Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Letter to Grandma

Journal Entry 2-8-10

It's official. I've been 31 for an entire 3 days now. I came into this world, the spawn of the black sheep of my family, on February 5th, 1979. Was I doomed from the beginning? I don't know. I'd say if it hadn't been for my Grandmother(my Father's mother) I would've been, even more so than I already am. Grandma, I miss you!

That's what this journal entry is all about, my Grandmother. She's been gone for exactly six years. She passed away from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma the day after my birthday 6 years ago. I don't know that I'll ever get used to her being gone. Even on her death bed, she was busy making sure that my aunts took care of getting me something for my birthday. She made the remark that she would not die before my birthday, and she didn't. She died the day after.

A stubborn soul she was, and keep her word she did. Grandma, you did not have to suffer as long as you did just for me. In case you can't tell, this is a death I have never grieved. To this day, I don't know if I can handle it. As much as I know she meant to each and every one of her children, she was so much more to me. Not to say I loved her more, I'm not sure that was possible. All of my aunts are great women and loved their mother.

You see, my respect for her (in my eyes anyway) is on a totally different level. They were her children. She chose to have them and raise them and she did a damn fine job. By the time I came along, she had basically raised her children except for one aunt who was a teenager and rarely home. However, in true Grandma fashion, she stepped in and did what no Grandmother should have to do, she raised me.

By the time I was 6 months old, my father was in prison. Not just in prison for a few years, he was sentenced to life plus fifty years, He would never know freedom again. And I would never know the life of a normal child. Not for lack of effort, Grandma did the best she could to raise yet another child. This time, the child was the product of one hellion of a father, and an ill-educated mother.

For as long as I can remember, she saw to it that I was taken good care of. She saw to it that I saw my father, that I saw the rest of my family(who lived another world away from small town Connecticut in Tennessee). First and foremost, she always tried to see to it that I was happy, well fed, clothed, and had as 'normal' a childhood as possible for a seemingly doomed youngster.

At the same time, she was constantly making sure my father was well taken care of in prison. I vividly remember the holiday lists and packages. A couple times a year, he was allowed to have packages of special items sent in. I remember everything from Hershey's Kisses and other candies, to packages of white socks and t-shirts going into those boxes. Toothbrushes, other toiletries, etc. And she never complained.

She never complained about having to raise a child that was not hers to raise. She never complained about things that she may have wanted to do, but was unable because she had me. Not that it necessarily stopped too much, but I'm sure that taking a child on almost every single trip you ever made, was not what she thought she'd be doing after all of her children were raised and out on their own. She did it though. And she did it with grace and style.

It's been 6 years and 3 days since she left this world, and to this day, I just want to call her for advice when I'm second guessing myself. I want to be able to call her and just tell her how much I love her and how much I have grown to appreciate everything she ever did for me. You see, then I didn't know any better. That's just the way life was. I lived with my Grandma because that's where I liked it better, that's where I had the most stability. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized she wasn't obligated to do anything she did for me, regardless of how much she may have felt she was.

Thanks to this wonderful woman, who's presence no longer graces this earth, I am not doomed. I am not just another statistic born to a criminal and left to find my own way in this world. I may be a little screwed up. I have issues that need to be dealt with. But thanks to her, and my wonderful family, I did have some morals and standards instilled in me during my upbringing. Thanks to her I did not have to live in poverty or be a simple victim of circumstance. The truth is, I think I am better off for her impact in my life than I ever would have been had my mother and father been left to care for me themselves.

Don't get me wrong, my Mother is great in her own right. She did the best she could, and is an awesome Grandmother to my children. I love her with all of my heart. In truth, I don't think it would matter if she were rich and the best mother on earth, there will always be a void in my soul that my Grandma used to fill. It's funny how when you're young, you rarely realize how important people are to you. It is not until they are gone, swept from your life for all time, that you realize what an amazing impression they had.

I fear to think where I would be today if not for her. I really do. I fear to think of what kind of person I would be had she not left such an indelible impression on my life.

Dear Grandma,

Where would I be today, Grandma, had you not loaded me up and took me on your bus route? Where would I be today had you not paid my way and hauled my stuff on all the road trips we took when I was young? Where would I be today, had you not bought me a round trip plain ticket every single year to go to Tennessee and spend the majority of the summer with the other side of my family? How incredibly unselfish it was of you to make sure I had the best life you were able to give me.

Where would I be today, Grandma, had you not always made sure that no matter where you lived, I had my own bedroom. There, waiting for me no matter what. How many times in my life would have actually gotten to see my father had you not forked out money, time, and hours on the road; making the treck from Connecticut to Tennessee and back again to visit him in prison? What kind of shape would I have been in had you not taken my daughter for a month so I could go to rehab and get my shit together?

