Last Friday was the 15 year anniversary of my paternal Grandmother’s death. When I was a teenager I grew very close with her. She taught me how to sew and I would spend long days at her house creating clothing masterpieces under her guidance. When I was 16, I worked with her to make my prom dress and matching men’s vest and bow tie. By this point, she taught me how to make up my own patterns and we created it into what I wanted it to look like (pure late 90’s style). I remember how proud she was when she came to my prom and heard the compliments on my dress. I then took it to our annual sewing competition and my dress got picked to be modeled at our State Fair. She was beaming. She also worked at our local school as a lunch lady, so I got to see her daily and would always walk to the cafeteria when I knew she was on a break with the other ladies. One of my teachers told me I was the apple of her eye. I got engaged to my prom date and we said we were going to get married on October 23, 2004. Grandma and I promised we’d make my wedding dress.
When I was 18 I left my parent’s home and eventually moved to Madison. I also left that old prom date behind and found other love interests. During this time my relationship with my grandmother changed and grew more distant. In my mind, I was too busy to come back to my hometown all the time or take the time to see her. She had also been battling colon cancer and I found myself avoiding her even more as I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t emotionally prepared to see her that way. When I was 20 I learned he had developed pneumonia and went to my hometown hospital to see her. My mom and sister knew what was happening and told me she was dying. I remember seeing her and feeling like she was a stranger – she looked like an old lady gasping for air, not my light-hearted grandmother. I was uncomfortable being at the hospital and chose to take a previously planned long weekend trip to Detroit to watch a Packers/Lions game. We were on our way home when I got the call to say she died and learned her funeral would be on my old wedding date, with a groom and a wedding dress that never happened.
I never really mourned her at the funeral or after she died. I was too busy with my life and this lady wasn’t my grandmother.
In April of 2007, I learned my maternal grandfather was dying. However, this death was different. I was still living in Madison and they had moved him home to live out his final days. No one thought or wanted to call me in his final hours, probably assuming I would flake out again like I had with my Grandmother. When I learned of his death, it was less about the death and more about what happened as he died. He had such a humble presence, yet a giant presence when he left us. Everyone in the house could feel the energy when he left. Even the dog knew. After he died it was very evident to the family that he was still with us. The first Christmas, my mother hosted, and every person that took pictures had the ghost orbs in the pictures. In big events following his death, people would still find the orbs as an indication that he was still with us. When my niece had to be delivered very premature, my aunt called us out of the blue to tell us of her psychic friend told her that Grandpa was there for my mom that day because she was going through a rough time. We then told my Aunt about our new niece and how they had to deliver her early. He was there. He knew. And, he made it known to us.
Instead of being grateful for this gift of my grandfather’s continued presence I found myself just getting angrier. Where was my grandmother? Why wasn’t she here? My grandfather was a great man, but so was my grandmother. Why did he possess this ability to still communicate with us, but she didn’t? Did she not want to? Was it because of how I had behaved in her final years and days?
On September 20th of this year, my four-year wedding anniversary, I learned my paternal grandfather had been found unconscious and was rushed to the hospital. Even though I was now living 1,000 miles away, I rushed to pick up my son and get on a flight to see him in Madison, not knowing what to expect as an outcome. My KISA was unfortunately in San Francisco for a work trip, celebrating his company’s IPO, so I had no choice but to take my son with me. Thankfully, if my son has access to YouTube the rest of the world doesn’t seem to exist. While I spent hours at the hospital, so did my son. Apparently, during this time my son still noticed what was going on. He knew it was Grandpa and he knew that he had a tube in his mouth helping him breathe or an “owie” in two-year-old terms. He also noticed the “yucky water” draining from him in the various tubes. Through the ventilator, now tracheotomy, and pacemaker my grandfather is still physically with us. We get message updates on his health, that seems to change day by day and week by week.
Out of the blue on Sunday, my son started talking about my grandpa again – a month later. This morning when he woke up he declared he wanted to go see Grandpa in the hospital. He is obviously on his mind. At the same time, I’m receiving text updates on a bacteria my grandfather has caught that is antibiotic resistant. This evening, my KISA and I were in the dining room and we hear my son having a conversation with someone. Granted, he’s still young for pretend, so we weren’t really sure what was going on or who he was talking to. My KISA went in and my son shared he was talking to Grandma and Grandpa at the hospital with owies. As I hear this, I’m trying to hold it together. I go in and say, “You’re talking to Grandma and Grandpa?” to which he replies, “They’re over there”, pointing to the corner. I lost my composure and immediately texted my mom to share this with her. She asked if I had any pictures of my late grandmother to show Harrison to see if he would know who she was. I pulled out a picture from my graduation with my grandmother and I and asked if he knew who was in the picture. He pointed to me and said, “Mommy” and then pointed to my late grandmother and said, “Grandma”. I asked if that was who he was talking to earlier and he got really excited and said, “YES!”. We then went through some other pictures and he saw a picture of my mother and referred to her as “Other Grandma”.
I learned my grandfather was alone at the hospital at the time and my mother did some quick thinking and called to check in on him. The nurse confirmed was still there and had just smiled at her. He’s still with us, but somehow my son believes he was physically here with us in Boston along with my late grandmother. I believe him too. And, I’m grateful my grandmother has finally found us.