My Grammie – mom of my dad-who-raised-me – died two weeks ago.
I struggled mightily with my feelings after her death. As a small child, she welcomed me into the family with open arms as the first “grandchild”, even though I was a step-granddaughter. She babysat me often. She read me the French side of the cereal boxes in her cupboard, amazing me completely; she was the first person I ever knew who spoke a language other than English, and it fascinated me.
As I got older and more grandkids were added to the mix, I started feeling cut out of things. There were undercurrents of tension there for a whole host of reasons I won’t go into in a public forum, but suffice it to say over time I drifted away from her. I always sent a Christmas card with the kids’ photos in them (and she never forgot Christmas or a birthday) but I… well, I’m admitting it now, I let hurt feelings (not always mine) and pettiness (again, not always mine) get in the way of trying to develop a closer relationship with her and thus that whole side of the family.
Friends near and far expressed their condolences, and it felt dishonest accepting them, because I wasn’t bereaved. I cried a little, but mostly on behalf of my dad, my aunts & uncles & cousins, even my younger siblings, all of whom knew her better and were closer to her. I felt like a fraud saying “thank you” for prayers and well-wishes, knowing that others needed that comfort more than I did.
On Saturday the whole massive French-Acadian clan gathered together for her funeral and a reception afterwards. The funeral home was packed. The reception, ditto. I saw family friends I haven’t seen in thirty years. I saw cousins in their 20s that I last interacted with when they were bratty toddlers who cried and broke things. My own favourite aunt didn’t recognize me at first.
But when they did see me, I got hugged. A lot. A LOT. There were tears. Lots of “oh my goodness look at YOU!” and “the last time I saw you, you were only this big!” I showed pictures of the boys to what felt like dozens of people. I promised to visit soon, to bring the kids, to friend cousins on Facebook and call aunts more often.
I felt wrapped around, enveloped, swamped. I smiled and laughed and cried and hugged. I ate lobster salad sandwiches and drank endless cups of tea. I wished afterwards that I’d taken a picture of the dozens of pairs of shoes lined up inside the front door, because Maritimers always take their shoes off when they come inside.
I posed for this picture, with all my cousins save one (my sister in a neighbouring province couldn’t make it) and some of the great-grandchildren, too.
I came away vowing to do better, to make sure my kids know this huge clan they are related to, even though they can be overwhelming, troublesome, difficult, and messy. If age has taught me anything, it’s that everyone’s family is like that, to one degree or another. That I’ve been holding them to a standard they can’t reach. That I haven’t been accepting them for who and what they are.
I also came away completely exhausted. Depleted. Drained. Yesterday I couldn’t even get up the energy to get dressed. I spent the day in my pajamas, lying on the couch, able only to re-read a book I’ve read a dozen times before. I craved silence, peace, isolation. I felt like a flickering flashlight powered by dying batteries. My kids were out of sorts all day, probably because I was so out of it.
If I ever doubted my introversion before, consider all doubts removed. I gave every particle of energy I had on Saturday, and needed yesterday to slowly recharge. Today I feel quite a bit better and I’m sure by tomorrow I’ll feel better still.
It’s been a strange couple of days. I’m still processing it all. I’m tired and exhilarated and sad and hopeful, all at once.
Oh, and I have one more solemn vow – no organ music at my funeral. You heard it here first, folks. Especially not “Morning Has Broken“.