The role of a lifetime

My grandmother died last Friday. She was my last living grandparent. Now I have none.

Three grandparents were living when I got married five years ago, when I had a baby three years ago, when I was at Christmas two years ago. And now there are none.

There’s been a shift in our family as my parents are now the grandparents, my sister and I are the parents, and our children are….well, they are who we have always been….the kids. So I am not one of the children, the kids, the youngsters. No place for me at the kids’ table anymore — my daughter’s sitting there.

This weekend, I traveled back to the Midwest where I grew up. I traveled with my daughter and introduced her to some family members she’s never met before, including my deceased grandmother in her casket. My sweet daughter said that G.G. (Great-Grandmother) was “beautiful in her bed”. She especially liked her beautiful glasses and her beautiful white hair. She asked when G.G. was going to wake up. I said that when people die they don’t wake up. She asked if she could see G.G’s feet. I said no. All of the little kids wanted to touch G.G. I said no to that too, but couldn’t figure out how to answer their questions about why not. My daughter’s thoughts about her G.G. (a woman she’d never met before): “I love her. I miss her so much.”

As you can imagine, it’s been a crazy few days. Crazy-fun, crazy-beautiful, crazy-sad, crazy-confusing and just plain crazy. It was nice to see my extended family, some of whom I haven’t seen in a decade or so. They are good people.  It was strange and sad to say a final farewell to my 93-year-old grandmother, who’d been telling folks that she’d “lived a good long life and was ready to go.”

I wrote “final farewell” above, but that’s not really accurate because there is no final really for me, I think. The people I know who have died, well, I’m still working out my farewells with them, which have turned into extended negotiations of “I’ll see you later.” And I don’t even know what I think about that really — I don’t even know what I think about what happens after we die, because nothing about it makes sense to me, but I often say to myself, “I can’t wait to tell her about that. I have to ask him about that. I wonder what she’s doing these days.” Like those folks-who-have-passed-away are all functioning happily in parallel lives or somewhere in another town. Just like when they were alive, but I don’t see them as much anymore.

So this is hard, and I don’t have a ‘take-away’ this week other than to offer what I struggle with these days. A strange gift to give, yes?

My friend and I have often joked that “This is not a play. This is really happening.” We aren’t playing characters in a story. We can’t stop the action, re-wind, re-do. We don’t get awards for Best Dramatic Performance 2012 — “the role of a life-time”. This is the role of our life-time, the only one we’ve got. We are all marching forward in the same direction — for real. The choices that we made or didn’t make, the missed opportunities, the mistakes, the triumphs, the peaks, the valleys, the moments and the moments and the moments ticking by….the moments have ticked by…disappearing like smoke… all marched by like little tin soldiers, many of them not even noticed by me.

And my questions for myself, the questions that keep me up at night, become “What does that mean? Knowing that, what do I do? How do I respond? What do I say, how do I interact with those around me? Now…what?”

What do you think? Now, what?

6 thoughts on “The role of a lifetime

  1. I also think, “I can’t wait to tell her about that. I’ll have to ask him about that later.”

    And I love N’s response to seeing GG in the casket. Would be curious to hear your thoughts on why N shouldn’t touch her.

    Lovely post. “This is not a play. This is really happening.”

    • Thanks, Cheryl. Appreciate your comment and kind words. Yes, looking forward to talking about the question of ‘can we touch GG?’ A lot was going on in that moment.
      We didn’t know how brilliant we were (15 years ago!) at the creation of “This is not a play. This is really happening.” Still pretty fabulous and true, right?

  2. This I read over 3 times in the course of 3 days before I could solicit a response from within. All I can say is it is a well thought out blog both heartfelt and moving in its depth and compassion. Thank you Tamara:-)

    • Thank YOU, Janice. Really appreciate your kind words and response. I’m still working it all out — I guess it’s a lifetime of working out. All the best to you.

  3. I’m not sure how well we knew each other when my grandfather passed away suddenly 4 years ago, but if you interacted with me any time in the year following (and I’m sure you did), you know I was a HOT MESS. Everyone’s coping mechanism for loss is different.

    I love the idea of still working out farewells. I talk to Pepa all the time. I talk about him even more. I no longer care if people think I’m off my rocker; my true friends know that man was my everything in this world, and those who make impressions like that are people we never really say goodbye to.

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Lormarev. Yes, I love this idea that we carry people with us — they make such an impression on our lives that we are imprinted with them always. That is a beautiful image. I know you have deep love for your Pepa. To me, your willingness to talk about him is a tribute to that love and to your special relationship. Hugs for you, friend.

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