Easter Sunday this year my life changed. I had to say goodbye to one of the strongest women in my life. The woman who would drive me nuts, say crazy things and always told me she was proud of me. That woman is my Grandma.
For a few years before she passed she would do and say things, little things that let us know that she was having some memory issues. Truthfully, we’d laugh a little she’d get mad at me and then start laughing about it too saying “Just wait Jenn, you just wait until you’re my age!” Then those little things became bigger things, until anger about her “forgetfulness” started to set in for her along with some paranoia. For the next couple of years our conversations were unpredictable and sometimes like old times other times short and difficult but they always ended with “I love you.”
My last conversation with my grandma has made me question if I could’ve done more. She’d been in and out of the hospital and was driving us all nuts with frustration. She was refusing to move out of her condo to a place where she’d have people around to check-in on her. At times she’d refuse to answer a phone call or say something mean to those of us that she loved and loved her the most. Our last conversation was an argument with her when she was trying to check herself out of rehab to learn to breathe better, focus on simple skills after she went with too little oxygen because she refused to wear it. I pleaded with her to stay and she would tell me “Jenn, I just want to go home! Just let me go home! I don’t know why I’m here.” I would be patient and try to explain to her why she was there and why she had to stay, over and over again with as much patience as I could. Finally, I did the only thing I could think of and told her if she stayed until the weekend I would fly to Chicago from Florida and pick her up myself. We’d spend the whole week together. I hadn’t heard her be so excited in over a year. I reminded her I would only come to visit if she stayed there until I could pick her up, we said “I love you” and hung up. The next call I got was from my mom who was hysterically crying saying Grandma was refusing to stay and all she kept saying was “I have to go home and get ready, Jenn is coming to visit.” I called back and reminded her she had to stay but she refused. That next weekend I did fly out to Chicago, this time in a rush to get there before she passed away. Those last few moments with the strong woman I knew and would argue with at times was frail and didn’t even know who I was. When she passed away she was surrounded by people she loved holding her hand, stroking her forehead and telling her it was ok to go.
Although we all knew it was time for her to go and it was peaceful as could be expected the waves of grief that wash over you even months later are hard. I found myself back in Chicago for the first time since saying good-bye to her, walking through the same airport that I did that last time and when I looked out the window and saw a sign for the casino she liked us to go to…I just lost it. I couldn’t breathe then all of a sudden I found myself crying and unable to move in the middle of a busy concourse. Not knowing if I could go through a weekend in the city without seeing her and being hit once again that I would never hear her say “I’m so proud of you and I love you Jenn”. I just stood there, frozen not able to move even if I had too until all of a sudden I could breathe again.