‘How do you measure the life of a woman or a man’

This time in my life is what I am mentally referring to as the eye of the hurricane. I’ve just lost my grandfather and am starting to not collapse into heaving, wracking sobs every 20 minutes (more like once an hour — progress!). I’m back to work and trying to get back into the fast-paced groove I was in and will be in until the end of time.

But then there’s the next phase — paying for the funeral, helping Mom to stay in her house for another month until she can get packed, somehow moving her down here and either getting her into my current place or having both of us move to a bigger place.

Shoestring budget? Implied. *sigh*

Forget clicking the ruby slippers — just drop the damn house on me and put me out of my fucking misery already.

But whatever. I have another few days to breathe before we embark on the next phase of this odyssey.

Today a few things occurred to me. One, that everything I believed in and held true, is no longer. Mom and I are of the psychic variety — she more so than me, so I trust her greatly. But because she thought my grandfather was going to hang in there (so did I, though), I wonder if all of her other visions are just going to turn to shit. She’d seen a happy life for me, and I wonder if it’s still pending or whether one major event going off-course throws a wrench in the whole fucking project.

Two, and perhaps more importantly, I realize that I never saw the age on my grandfather’s face. He was spry and spunky and strong and passionate — he lit up for everyone around him and especially my mom and me. He always seemed young to me, like he’d never aged a day past 40. And if you look at the (rare, unfortunately) photos with him and me, he looks like he could be my father, not my grandfather.

But then there are the photos with others, or ones just of him. And he looks tired. There are lines in his face that I guess I never saw before, as every time he looked at me, he absolutely beamed. I miss sitting across the table from him at dinner — now Mom and I sit opposite each other instead of together on one side of the table. It’s unsettling to know that the change is a permanent one.

Mom had asked me to scan in the photo below — she loves that shot of him. And I didn’t get it — he was a handsome man, and I never thought this photo did him justice. (He was with one of my obnoxious great-uncles — nobody could shine around any of them, as they would find a way to squelch it.) That family exhausts me, so maybe that’s his excuse, but to me it really shows that I somehow missed him getting old.

I guess that’s what love is — not noticing anything but the good. Just looking into someone’s eyes and seeing a good-looking, kind-hearted hero of a man instead of someone who was struggling to stay good for his girls.

We found some writings of his, as he is the musician/songwriter of the family. And as much as he loved being alive, there’s a part of him that seemed resigned to going sometime. He wrote a lot about getting to see my grandmother again — he loved and missed her terribly.

I don’t know that, if they were married in this day and age, they’d ever make it to a milestone anniversary. I never thought of them as being in love — merely that they were determined to stick things out to the bitter end. They were both glorious, wondrous people, but polar opposites through and through.

Kind of like Mom and I are — I’m my grandmother, she’s my grandfather. I’m a temperamental fireball and she’s sweet and kind. Felix and Oscar. Oh, yeah, this roommate relationship is gonna be a disaster. 😉

In any event, one of my biggest fears is that I will be a lot like my grandmother and perhaps find the most amazing man on earth and not appreciate him enough. I don’t know that she did. I have no doubt she loved him with all her heart, but he drove her nuts. She always called him “Stupid.” I hated that.

Of course, when we were standing graveside, with the winds blowing at high speed as my grandfather’s coffin was lowered into the ground and our tears frozen to our cheeks, I’d remarked that Gram was probably out shopping in heaven for a T-shirt that reads, “I’m With Stupid … Again!”

I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I just find it funny that when all was said and done, the idiot uncles who criticized our every decision hadn’t so much as hugged us or told us they were sorry for our loss. They hugged each other and left — off to eat lunch, because they were angry that we hadn’t planned a luncheon. Yeah, those assholes went out to dinner and breakfast and lunch but never saw fit to invite Mom or me.

In fact, it was two of my friends at work who offered to cook for us, and it actually was my grandfather’s best friends Barry and Mary Lee who ended up feeding us during that terrible week that just passed. They made huge meals and brought them to us, complete with dessert. They wanted nothing in return. Just like my grandparents would have done (and no doubt did, in their day). No wonder they were all friends — great people really do gravitate to each other, and thank God for that.

