My grandma peacefully passed away last week after an enduring battle with Dementia, another form of Alzheimer's. Although it was a long time coming, it's never easy. And even though it was a complicated relationship, loss is still unavoidable.
My grandma was anything if not unconventional. She would ask how much sneakers cost and balk at the price even though we quoted her prices much lower than the actuals. She carefully cut Christmas paper off presents and reused it the following year. And several years after that. She rarely baked and when she did she'd leave out salt, frightened by articles about high blood pressure that she'd read in the weekly health columns. When she visited, she did her best to eat everything in our candy cupboard to keep us from eating it ourselves, a backwards approach to keeping us away from unhealthy eating. She asked a lot of overlapping questions, and didn't always wait for the answer, but she somehow heard all of them and would pursue each during follow-up questions. Our Christmases weren't filled with lavish presents, but usually consisted of a box of Raisinetes and a toothbrush.
As a precocious, self-centered child I resented that I didn't have traditional grandparent experience, but I later realized she doted on every move my brother and I made. She had scrapbooks full of our pictures and accomplishments. She would grow pumpkins in her garden and have us carve our names in them every year. And she always gave my mom money to buy a Christmas present for us that we'd be sure to like.
I quickly defer condolences from others saying that we weren't close, but then I realize our relationship was just different. And partly it's an excuse.
I never told her I was gay, married or that Katie was pregnant with her great grandchild. The reasoning was that this would be complicated. A woman so distanced from modern day sneaker prices certainly couldn't understand this "new" kind of love. Plus she would probably forget.
I'd feel guilty I hadn't told her all of this, except I think she knew. She met and loved Katie and always remembered to ask about her. Even after she had been admitted to the home for Alzheimer's patients, she remembered about a recall for floormats in Katie's car and dutifully followed-up to make sure Katie had properly taken care of it every time we saw her. She also asked multiple times if we slept in the same bed, but this was probably an indication more of growing up on a farm with eight siblings and sharing a bed being an obvious conclusion in order to save space.
All of this makes me confident that we had the same, unusual understanding we always found, but I still have regrets. I regret that my son wasn't able to meet her. That she was his last great-grandparent. That even if he had been born five years ago he still wouldn't have really been able to meet her.
I don't think it's a mistake that I ended up buying a house that has such a strong resemblance to my grandparents' farm house, including the smells of old wood and tradition. Or that the first thing I did when we moved into the house two Springs ago was to start my own garden. It's humbling, and in a strange way comforting that our child will be born so close to her death. Perhaps it's a way for our family to live on even with our loss of her. I can only hope that we will be able to teach him to embrace life with the same innocence and open heart as my grandma.