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Dying Grandparents and Death for the Rest of Us

Dying Grandparents

My grandmother is dying. It’s just a matter of days, maybe hours, now. By the time this is published, maybe she will already be dead.

Some folks have great Grandma memories of baking cookies or sitting on her lap reading stories. I don’t have that with this grandma. For most of my life, we weren’t close. In my very early years she was part of my life, but by the time I was twelve, she was gone.She and my grandfather moved from being right down the road in our small Indiana town, back to their hometown in Eastern Kentucky.

Even before that move we weren’t that close. Sometimes that just happens in life. In my adult life, I’ve had no relationship with her at all. I haven’t seen her in over ten years. The last time I saw her she was already in the early stages of dementia. She has never met my children.

I’m surprised by the amount of feelings I am having right now. I’m exhausted trying to process them, and explain them to myself. I feel sadness that one of the first faces I ever knew will no longer be on this earth. I feel scared, because losing this woman means that my other grandmother, who is slightly older, might not be far behind, and losing that grandmother would break me more than I can express.

But mostly, I feel angry.

I’m angry at everyone on that side of my family, from my grandfather to my stepmother, who could never see me as an individual. They only ever saw me as a product of my mother, whom they hated, which made me feel unwanted and uncomfortable at family gatherings.

I’m angry at my grandparents for moving to rural Kentucky all those years ago. Moving six and a half hours away made it so much more difficult to have a real relationship with them, especially as my relationship with my father, their son, deteriorated. It also made it more difficult for my grandma to get the healthcare she was already showing signs of needing. Today my grandparents are snowed in at their home, with the hospice nurse unable to get to them. My grandma could be scared and in pain, and my first thought is, “if only Grandpa hadn’t been so selfish as to move her there in the first place.”

I’m angry that, because of family drama, I’m not sure I can go say goodbye to her. Grandma was never a bad person. I never felt judged or unloved by her, which is something I can’t say about many people on that side of my family tree. She was a pawn in so many other people’s miserable games. She’s not perfect, but she’s not horrible either.

On the day I miscarried my first child, I was a stupid, twenty year old kid in a bad situation, and I think most of my family viewed my tragedy with relief. Grandma got me on the phone and told me about her own loss. She didn’t give me any bullshit. She didn’t tell me it would heal. She didn’t tell me it was “meant to be” or, the worst thing I’ve ever heard in my life, that it was a “blessing in disguise.” She just kind of made me feel like I wasn’t alone. That she herself had been there, and it sucks, and she knew that. That was comforting in a way no one else could be.

I wish I could be there right now. I wish she could tell me that she’s going through this, and it sucks, but it’s just part of life and we’ll get through. But I can’t be there without it being like a scene from a soap opera, where the villain returns years after everyone forgot about her, there to stir up trouble again. I don’t want a big scene. I don’t want to cause trouble or drama. I don’t want to have a reunion with people who I still do not forgive. I just want to say goodbye to my grandma.

I’m angry at god or the universe or whatever causes these awful illnesses. I’m angry that, even if I were there right now, wanting that last moment, the grandma I knew isn’t there. It’s just a shell of the person I remember. Her mind is gone and has been for a long time. She has other health problems, but the dementia is the one that I hate the most.

But mostly, I’m angry at myself. I’m angry that I let other people and life circumstances stand between me and the one person that didn’t deserve it. I’m angry that I was too lazy to make the trip down there and make sure my boys got to know her. I’m angry that I was too scared of her disease and how uncomfortable it made me to be around her. And I’m angry that I care so much now. I’m angry that I feel like I don’t deserve to have these feelings. I’m angry that I don’t know what to do now.

I’m angry that I’m angry.

And I’m tired.


Stephanie is a homeschool writer, speaker, and consultant in Central Indiana. When not writing, speaking, consulting, and homeschooling, she enjoys reading, baking, hiking, and sleeping. Mostly sleeping.

1 Comment

  1. Jacqueline Wilson

    February 20, 2015 at 12:20 am

    Thank you for sharing this. Your honesty and pain jumped right off the page and touched my heart.

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