A year ago I had the last telephone conversation ever with my grandmother. It was a year ago. And we used to talk pretty regularly on the phone, so when it rang and it was her there was nothing to announce to me that it was the very last time that ring would be her calling for me.
And that's not fair.
"Fair" is something that is a big issue in our house these days. Gigi is very concerned about being fair. Her new favorite thing to tell me is "No fair!" To which I pretend those words are unknown to me. To her having to carry her own baseball glove is "no fair". To me it's knowing that the phone rang a year ago and I didn't know it was the last time.
I'm big on beginnings and endings. I love that my very first college class and my very last final exam as a senior were in the same building. I love full circle. I love breathing in and acknowledging that something is ending. I understand life, death, and new beginnings and all of that crap that people send to you in cards meant to heal loss. But what I can't get past is that I never thought that was the last time. And I wish I had known. I wish the kids weren't running around yelling while I was talking. I wish I hadn't been folding laundry. I wish the dogs hadn't been barking. I wish I could go back and just listen - fully listen, undivided attention listening.
But I can't.
The thing is that the first year without her has been numb. I've ignored things that would hurt. I kept busy on holidays and especially on my birthday. I didn't bother checking the mail on my birthday because I knew the card and the $5 bill that came every year, without fail wasn't going to be there. I won't get anything with her handwriting on it any more. I won't have her telling me how much she loves reading about what Will and Gigi do.
And that's the reason I haven't blogged with enthusiasm. It just seems pointless. Everyone has a special audience they write for. Mine left last June. And I want to say "no fair", but I'm 31 and I should know better because there are a great many things that aren't fair - moreso than losing one's grandmother. There are other people, other relatives who have the right to grieve and feel loss more than I do. And I know she's in a better place, and she's not "lost" and all of the junk we're taught to console ourselves or each other. But that doesn't make it fair. Not to me. Because the immense feeling of loss and grief is just overwhelming.
Signs of her and things we would talk about are everywhere. The blooming of bluebonnets this year nearly killed me. It killed me to have portraits taken of Will and Gigi. It killed me when radio stations have Elvis marathons to commemorate his birth and his death. There's an unbelievable feeling when I wash or see the quilts she made me for my high school graduation and then for my wedding. It hurts when Gigi demands her Big Bunny to sleep with - my grandmother never saw how much Gigi loves that bunny.
Right before I became familiar with cancer, and painkillers, and hospice care in a way I never want to be aquainted with it again I had to fill out some paperwork that involved a personality profile and psychological evaluation. It was for a job that has since faded into the background, but I was specifically asked "How do you handle loss?" And I answered it with key phrases "acceptance, prayer, moving on, better places -" all of those things someone who has never experienced a loss can arrogantly and sophomorically state with 100% assurance. It's easy to deal with loss when you've never met it.
But Loss came. And Loss still lives. And Loss sits in a corner and waits for me to slow down, to not be busy, to catch me when I'm not prepared and it jumps out and reminds me that I do not handle Loss well. Not on the inside. Not that I'm ever going to talk about. I handle Loss poorly.
Not to say I don't move on. I get up every morning. I go to the gym. I teach. I play with the kids. I volunteer. I plan parties. I feed people. I put on lipstick. I function. I love. I laugh with my sweet friends. But there are areas that are painful when they bump into Loss.
The things she made. My son asking to hear the lullaby that she sang to three generations. Elvis. Bluebonnets. Potato Salad. Hot tea. And the most cruel - when I deliver meals once a month to ill and elderly people. I walk in and hand them their food, help them arrange their pillows, walk past their oxygen tanks and see the warning signs on the tanks... And I just want to yell that it's not fair. To be able to sit in the corner and break down for a bit. But you can't. You have to move on. You're 31, you have meals to deliver. You have a yard to beautify. You have carpooling duties. You have clothes to wash. You have people who ask you why you haven't blogged. You have cats who need a clean litter box. You have sunscreen to apply, nails to clip, milk to buy. You're still here and you have to just move on.
But that doesn't make it any easier when the phone rings and you know it's not her.