Today marks the first day we start giving Bear his diabetes treatments. On our own.
Today my grandmother died.
If ever I could have used her sound advice or dry humour. Today was the day.
Instead I hold onto the image of her memory. Her long straight hair, her bangs. Her gold posted bed and velveteen curtains. Her scent. That wonderful Opium perfume scent. The scent that brings me back to her every time I smell it in the air.
My grandmother and I were close, sometimes closer than I wanted to be. She was an instrumental part of my life and my upbringing since before I can remember. My allegiance to my mother however (who hated my grandmother, or appeared to) left me confused and not wanting to be forced to spend time with her. But whether I wanted it or not, my grandmother helped raise me after my mother left, from the time I was two years old. And no matter what my mother said about her, or how much I fought it, whenever I spent time with her, I loved it.
I loved every minute of it.
I was pregnant with Bear when my grandmother went in for her heart operation, the operation that changed her so completely. When Bear was born my grandmother was not the same woman I knew growing up, or that Pups and Bean had the fortune of knowing. She was only ever the woman she had become, a frail and subdued version of herself.
My issues with change created a barrier in me towards this new grandmother that I could no longer recognize. I didn’t know how to and couldn’t relate to her anymore. But even though I couldn’t get past this new version of my grandmother, Bear adored her. After all, this new NanaNat was the only one he ever knew. When he was old enough to speak he would ask about her, ask to see her. When given a choice about whether to stay home or join me on a visit, he always chose to join. He would sit as close as he could to her and rub the soft aged and wrinkly skin on her arms with tenderness. He would listen attentively to what she told him, and when we would leave he would always mention how much he liked “that NanaNat”.
Her very last days I had stopped visiting. Truth be told, I already didn’t visit as often as I should have since I found that when I did visit I was always struck with an immense sadness at the loss of the person she used to be, at the wild and fierce spirit that I knew as my gramma.
She had been dying for some time now, and we had all said our goodbyes in some way or another. I am lucky that my goodbye happened on a visit with Pups around Christmas in which my grandmother was still mostly aware of our presence. Though she was convinced that I had become a “very buxom” actress in life, of which I am neither buxom nor an actress.
Bear had unknowingly said goodbye to her last summer when we went and had a lunch with her and one of her lovely caretakers. The lunch was wonderful, seeing her at her liveliest for a long time. Bear sat beside her at the table and she sang him silly songs and let him lean on her and pull at her skin. His memory to be left filled with the image of a funny old woman at lunch, with the softest skin imaginable, called NanaNat.
I dread telling him she’s gone. Him, of all my children, most of all. Tig, at the age of two, will not understand of course and Bean will react in her way, matter of factly. Pups has said her goodbyes and long ago prepared herself for this day, but Bear will likely react, whether immediately or throughout the course of a few days. I anticipate questions asked and memories retold. I anticipate a sort of sadness about him that only the closest people to him will notice.
I like to think that in her passing she left a bit of that wild spirit of hers alive in all of us. Spreading it out evenly among our giant family. For myself and my sister, my children and my nephews, my aunts and uncle, my cousins and my dad. And that her spirit will live on within all of us and give me strength right now in a time that I might need it most. That her spirit might give Bear a strength he has yet to know so he can push through these trying times.
If I close my eyes I can feel her, beneath my chest, deep into my heart and in my bones. A fire of energy and spirit, of strength and courage. She is there, in me, stronger than ever before