Almost two weeks ago, I got a terrible phone call. My grandmother had passed. The news was not surprising, but was extremely painful, nonetheless.
Being a mother of a four year old girl, and five year old boy, I took some time in the kitchen, crying quietly into my dishes, trying to decide if I should tell the children. They were too rambunctious to bring around to see her that often, since she was susceptible to easy bruising and germs, and they only met her a handful of times, once being last week. I waited until I calmed down, and decided I would tell them in a casual and nonchalant way, and let them process the information however they were ready to.
My son took the news hard. So hard, that I was at a loss for what to do. Sensing that I couldn’t handle comforting anyone else at that time, my husband sent me to the shower while he talked with the kids.
This is when the assault began.
“Mom! Mommmm!!”, my daughter yells through the bathroom door, “Mom! Your Nana is dead!”, she yells in a sing song voice, as if she was telling me the toaster popped. “Mom! Can you hear me? Your Nana’s dead!”. SLAP. Always the town gossip, she was just letting me know. Standing in the shower, in shock and disbelief of the cruelty of a child’s innocent taunting, filling with anger, I said nothing. My husband soon scooped her away for bed, and left me to my misery.
My son, sensitive and sweet, taped a picture of her over his bed and in the morning carried it out with him. “She’s dead, ya know.”, my daughter quipped over a bowl of Cheerios. SLAP. My heart hurt.
The services were held an hour and a half from our house, with only an evenings sleep in between, so we opted for a hotel room for the night. We found sitters for both occasions. We tried to make it fun for the children so that they weren’t upset. Being little still; I wasn’t sure how they were registering what was happening. My daughter was in her glory. She got to go to her friends house to play, to the hotel, to a restaurant, she ran the hotel halls, woke up, went swimming and had breakfast at the pool, and had another day at the park, with presents, with the next sitter. “Mom! Can Nana always die?”, was her way of letting me know she was enjoying herself. SLAP.
I inherited most of my Nana’s kitchen, and some odds and ends. After unpacking nine boxes into my sink and counters, I felt overwhelmed and heartbroken. Crying, I called one of my best friends, asking her to come help me. Asking someone to help me do something like that, is truly not me. I was in a rough emotionally state, and the driving, and sleepless hotel night, and now my kitchen full of plates with her initials on them, had thrown me over the edge. So, I broke down and asked for help. I honestly needed it. She came right away.
Standing in the yard with her, me being an obvious mess, we were deciding to go in and start. Within minutes my son came flying down the hill, tears streaming and a red finger pointing at me. “She threw a rock at me!”, he sobbed. My daughter had tossed a rock down the hill, a large one, crushing the tip of my sons finger. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself, it’s go time!”, my brain demanded. I carried him to the house, my husband and I cleaned and dressed his wound, set him up in a bed, made him comfortable, googled finger wounds, got ice packs, snacks and drinks, put a movie on and stroked his hair until the tears stopped.
Now what was I doing? Oh yeah… Grieving. Asking for help. Sifting through my pain. Right.
The next day, I went to my Nana’s apartment with the kids, to make a dent in the cleaning. Walking in to an assisted living facility with kids is like walking into a hospital with a puppy. Everyone is overjoyed to see young faces and all the people lining the living room and foyer want to stare and say hello. One nice woman, not knowing who we were, approached my daughter, “Hello sweetie, are you here to visit your grandmother?”. “No. She’s dead.”, my daughter smiled in her I-think-I’m-so-cute voice, and sauntered past. Innocent, but so, very, cruel. The woman had been my Nana’s friend. She looked at me with a wounded look and sat back down. SLAP. #mortified.
I took the kids for ice cream at a farm after we cleaned, to make the day a little nicer for them, but my heart was heavy. I drifted through the rest of my day. I cried quietly in the kitchen as I put her dishes into my cabinets, and contemplated how heartbreaking life is. I reveled in my memories, and settled with the fact that there were things I had forgotten to ask her. Many tears came. I couldn’t wait for my husband to come home so I could be ‘off duty’ and just sit quietly. My husband came home around the kid’s bedtime, and we sat on the couch for a few minutes as a family. “What did you guys do today?”, he asked my daughter.
“We went to Mom’s Nana’s house but she wasn’t there because she’s dead.”, she said matter-of-factly.
My husband grimaced before her sentence was finished, as he has been hearing this all week as well, and fully knew what type of callous remark was coming. He looked at me apologetically.
The truth is, at that moment I became ‘better’. Grief is a long, strange, road, but every slap in the face my daughter unintentionally threw my way, snapped me out of the ‘depression’ part of it. My heart is heavy, my jaw aches from clenching it in my sleep… But I am done with the depression of my grief. She, like a tiny little drill sergeant got me back on my feet.
And in doing so… Reminded me of my Nana.
Rest In Peace Joan Oknos. Forever in my heart.