Bye-Bye Grandma

December 19th, 2011 § 12 comments

One of the things that still astounds me about grief is how it only takes a moment to be jerked back into its grasp, even years after a loved one has died. It still happens to me with Barbara. I’m going along, minding my own business, and I see something, hear something, touch something and it reminds me of her. And it hurts just as much as it did two years ago when my mother-in-law died in a car crash.

Two weeks ago I walked through the Christmas decoration display in a tent at a local store. I was looking for outdoor lights and was feeling like a child mesmerized by all of the lighted figurines and trees. They had music playing and it wasn’t until I stepped further in that I really heard what it was: it was a boys’ choir singing Ave Maria. That’s all it took as I silently cried while listening to those pure voices sing one of Barbara’s favorite songs.

Our senses betray us, provide the conduit to those places in our memory we think are closed and safe. I’m not sure I’ll ever be safe. I think we stay vulnerable, sensitive, fragile. That’s what happens when you really love someone.


October 6, 2009

The moments catch me off-guard,
like my brother used to do
when we were kids.

He’d lay in wait
around the corner
in the hallway upstairs,
behind the jog in the corridor
outside my bedroom.

He would leap out,
scaring me,
terrifying me,
and I would scream
and shake
and cry.

That’s what these moments do:
they make me
and shake
and cry.

Last night it was Paige,
with her round angelic face,
eyes pink with tears bursting,
coming into the kitchen while I was on the phone with my parents.

“I went to the computer…
to send some email to some friends…
and all of the emails from her are there…
there’s just a whole list of emails from her there…
it just says ‘Barbara Adams’ the whole way down…
and I just keep thinking how she’s never going to write me back…”

And so we cried.
And we talked.

I was cleaning the kitchen,
packing up backpacks,
doing things I thought were “safe.”
I thought I would be protected from
emotional assault.

I opened Colin’s green homework folder and
put in his math assignment.
A sheet was already inside the folder,
a red squiggly crayon line decorating one edge.

I pulled out the paper with reckless abandon,
expecting an innocent scribble,
a wasted silly drawing.

But instead, it was a piece of writing paper.
On it, neatly printed in his finest handwriting,
it said, “Bye-Bye Grandma”
and there was a tombstone shape in the middle
that said “Barbara Adams 2009.”

There were green zig zags on the top and bottom,
red squiggles on the left and right,
bright colors all around.

I wasn’t ready for it.
I didn’t know it was there,
in the shadows,
coiled to take advantage when I dropped my guard,
waiting for me to be vulnerable.

And so I acted just like I did when I was a
child and my brother scared me.
I screamed.
I shook.
And I cried.

I vowed not to let my guard down like that

I love you, Paige.
I love you, Colin.
I love that you loved your Grandma so much.
I loved her too.
I miss her too.

And my hurt may dull a bit,
but it’s never going to go away,
because some of my hurt is for you.

It hurts not only that I don’t have Grandma in my life,
but also that you don’t.
And that’s what makes me cry the most,
because I know how much she loved you both,
and little Tristan too.

One day
we’ll have to explain to him just how special she was
and how much she loved him
and all of the the special things she did to show it.

Thinking about the fact that she’s not going to be here to
show him for herself just breaks my heart…

It makes me want to
and shake,
and cry.


§ 12 Responses to Bye-Bye Grandma"

  • Lindsey says:

    Oh, Lisa. I know just what you mean, the way I can be totally taken off guard and utterly dissolve in a moment, by a sound, a smell, a passing image. What a beautiful tribute to your mother-in-law. xox

  • Shari says:

    My grandfather passed just after our high school graduation. I had many of these same experiences for many years after…..a song, a billboard, a saying, would bring a flood of emotions followed by tears. After years, (I don’t recall how many…five? ten?) I began to have memories and reminders and could remember and smile, instead of being flooded with tears. I still have a good cry now and then, but much less frequent now. I wish the same for you, and it will come. I wish for memories and smiles for you.

  • Sarah Adams says:

    The same thing happened to me Saturday night at a Christmas party. One minute I am in the middle of a conversation and Ave Maria starts in the background. I had to inerrupt the person the middle of a sentence to excuse myself so as not to make a spectacle. It is so utterly hard. People say it gets easier with time. It seems we are still waiting….

  • I’ve been experiencing a few of these moments myself recently as I miss my mom. I think this vulnerability, sensitivity and fragility you speak of is what makes grieving so tough, but it also connects us all as human beings and brings a certain amount of comfort to grieving too. At least it does for me. And you’re so right, part of why we hurt so much is because we miss our loved one for no longer being in our lives, but also because they are no longer in the lives of others dear to us. Lovely post. I’m sorry for your loss.

  • Brenna says:

    {{Lisa}}… xoxo

  • joanne firth says:

    This piece is jarring in it’s truth. It does creep up on you and you nailed it when you said, the pain dulls but never goes away. My dad died in 1991, my mom, 1998. Plenty of time to accept and cope with their loss. No. I dream of them. I look at pictures of them. I get angry when I think of their golden years, the years they worked so hard for, ripped away from them. The moments they have missed out as their grandchildren grow up. It never goes away. I’m sorry for the pain you feel and I’m sorry your loss was so tragic and sudden. You had no time to say goodbye. The beautiful picture Colin made is his way of saying good bye, something I think we all need. Good bye but never forgotten.

  • (whoa) Mary says:

    Lisa, I would like to think that some day it will get easier, but I am afraid that it won’t.

  • Miguel says:

    Ave Maria was sung at our wedding and in the video, my father-in-law is crying during the song. He died the year after so hearing this song always brings the wife and I much sadness.

  • Becky Sain says:

    It’s so true that is really doesn’t get better, I think we just learn how to move on and move away from the grief for longer periods of time, but it’s always there, lurking.
    I’ve had grief take over me for my grandmother who passed away 15 years ago and my best friend who died when I was just 9 and my dad and my mom… it doesn’t get easier, just easier to store away for a while.
    Thank you Lisa.

  • I’ve been steeling myself for December 26, the day James died last year. I can see every minute of that day. Parts of it I cherish, and others moments I know will always be with me. It doesn’t take that date for me to relive that day, but I fear the familial emotions that come with Christmas will engulf me. You’re right, our senses can so easily betray us.

  • Ann Gregory says:

    It’s been ten years since my father died and I’m always surprised by the depth of grief a memory or sensory encounter can stir up.

  • denise says:

    Oh friend. This is incredibly beautiful and I felt like I was stepping through the land-mines of your emotion with you. Sending love and hugs, and now steeped in my own memories of my grandmother. xoxo

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