I met Brenda today. We have a similar relationship to many others that I have. It’s similar in that I am often blind and willfully ignorant to her existence.
Brenda sit outside of one of the many, many Starbucks that lines Michigan Avenue. She has a simple sign and is consistently there, everyday. Whether I stop in for coffee or not, I walk past her five days a week.
Brenda says she has been out there for a while, not sure how long, but plan to learn. Her one piece of advice was that it is important to listen to your parents. At an early age, she left home and entered into a life of drugs. She wanted to do her own thing and resisted her parents.
As a final question, I asked what I could do for her. She simply stated to say hi, chat with her.
Early, Saturday morning December 17, my grandma had difficulty breathing, which led to a slowed pulse and eventually she passed away.
She had been battling Alzheimer’s for more than a few years now. We’ve had the great pleasure of visiting their community several times during that time. I have not been as close to her progression as my grandpa or Aunt and Uncle, but have been witness to how little she recognized me every time we saw her. I am grateful to my Aunt and Grandpa for being so loving and selfless in taking care of her. I know there were many hard times and I cannot express my gratitude and love for them, enough.
I know I have not fully processed what this all means. I’ve been asked to put together the program for her memorial and every time I see her picture, I still only remember her as an active, joyful person. We saw my parents the day she passed and I broke for a couple of minutes, but the weight has still not hit fully. Her memorial is on the 14th of January, since I have not yet seen my Grandpa, I don’t think it will hit me until then.
There has been sadness for the past two weeks. I have been angry. Short with my girls. Death has had it’s underlying effects and I don’t know how to handle that. Not much has been worth doing, other than surrounding myself with people I love.
With the sadness has been a flood of memories. Ones that I want to record, capture, never let them go. Third grade has had the largest grasp on my memory. My school was directly behind my grandparents house. They could see me play at recess. For a while, I went over to their house to learn how to play piano. It was comforting to be able to show up at their house and learn from her. One of the times, shortly after she had had surgery on her foot, I was at her house for a lesson. She was mobile, with a soft walking boot on, and was in the kitchen. I was playing and when she returned to the room, I shifted from the seat to the ground and stepped right on her foot. It was a lot of pain. I was sad and embarrassed and guilty, leaving immediately. At my young age, I knew that she would be upset with me forever, but she called me that night to see if I was okay. She had just been hurt but she was checking on me.
Food can bring people together. Our bond was over Easter ham and pineapple sauce. I’m not sure what she put in this sauce but it was an amazing meal. My favorite. Every time we visited I would be hopeful that we would have this meal and most of the time we had a variation of it, due to us being there around a holiday time.
I will always remember how animated she could get. She was always putting on a wig or making a funny distorted face, or reciting the nonsensical line “I saw something nasty in the woodshed”. We were always laughing. It was always an adventure going down to their house in Arkansas. She had this arm. It was fake. It went up to about the elbow and she would hide in-between chair cushions and hanging out of the trunk of her car. It was fantastic. Something I will always remember.
Until we are down with family, I know I won’t fully be able to grieve. I will miss her. I love her.