October hath struck again. My grandmother had a stroke last night and died in her sleep. A peaceful way to go, at least, so I’m grateful for that. But she is the third grandparent I’ve lost in five years, all of them in late September or October. She was also the last grandparent I had still living. And of those three, she is the first whose funeral I won’t be able to attend.
I wish more than anything that I could be there right now. Funerals are important. Grandpa’s wake was an all-day affair; it was a party, a celebration of his life that helped to balance the bitterness of the actual burial. A gust of wind blew the picture board right off its stand at Gram’s funeral. I only ever knew her as a snowbird, but she had lived in many places earlier in her life, including Germany, Japan, and I don’t even know how many states. Now, we knew, she was off on her next adventure. I won’t have those kinds of memories this time. I won’t have a rose from the funeral, to dry and keep on my desk.
Nor will I return to my room to find that my roommate and friends have covered my wall with notecards and my desk with colored pumpkins, as I did freshman year. The pumpkins are long gone, of course, but the notecards have gone on the wall of every dorm and apartment I have lived in since then, including this one. I am immensely glad to have them now. Thank you, Kristin, and Corry, for love that I can hang on my walls no matter where I go.
I never really contemplated this possibility, when I decided to leave the country for a year – that my grandmother might not be there when I got back. Given the number of doctors she’s had for the last few years, I probably should have. There’s a reason I don’t throw away her cards – haven’t for the last few years, in fact. But it never really occurred to me that our hug a few days before I left was the last I’d ever give her.
I don’t even fully remember where we were, either, whether we went back to Granny’s after dinner that night or just said goodbye in the parking lot. But if it’s the latter, it’s still a fitting place for a last goodbye. My last memory of my grandfather is at Riggio’s, too; he was hitting on the waitress, much to the amusement of everyone (including Granny). After four years apart, they’ve been reunited.
During my junior year of college, I contemplated doing a writing project on my grandmother’s life. I had realized that I knew next to nothing about it. I don’t know any stories about her childhood, or even most of her adult life. The patitsa we’ve had at a couple of family gatherings and the accent my aunts and uncles adopt when imitating Granny’s mother are the only traces left of her Slovenian ancestry. In the end, I decided against that project, consolidating my work so that I could use the same book for projects in three different classes at once. I Put aside my questions about my grandmother’s life, figuring that I would ask them later.
But I never did, and I guess now I never will.