This past Saturday marked my grandmother’s 97th birthday and also the day we laid her to rest.
I stood there under the grey overcast sky with my family in the drizzling rain watching as MY mother read her tribute to HER mother. Gazing off in the distance in attempt to hold off the tears, I flicked my eyes in time to witness my brother laying her and my grandfather’s joint urn in the lovely marbled niche that was surrounded by a pond and a rose garden.
My emotions were slightly eschewed. It had been four long years since my grandmother went to reside in what would be her last residence, a long term care facility. Angry and lashing out over her lack of independence, I would find my feelings wavering between empathy, sympathy and annoyance during this difficult period of her life.
Born in an era where a woman’s role was that of a homemaker, my grandmother was a standout above the rest. A tall blonde beauty with lanky legs that reached to the sky, she was a mixture of loyalty and jealousy and of athletic power and fragile undertones. She was a basketball star, a shuffle board champion and a bingo queen. She could camp, fish and drink with the best of them, and at the ripe old age of 96, she never left her room without her makeup on, her glorious golden hair coiffed, her body impeccably groomed to perfection and adorned by her love of sparkly jewelry. She was a force to be reckoned with, even then.
I would spend a large majority of my childhood resenting her obvious favouritism of my brother, and would later come to respect her as an adult when I realized that she was most definitely born in the wrong decade. She was a woman before her time.
As the years passed, and so did my grandfather, I watched my grandmother care for each of her ailing family members, until one by one they were gone and she too needed care that was beyond her own capabilities.
I would have moments where I would mourn for her as I watched her wings of independence be clipped and ravaged by father time. Other times, I would struggle with sadness as I observed her fighting to stave off waves of dementia. For me, it was like a horrible viewing of an independent animal being caged.
I would luckily make it home the day before she passed away. And on mother’s day of this year, I would have my last visit with her. She was in a deep, rhythmic slumber and I would stroke her face one more time and tell her that I loved her. She would pass away as I drove back home that night.
Sadly, we were at odds for most of my life, my grandmother and myself. And while we couldn’t be any more different, I did love her. I did admire her loyalty. I was awe struck by her feisty determination. But, mostly I loved it when she cussed me out. Those awesome words: “that damn kid messed up my hair”, will make me giggle till the day I die.
In the meantime, I went down to the jewelry store today, and I bought myself the biggest pair of sparkly earrings I could find. I did it for her you know. I did it for the strong, independent woman that was in my life for 44 years. Yes.. I most definitely did it for her. I did it in her honour.
Until Next Time.