what he was responding to was the roast chicken I had bought for dinner.

I felt a little silly once I figured that out. Fritz is the kind of cat that can miss what he's jumping for even when it's two feet away, and will purr when I cut all his nails. I love him, be he's not the brightest cat. He wasn't thinking so much about me, but rather some chicken.

I fed Fritz chicken for the rest of the night, and curled up to watch RuPaul's Drag Race.

I hope wherever grandma is, she's watching it too. I think she might have liked it.


anotheryarn said...

I'm sorry about your grandam. I think your post (and groceries) was a nice tribute.

And pets. I think food trumps all.

RamonaX said...

Sorry for your loss ~ your words are very kind and made me a little teary eyed... I'm SO glad you have a little furry friend to keep you company. I think He's just using the chicken as an excuse to give you the love you need right now. ;)

Cherri said...

What a heartfelt post....I read it and felt so glad you could put your feelings into words that could be shared with us. Your Grandma sounds like quite a lady...prunes and all! Sorry for your loss but glad you could share your words and pictures.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post...beautiful writing.

2ndAvenueStudio-Rachel said...

oh K! * hugs* nice post.. Of course I read your post thru the narcissistic goggles of my past and think about my own experiences with Death.
When my own gran died I ate pizza, she lived next door to a pizzaria so when I visited, we ate a lot.. I rarely eat deep dish as a result...it just makes me too sad..

your so darn articulate, lovely post. IM totally gonna pick a fight with you so we don't hug and start crying...:) see you soon I hope!