Can’t catch my breath, the wheel is turning; my station on the totem pole changing before my eyes. Not for anything I’ve done, but rather a birthright.
I am now the next eldest generation. No more a grandchild, for all the grandparents are gone.
She passed this morning, my maternal grandmother. Before we had a chance to say goodbye since my Prick Uncle didn’t see fit to warn us sufficiently, even though he saw her on Saturday (bad family blood never really helps in the end).
We could’ve been there yesterday, had we known. But we didn’t.
Now I’m no longer a grandchild. Only one generation left older than me.
And I can’t catch my breath, no air in my lungs where I mean it to be. That last exhale where she finally slipped the last veil of this life, that’s where my lungs are at. Emptied in shock and not filling up again (not yet) no matter how many swigs of O2 I take.
My lungs are empty, like hers are, and I didn’t get to say goodbye before she was gone.
She wasn’t perfect but she was my Nan.
And, she was my grandfather’s keeper, with his suppressed PTSD and life-long alcohol-themed self-medication. A milliner, a marvellous baker of deliciousness (including homemade fig and apricot jam) and in her senior years, an adventurous solo traveller with her senior citizens group.
I learned to tie shoelaces in her lounge room, in my knitted slippers with their knitted laces. There were tea parties with proper English China and biscuits on matching side plates. She made for my sister and me, matching toy clowns with their spaghetti-like arms and legs, and embroidered faces.
Growing up, she was a wonderful Nan. She gave us love.
But she was also mean-hearted, jealous and bigoted. It was only later I learned of her involvement in the forced adoption of my half-brother and it’s something I’ve never been able to entirely reconcile.
A wonderful grandmother. A terrible mother.
A troubled soul whose own benign shop front faltered as dementia kept up its relentless advance. More, we saw the bitterness and meanness my mother always said was there.
Finally we understood how it was for my mother who, to her own credit, never poisoned us against her: we had a relationship with my Nan despite my mother’s own troubled connection.
It was that ever-growing meanness in the end which kept me away. That, and Prick Uncle moving her to the opposite side of town, closer to him, but nowhere I could get to easily or often without a car.
There’s no point in making myself feel bad about that now. She’s gone. But the Nan I knew has been gone for many years now, really.
Yet… that final goodbye. That chance to share love and connection and let her know we were there? Taken from us through a sibling feud older than I am.
Now, I’m a grandchild no more. I’ll see her again I guess, on the day we bury her. Cold and small, the essential spark gone from her flesh. I’ll be able to tell her then as I’m telling her now that despite her flaws, and her apparently shoddy parenting, she was a good grandma.
And in the end, she got her wish to go peacefully and in her sleep. She lived probably fifteen years longer than she really wanted to, but it was only the last five of that she wasn’t really there.
Farewell Nan. Complicated lady, bearing both spikes and sweetness. Farewell, woman who was cold-hearted enough to give up her first grandchild on behalf of her own daughter. Farewell, maker of Peach Melba and Christmas Plum Pudding (with silver pennies inside) and homemade brandy custard.
May you have a fortunate rebirth, Nan. With lessons and learnings that bring you awakenings and ever-closer to your Essence Nature.