Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I am sorry for your loss

My grandmother just died. My sister is getting married and my grandmother died. This is not so bad as the previous sentence might suggest. My grandmother lived most of her life in New York, while my sister and I grew up on the west coast. We did not see her or my grandfather often, and (given her "nothing is right, and you can't fix it" tendencies) visits were not very gratifying. When I lived on the east coast, I was an hour drive from her apartment, but saw her less than I saw my other grandmother, who lived a short plane flight away. This is less a testament of my lack of grand-daughterly feelings than an expression of how much more I felt for my maternal grandmother than for my father's mom.

I have a lot of stories about my grandparents, mostly ones that paint my grandmother in a less than flattering light. I pull them out in discussions about difficult relations, often trumping others with my grandmother's prickliness and self-imposed martyrdom. It doesn't feel right to share those in the wake of her death. I should be remembering that she was the youngest of nine, devoted to her parents and to New York. She was strong-willed and tougher than you'd have thought, looking at her shrunken frame. She ran a business. Even after she sunk into dementia, she smiled at pictures of Ada. Living for so long she lost so many people. I didn't know her well enough to gauge whether she had been different as a young woman, whether the disappointments of life had turned her into the woman I knew as a child.

My sister and I were never close to our grandmother. Rather than feeling the loss of this woman, we feel for our father. Losing a parent feels unbearable, at any age. My sister thinks it may be better for him to have it over. A relief. My grandmother's slow slide from ornery to senile has been hard on my dad. Still, I feel a little bad that I am not feeling more. What if no one mourns me when I go? It is ridiculous to think that by crying for my grandmother I protect my future dead self, but selfishly I do.

Just before my sister walked out the door to track down some last minute wedding details, she hugged me and said "I am sorry for your loss." I repeated the phrase, hoping it might mean something.


  1. i am so sorry to hear it. my paternal grandmother is sliding into senility and nothing can ever be fixed or good enough for her either. i can tell my dad is at a complete loss and i have been wondering what, if anything, i can do and feeling helpless. i can't say i know how you are feeling but i have a little glimpse. take care and best to your dad.

  2. I'm so sorry, Nora (and Karen, and your parents)

    You are loved, by your family, by your friends, and if you need anything, I hope you'll ask.

  3. I'm sorry. I think it's lovely that your thoughts are with your dad.

  4. I am not employing euphemism or some weird code when I say this is as nakedly honest a posting as I have encountered. Likely I am missing the point but the phrase "future dead self" is startling. I love it. (Is that wrong?) It may yet supplant "your bad self" in the vernacular.

    On an entirely meaningless front I have tagged you with some kind of viral meme. You are supposed to visit our place and obey.

  5. (un)relaxeddad7/08/2007 2:19 PM

    I felt bad that I didn't feel more in similar circumstances but later, I remembered a lot of things, and that was generally a good thing. But it feels utterly appropriate that you feel more for your father.

    Death is a deeply strange thing. "Future dead self" is something I'll borrow, without a doubt :)

  6. wow, Nora. I'm sorry that you lost your grandmother, painful for you or not.


    your senses are so amazingly at once logical and sentient.

    I feel like I just read a (really excellent) short story.

    (hope your trip was good. we sold the house. wanna hang out this week?)