Friday, November 7, 2014

Grief Survival - Another Year Down

My Gram and I at my Grand Opening
I have survived is running through my head as I feel a sick sense of triumph that I have survived yet another year without my Grandmother here in our realm here on earth.  This season of fall and the beginning of November now marks a dark period of time, the mourning, the missing and the grief of living through and coping without my Grandmother, my Gram.

I can honestly say I HATE this time of year and it’s such a shame.  I love holidays.  I love Halloween, but now Halloween has a mark on it…. A memory of getting the 7pm call from my Dad about Gram’s hospitalization that am with pneumonia and the heart attack.  I cannot erase that memory and the once uber happy holiday now has a mark.  It’s tainted.  It’s now the day that began the decline of my Gram.

For me, this time is a dark cloud.  I just want to pass through it as quickly as I can.  I can write this article only because it’s officially over.  The anniversary of my Gram’s death.  In fact, 2:10am on November 8th to be exact.  So now I can write.  And I can cry my victory cry filled with grief, sadness, missing and a longing to join her again when it is my time to do so.  I survived, I’ve managed and I can move on from the anniversary and know I made it another year without her, without her pep talks and kind words of pure love and encouragement.  No one calls me Missy anymore and pats me lovingly on my butt and tells me how proud they are of the woman I have become. 

I miss that.  And above all, I miss her.  I miss my dear sweet Gram. 

To this day I still cannot believe she’s gone.  There are still times I want to call her, drop by and take her out for our notorious burgers and beer sessions where she reminisced of her childhood and days gone by and I listened with gratitude for having such a well lived woman in my life as a guide, a role model and someone who inspired and encouraged my love of travel, culture, risk taking and jumping outside of my comfort zone. 

My Grandmother was my spirit mother.  We had a soul mate connection. She is and probably will be the ONLY person who truly loves me in the real unconditional way.  I feel without a doubt that I chose my parents to be HER granddaughter.  My grandparents were unable to have any children of their own; my Grandfather had measles, which rendered him infertile.  My Gram always said they would have had a brood of children.  Coming from a family of 9 children herself, she wanted to raise a large family.  Gram had a heart of gold and more love to give.  She was such a giver and a lover.  She loved life and she loved me.

When Gram passed two years ago, she was 97.  She had LIVED a life filled with love, happiness, and peace and died having no regrets.  She and I had a very special relationship.  For as long as I can remember, we were close and I was her “pet.” When I left my corporate work in Boston in the summer of 2007 and had decided to start my own business and really pursue the world of healing – I moved back home to St Petersburg, Florida and into the second bedroom of my Gram’s two bedroom home, the home of my dad’s childhood and her home of over 60 years. 

Gram had just turned 92 and her health wasn’t in great shape and my mom had declared that she couldn’t handle both Gram and me making this WILD transition into entrepreneurship.  So I volunteered, quite selfishly, to move in for just a few months and help Gram and get my work and focus settled and then move on and up in the world of healing and business ownership. 

Those few months turned into a beautiful four and a half year time of what I call Raising Grandma. (Some day I will write a book about her, her life, her view of life and our adventures together.) I was her caregiver, her chef and chauffer, her nurse and her social coordinator.  I assumed the role of managing her health.  I administered her blood sugar tests; daily dose of meds and for the first 8 months her daily insulin shots.  I took her to all her appointments, church, bingo and I organized to get her involved in a senior care service where a short purple bus arrived at the house every picked her up, whisking her away to a center where she hung with elders much younger than her and was one of the “cool” ones at her designated “it” table and then the short purple bus promptly returned dropping her off mid afternoon.  

 It never bothered her she was riding the short bus and it always made me laugh with pride and pleasure that she was going to a place that catered to her in ways that I couldn’t and allowed her to continue to LIVE life, regardless of her aging years.    She loved those short bus adventures and routinely thanked me for organizing that for her. 

Catering to Gram and caring from Gram was an honor.  It was my privilege.  It was my expression of love and appreciation for her love, her life and the role she played in making me the woman I am today.  It was the least I could do. 

In those four and a half years, we had such fun.  I have never had the opportunity to live with someone quite like her.  I loved waking up and having the conversations we had over healthy smoothies and gluten free breakfasts.  Gram was so easy going. 

Granted, she as many elders do, had her tantrums and her elder moments.  I never took any of those personally.  I cannot imagine how it feels to know you are not always aware, that your body is aging, as is your mind.  I don’t know what it’s really like to look at yourself, your body and all your sags and wrinkles and super thin skin and see you as you see and think you look. 

Gram loved her beer!!
In Gram’s head she was still a wild, freethinking and independent late teen.  There were times she’d flirt with a cute young waiter and once she grabbed a really cute one’s butt! Still cracks me up and the look that guy gave her- a 90 something woman just grabbed his butt.  I don’t even know what you would call her, a snow leopard?!!

It’s those memories, and there are so many more, that make me smile.  That make me laugh and remember her ALIVE.  And I’m so grateful.  I had a beautiful life with her and have absolutely no regrets about spending the time I did with her, in her home as her caregiver. 

So this week has been tough and I’m crying and smiling as I write these memories. So many amazing memories, all for which I am grateful.  How lucky was I to have the type of love we shared. I was blessed by her and her love.  And still am.  So, Tuesday night, the night I had my meltdown – the election night of flashbacks to Gram’s last night two years ago as the president was being re-elected and CNN and all news outlets were a buzz, my Gram was slipping from our world into the next.  It was not a good night.  But I survived and I will continue to survive and I will LIVE and LOVE as Gram would have wanted nothing else.

As I went to bed early Tuesday night with a sad, heavy heart –I felt her come to me, hugging me and surrounding me with her infinite love.  She hugged me and lulled me into a peaceful sleep so I could wake up and continue to survive without her.

I love you Gram!
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