I miss you Grandma! As much comfort as I get in the fact that you're in Heaven watching over me and these kids; it does not touch the comfort I would get out of being able to pick up the phone and call you. Nothing in this world can touch the amount of respect and gratitude I will always have in my heart for you. In my eyes, regardless of what faults others may have found in you, there are none. I know that you were controlling, stubborn, and set in your ways. But, in my childish eyes, you were then and now, and Angel. You were sent from Heaven to take your place in the life of a child who would be nothing without you.

If my father never gave me anything other than life, the best thing he ever did was give me you. Or vise versa, however one wishes to see it. You, for the longest time, were the only one I had to look up to. And to this day, the one person I would never want to disappoint. I miss you! I'm sorry I didn't call you for so long after I found out you were sick. Turns out, I'm not that great at dealing with stuff sometimes. I did not know how to deal with you being sick. As selfish as it was, when I told you, you understood. You cried with me and let me know that you still loved me and it was OK. It was not OK, and nothing I can do will ever get that time back.

Grandma, I'd give anything if we'd been able to make that trip from Connecticut to Savannah to move you into your new townhouse. If anyone on this Earth ever deserved to live out their last years in the warm Georgia sun, watching their kids, grandkids, and great grandkids grow, it was you. You would've loved it, I know. You would've loved watching Maia, Devon, Haven, Bradley, Everett, Makenna, and London grow up and being a Great Grandmother.

For reasons that I don't have to understand, God had other plans for you, and the rest of us because he took you to Heaven. As selfish as it is for me to want and need you here, you are exactly where you deserve to be. In a place without pain and heartache. A place where you can watch over us all at the same time and understand why things are the way they are. That is luxury well deserved, that the rest of us have not yet earned. I am not mad at God for taking you, nor you for leaving. But when it comes to you, even after all these years, I am a mere child who selfishly and unashamedly wants her Grandma here.

I hope with this, you can help me start the process of grieving your absence from this world. It has been 6 years, and I don't have drugs in my life any longer to help numb the pain. I have to do this, as hard as the mere thought of it is. I have to accept(rather than ignore) the fact that you are gone from my physical life and will be until it is time for me to join you. It is simply just that time in my life. I know I don't have to explain this to you, and I know you understand. I know you love me, and are here for me whenever I need to talk.

For now, I will simply find solace in my firm belief that you are in a place that is filled with love, free from pain, and above and beyond anything I can wrap my head around. The truth is, I need you watching over me now as much as I ever have. I need your advice and words of wisdom as I raise my children, and try to find my way in this crazy world. I guess now, I will just have to listen harder but I will be listening. I can't do this without you. I never could have and don't see why I should have to stop now.

If I can just get over the fact that you're really gone from physical reach, I will be ok. I will deal with it, and take whatever I can get. I will keep you with me every single day, in my heart, like I have since the day you left this earth. If you'll just guide me gently, the way you always did, the kids and I will be ok. Just don't go too far Grandma. Please don't go out of prayers reach, because I need you now, just as I did as a child if not more. There are so many of us that were graced with your presence in life, please to continue to grace us in your death and know that, to me, you'll never be completely gone.

As I continue to grow from the 31 year old woman I am, I can only hope to be half the woman you were, Grandma. I can only hope to live up to whatever hopes and dreams you had for me. I can only hope that I can raise my kids to be half the people you raised Aunt Cindy, Christy, and Jeanine to be. Dad wasn't your fault. I think that after all these years, he may actually be starting to see that. If not, don't worry, I will remind him because I am his daughter and I can do that, whether he likes it or not. You see, he doesn't get the pleasure of making me feel guilty as he did you. I let him know, under no uncertain terms, that if not for you, I would have been a lost cause. I think with that, he realized that he couldn't really blame you anymore. At least not to me, I won't allow it.

So, I know you're enjoying life in Heaven, and with that I believe I can finally find comfort. Perhaps not the comfort I sometimes think I need, but comfort I can live with. Ya know, as I sit here and type this out, I can honestly say I'm glad you're not suffering anymore. I don't know that the selfish child in me could have said that at the beginning of this letter/journal entry. There are so many things in my life I would go back and change if I could. Having been raised by such a wonderful woman, is not one of them. There is not one single thing in my life I wouldn't trade for the years I had you in my life. Not one.

With that, I just want you to know that I am eternally grateful for your presence in my life. Actually, grateful doesn't even begin to grasp the scope of how fortunate I am. I feel sorry for the people who did not know you, and the ones who may not have appreciated you. For those of us that had you in our lives, well I don't think any words can describe just how lucky we are. Tell Grandpa John I miss him too. Tell him he's the only Grandpa I ever had or ever will. I love you Grandma! I miss you terribly, but you will remain right here in my heart forever.

Love always,

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