Let me tell you something about that family and their fucking luncheon. My grandfather loved those assholes. In fact, just months ago, the Brothers Grimm decided to get together for lunch at 1 p.m. at fucking Denny’s (whoop-dee-friggin-do). My grandfather had an appointment and couldn’t make it till 1:30, so he asked them if they wouldn’t mind waiting for him.

They minded. He came home to find they had already gone … without him.

This broke his heart. As their big brother, it really tore him apart. And looking back, it kicked off a downward spiral in his health. It was barely two months ago, but it makes a lot of sense that he started feeling pretty down.

So when these assholes wanted us to throw a fucking lunch party for them, I put my foot down (and would have put it through someone’s ass crack if they were standing close enough). I had told my mom that for my grandfather’s friends, nieces and his sister whom I love, I was more than willing to blow the rest of the rent money on a gathering. But that they excluded him and broke his heart over some stupid need to go eat a fucking patty melt without their brother, fuck them. Just, fuck them.

Mom thought it appropriate that they never saw him again. That he was too good for them anyway — that they had their chance to be good to him and it was lost forever.

My uncle (Uncle Pester) who picked a fight with me at the coffin did so over lunch. Not a post-funeral lunch (I couldn’t function the rest of the day anyway, so good thing we didn’t hang out), but that all he ever wanted was for me to call him while I was in town so the whole family could have lunch together. He bitched and BITCHED that I never made time for him, that my family never included him when I was around.


Uh, fuck you. Mmmkay?

Uncle Pester begged me to promise that I’d contact him next time I was in town. I kept trying to stay silent — really I did — as I didn’t want to lie to him. I know my tongue was bleeding from biting it, that’s for sure. I think my final answer was that Mom’s coming to stay with me so my visits to Pittsburgh were dwindling.

Now, that’s not to say that they *are*. I know it will hurt my mom to be far from the cemetery, as she likes to visit frequently and keep the graves tidy and decorated for every holiday. I will go back to the city in a heartbeat, but those who actually have my phone number? I can count on one hand.

I’ve been talking to a lot of people and reading a lot of comment/e-mail condolences from wonderful, glorious, strong and saint-like friends, and what’s sad is that we all have terrible stories to tell. Stories of a loved one who was lost unnecessarily, of fucked-up families and of financial havoc.

And while I’d never wish such horrors on anyone, not even my worst enemy (believe it or not), I feel somewhat better that I’m not the only one who’s at the end of her rope over the confluence of events that seems only to snowball — never to really de-escalate.

I just wish I were rich, y’know? That I could just pay off all the expenses and enter Witness Protection to hide from the relatives and just breathe and grieve already. To take a week away from everyone and everything and regain my strength before trying to work again. To focus on the memory of the greatest man who ever lived and not constantly be worrying about the expenses that lie ahead because of his loss.

To not have to hide my tears in the name of all that is proper and to hope that, because I have to pretend to be OK, one day my heart will believe it and eventually, I might actually be fine again.

5 Responses to ‘How do you measure the life of a woman or a man’

  1. Mel :

    Goddess, sorry I haven’t been around as much as I was before. I can’t tell you I feel your pain b/c my grandparents passed before I was born/old enough to remember. Remember, he was loved and he loved you. 🙂

  2. Tina :

    The farther away you get from the actual death of your grandfather the less acute the pain will be and you will move into a more low pitched ache. This is good for two reasons – you will be honoring his memory by missing him and you will be reminded to love those that are with you while they are. I lost my grandfaterh in July. I miss him every day and I am so very thankful that I have him to miss at all. love you.


  3. Erica :

    I am so fucking appalled by your uncles’ behavior. What the fucking fuck? Seriously. Fuck ’em. Fuckers.

  4. Lachlan :

    What Erica said.

  5. Caterwauling :

    […] In any event, one thing that was said today was that we should be thankful in — and not always necessarily for — all the situations you find yourself in. On the year anniversary of the end of the world, I don’t know that I could ever find a way to be grateful for/in/whatever that event. My prayers weren’t answered. I don’t have evidence that anyone even heard them. “Though I can’t see my stories ending That doesn’t mean the dark night has no end It’s only here that I find faith And learn to trust the one who writes my days So I’ll stand in the pain and silence And I’ll speak to the dark night. “ […]