Day 15: Bye-Bye Grandma

January 15th, 2013 § 5 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 three years ago.

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.


§ 5 Responses to Day 15: Bye-Bye Grandma"

  • Paula says:

    Thank you for letting us see Colin’s drawing (and for this beautiful post and the current pre-post). Even though you and I have cancer in common, I think it’s grief for loved ones that makes me feel the deepest connection to you, Lisa. And this is such a difficult thing to write about, but you do it so articulately. I think our kids move on from these losses a little easier than we do (which, in itself, sometimes makes me sad, although it probably shouldn’t) because they don’t know how much your mother-in-law (or my father) would delight in each of their countless milestones. But WE know, and it makes some of those special moments bittersweet when we’re (as you so perfectly described) caught off guard. The clarity, depth and emotion of your words are so tremendously appreciated.

  • Kristen says:

    Hi Lisa…I’ve been a new reader for a month or two and just wanted to echo so many others in saying how much your writing really touches me. Your blog posts are amazing–so smart, well written and educational while at the same time so tender, honest and true. And relatable to so many of us whether or not we have cancer. I lost my mother-in-law last summer also unexpectedly (though not quite as shockingly unexpectedly as you) and this post rings so true–as did yesterday’s (we had been going to visit in a couple weeks and after her death found goody bags waiting for the kids hidden in her closet). So many things every day make me think of her. While it doesn’t necessarily make it easier it’s still nice to know it’s a common experience. Thank you for sharing all that you do!

  • Katherine C. James says:

    My younger sister, whose husband, Lorenz, died after a brief rare illness in 2007, and I were talking on the phone yesterday about how much we miss him. By the end of the call we were both in tears. For me, the losses change, and I keep the relationship inside me in a different way, but I never stop longing for the person to reappear. Lorenz worked in SF’s Financial District, and when I’m there I’m sometimes startled to think I’ve caught sight of him before remembering that is impossible. I wish Lorenz was here for my sister, for their two girls, for his brother, for me, for everyone who misses him. But I’m also glad I knew him since college, and we have the girls with us; there is so much of him in them.

  • Carol says:

    I read your stuff and all I think now is that your are writing words that I could never put together. You say what I want to express…this one expecially explains what I have been feeling. thank you (again).

  • You are such a strong writer Lisa. I have tears in my eyes now, and of course a memory of my own. I have several things that used to belong to my maternal grandmother, little things like her address book, an old mirror, a deck of cards, etc.. and sometimes I can see those things and use them and be okay and other times I just wish I could bring her back and hold her one more time.

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