Granny, Mother’s Day 2010, taken with the Blackbird Fly

My maternal grandmother died last week. She was 93 and my sole remaining grandparent. She hadn’t been well in a few months; she had oral surgery last summer to remove the few teeth she still had because they were becoming impacted, and she never quite recovered from that. She still had good days, but all her little ongoing health problems seemed to get worse, and mentally she started slipping. She had a heart attack last month, and although it wasn’t major, her doctor said she had to go into a nursing home and undergo physical therapy before she could go back to her apartment in assisted living. She was miserable there–it was a perfectly nice place, but she hated what it represented–and although we tried to make her believe it wasn’t permanent (we kept her apartment at Eastridge for her), we think she just lost the will to live. She developed congestive heart failure and was re-admitted to the ER on Monday evening; she died peacefully in her sleep on Thursday morning while my mother and aunt were talking to each other in her room. It was so quiet that at first they didn’t even realize she was gone–she was DNR, so she wasn’t hooked up to a crash cart alarm or anything.

My grandmother was Catholic and she wanted the whole nine yards when she died: vigil, rosary, mass of Christian burial, and internment in the vault with my grandfather (who died in 2006 at the age of 98, after 68 years (!) of marriage). I’m an atheist, but I had no conflict about doing any of these things, even saying the rosary, which yes, I know how to do. (And I collect rosaries, so I had plenty to choose from.) It’s not about me and what I do or don’t believe, it’s about respect for my grandmother’s beliefs and wishes. Not even an argument.

It took up pretty much the whole weekend, and of course it was rife with bizarre family drama–although nothing like my grandfather’s funeral, which included, among other events, a cousin’s husband who wandered into the wrong funeral and kissed the wrong body. Let’s see, my mother asked her cousin’s ex-husband to say the rosary, and the cousin tried to murder him with her eyes during it. Oh, and during the rosary he said the first 3 Hail Marys were to stop “the sin of abortion, especially partial-birth abortion” (which is not a thing that actually exists). Not only is it tacky in the extreme to drag your politics into a funeral rosary, MY GRANDMOTHER WAS PRO-CHOICE. The same ex-cousin was also a pallbearer, and in the limo he used the phrase “colored boys”, which my aunt’s fiancé said was like “laying a giant turd” in front of everyone else present. So I pretty much never want to see him again, but my mother loves him for some incomprehensible reason. (Also she doesn’t like the cousin he was married to, and it drives her crazy that she’s still friends with him.)

Let’s see, what else… the priest saying the mass was Filipino and frankly had an accent that you could have hacked with a machete; my aunt, sister, and myself also nearly got a fatal case of giggles whenever he said “Jesus Cwist”. And of course there was the presence of my mother’s older sister and her husband, who no one can stand. No one in my immediate family has spoken to them since my grandfather’s funeral. Mom, Aunt Lori and I immediately started joking that Granny didn’t like her enough to wait for her to get there before she died, or she just didn’t remember that she had another daughter (she was supposed to get there on Saturday; she hadn’t visited in over 3 years, even though she just lives in Florida), because we are terrible people.

Mom took my sister and brother-in-law and my aunt and her fiancé to the airport on Tuesday afternoon, and just when I thought all the family drama was over (not there was any from any of those particular family members), one of my cousins’ girlfriends left a comment on my oldest brother’s Facebook, berating him for not coming, saying he didn’t “have enough respect” to “share her last day with us”. HOLD THE FUCKING PHONE. My brother lives in Chicago and has only worked a few weeks in the past year and a half–he’s a legal proof-reader/editor and the job market SUCKS out there right now. More importantly, the house he shares with his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s parents just suffered catastrophic damage when the Des Plaines River flooded. He felt like they needed him more, and everyone completely understood. Pam (the cousin’s girlfriend), is a complete fucking moron. No, I mean seriously–if her IQ cracks 90, I’ll eat a dictionary. She has NO situational awareness or tact and is completely blind to social cues. I replied to her comment that I know she isn’t “the shiniest coin in the fountain”, but I thought even she could understand why Rian didn’t come to Granny’s funeral. Then all of Rian’s friends started landing on her with both feet, she and my cousin unfriended everyone, and I guess we’ll never see either one of them ever again. Big fat bummer.

So now we’re trying to get back to normal, and of course that’s when you really start to deal with loss, once all the funeral/family obligations are finished. I feel okay. I’m sad and I miss her–I had an especially close relationship to both of my mother’s parents–but she had been telling my mother that she was “tired” and she was “ready”, and I take comfort in that. I’m grateful more than ever that I moved here when I did, I saw more of her in the past 3 years than I had in the previous 20. My only regret is that I didn’t move here sooner, so I could have spent time with my grandfather as well. But I just wasn’t ready to leave California then, although I had started to accept that I probably would one day.

I’m a little worried about my mother, so much of her life since she moved back to Louisiana has revolved around her parents. She saw on the cable guide last night that Dancing With The Stars (Granny’s favorite show) was coming on, started to say that she had to call her mother to remind her, and got very quiet for a while. I’m hoping she will now get the knee replacement surgery she’s needed for a few years, she always said she couldn’t because it would lay her up for too long. I want her and I to do more while she’s able, but her knees always hurt.

Here is my grandmother’s obituary, which my aunt, mother, and I wrote together. And we picked out the photos for the video tribute together as well–some of them were photos I own, and a couple of them are photos I took: this one, and the photo of her with her 90th birthday cake.

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