Every time I hear Miranda Lambert sing Mama’s Broken Heart, every time Patricia Clarkson opens her mouth on Sharp Objects – I immediately think of my maternal grandmother. For most of her life, she defined the perfectly coiffed, passive aggressive Southern woman. I hear her lecturing me every time I go out in public in yoga pants with a messy bun and just a swipe of lip gloss. She would not stand for that.
Granny had her flaws. But I didn’t see them as a kid. To me, as a child, she was perfect. She had the makeup, the perfume, the jewelry and oh my god, she had all the shoes. My most favorite, vivid and honestly, consistent, childhood memories were at her and Papa’s house with my cousin, Jacob. I remember the feel and sound of the window AC unit while sleeping on the foldout couch, the smell of their backyard that can be found nowhere else, snacking on honeysuckle, chasing the countless feral cats and kittens (a few somehow ended up in my house), eating pot roast for Sunday supper, Papa tricking people into trying the hottest peppers ever, Granny making me put lotion on my elbows and knees, and always wanting to punch Jake in the face.
As of yesterday, all three of them are now gone.
After what seemed like a very slow, very painful battle with dementia, Granny is finally at peace again. I am happy for her, because she suffered so long. And there was solace in having the entire family together at the end. She might have been in a coma, but I know good and damn well she was laying there with a roll call sheet, checking off all our names before she would leave. No matter how long we/I knew this was coming, it still wasn’t easy. And watching someone take her last breaths was a first for me. It’s equal parts relief and devastation.
This was my last grandparent; I lost all four in almost exactly 10 years. That’s the biggest part with which I’m having an awkward time coping. It’s more or less the last piece of your childhood laid to rest. I can’t fully explain the emotions yet so I am writing this, as the sooner I write about something, the sooner I can process it. For now it’s just discomfort, strangeness, and the usual feelings that come with death. Like utter regret, self-judgment, and the need to go do something bold and totally crazy because you’ve been reminded that life clearly doesn’t last forever.
This is an end of a chapter in my book. And it’s the end of our family as we know it. I am uncertain these days if there is a heaven. But if it does exist, the first thing she did before letting literally anyone else already living their best afterlife see her, was get her hair set and fix her face.