Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Long Good Bye to My Grandmother

Tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of my grandmother’s death.  She watched me when I was little, provided a home for me during the many times we were homeless when I was a child, and she loved me unconditionally.  She is perhaps the only person on earth who never disappointed me and always convinced me that I was lovable and worthy of respect and kindness.  She also was the first “witch” I ever knew.  She used to take out her dentures and cackle like a witch…chasing me around the house when I was young.  I would laugh so hard I almost peed my pants.  It was a fabulous game!

My grandmother was 96 at the time of her death and she had 6 children, 42 grandchildren (yeah…I have a lot of cousins), 92 great grandchildren and 2 (or 3?) great-great grandchildren.  Clearly, the rest of my family DOES NOT have infertility issues.  My grandmother managed to make each and every one of us feel loved and cherished.  She outlived two of her own children.  In fact, I think it was the death of my aunt, a few years ago, that kicked my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease into full throttle.  Prior to my aunt’s death, there had been signs that my grandmother was struggling with dementia.  But within months of my aunt’s death, my grandmother could not recognize any family members and she was convinced that we were members of the FBI, coming to take her.

I mourned the loss of my grandmother a couple of years before her death…when I went to visit her after they had amputated both of her legs and put her in a nursing home.  She weighed 85 pounds at that time, and she was lying in her bed whimpering in fear.  She didn’t see me come into the room, nor did she see me turn around and immediately walk away.  It broke my heart to see her like that and I cried for days.  The only way I was able to get through was by remembering who she was and believing that her spirit had already passed on…that what I was seeing was just a shell and that “my grandmother” wasn’t the woman lying in bed, confused and in pain.

I did not cry at my grandmother’s funeral last year.  I cried in the car, once, on the way back from the cemetery, but it was a cry of relief that she was no longer in pain.  I felt as though her body was finally at rest.  And then I started looking for “the sign.”

You see, when my uncle (my grandmother’s youngest son) died at age 32 from an allergic reaction to bee stings, my grandmother was devastated.  I read my grandmother’s journals, which she kept every day of her life.  After Uncle Steve’s death, my grandmother became very spiritual…not religious…but spiritual.  She had a white dove fly in her window the day after everyone left, following my uncle’s funeral.  The dove did not fly around the house.  It simply sat on the counter and cooed.  My grandmother talked to the dove, believing whole-heartedly that it was Uncle Steve, saying good-bye to her.  When she was done talking, the dove flew out the window, just as it had come in.  Then, every morning, she would see the dove outside, on a tree near her kitchen window.  It always made her cry until, one day, the dove’s presence made her smile.  She felt that Uncle Steve was with her in a very real way and that she was not mourning anymore.  She never saw the dove again, but she no longer needed to.

After reading about my grandmother’s experiences, I talked with her about them.  She promised me that she would do the same for me…send me an unforgettable sign that she was with me and would stay with me always.  When she knew that she was starting to become forgetful beyond what was normal for her age, she gave me a gift of much of her jewelry…explaining the history of the pieces and telling me to remember her whenever I wore it.  She told me that she was proud of me and all I had accomplished in spite of my childhood, and she said that she would visit me frequently in the after life. 

It’s been a year…and I’m still waiting for my sign.  Our first IVF cycle after my grandmother’s death, I thought maybe her sign would be to help me get pregnant…but that wasn’t it.  There have been no doves at my window, no one has taken out their dentures and cackled at me, and I haven’t even felt her presence in years.  I wear her jewelry when I need to remember who she was and how she loved me, but it isn’t the same as feeling her with me.  I know she would never abandon me and I know that she would have been my biggest supporter throughout my infertility journey, if she had been available.  I’m just not sure why she hasn’t come to help out yet.  Maybe this all sounds hokey - to believe in people’s spirits contacting loved ones after death…but my grandmother believed and she was not one to have faith in many things.  So, I believe, too.  I realize that the dove could have been in her imagination…something she made up because she needed to believe that my uncle was with her…but then why don’t I see things too?  I believe that a sign is coming.  I desperately need her to reassure me that she is okay, and I am okay, and our connection is solid.  If she was hallucinating…where’s my hallucination?

I’m trying to hold on to what I still have instead of lamenting what I don’t.  Some nights, when the drug side effects are really bad, or The Prince and I have a nasty fight over infertility stuff, I lie in bed and remember her singing to me as a child “Bye Baby Bye-Oh.”  That was the only words to her made up song…she just sang them over and over again.  But it was a beautiful song because it came from her soul.  Maybe that memory is my sign.  Maybe when I am singing that song to my child someday, that will be my sign that she is always with me…and in a sense…never even left. 


New Year Mum said...

Such a beautiful post... your grandmother sounds like an amazing and loving woman - and seeing her in pain must have been very heart-breaking. Remembering her comforting words sounds like a lovely sign from her. Thinking of you and all my love to you on the anniversary of her passing xoxo

Lindsey said...

I'm sorry that you lost your grandmother, she sounds like an amazing person and maybe the sign shes leaving you everyday is the strength to keep trying to achieve your dreams. This TTC rollercoaster is tough and the average cookie couldn't handle it!

China Doll said...

Reading this post made tears well up in my eyes.. your grandmother sounds amazing and definitely seems to have passed on her strength and resilience to you xx

joluvskev said...

Your writing and your thoughts seem so parallel. I want to express my deepest thanks for sharing your heart and bearing your soul. It's not always easy to let out our innermost thoughts. I lost my grandmother just this past March. The wound is still very fresh. We were very close. She was one of the most pessimistic people I knew. She wanted nothing to do with church or religion. I don't know if she was even spiritual. But after my grandfather passed 8 years ago, she spiraled into depression. One thing that kept her going were these little "signs" that she felt he left for her. She had heard of "Pennies from heaven", but was skeptical. (Dear Abby has printed several articles on it) Until it happened to her. Finding pennies left just for her to find in places they shouldn't have been. She saved every one that she found. They weren't random pennies you find in the parking lot. These were on her back porch where no one else went, or left on her window sill. When she died, we found the old orange pill bottle with the label "special pennies". No one in my family knew what they were except for me. It made me feel pretty special that she shared that with only me. Over the past 10 years that we have struggled to get pregnant, she deeply sympathized. Last year, before her health started to decline, she wanted to help with some of the financial burden of the fertility treatments. Our first 2 attempts ended in a negative result. She cried with me, held my hand and told me how sorry she was. She died the next week. I felt as though it was more grief than I could bear. I decided that I would like to have her car. My mom had taken the car and had it detailed, and even drove for errands for a couple months before I took it. The car was immaculate inside and out. After having the car for a week, I got in the car to dead for work. As I went to sit, there was a shiny new penny sitting on the driver seat. No one had been in the car except for me. I drove it every day. There is no way I would have or could have missed it. I don’t carry change in my pockets, or loose in my purse. I believe it was her saying hello and that she missed me. After all, if she was going to send me a sign, I think it would be something she believed it and shared with me. You’ll get your dove, I promise.