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May God Bless and Keep Her (And May She Never Come Down and Haunt Me)
Death is supposed to mess you up. It’s supposed to send you reeling and cringing and you’re supposed to cry over the casket and wail. Except when you don’t.
What you’re not supposed to do is quietly laugh as the last nail goes in the coffin and stand over the grave and mutter “Thank God!” Here’s my secret. I totally did that. And then I whispered something like “Good riddance, you evil #@$%^!”
My grandmother died in the spring of 2014. And no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t muster up an ounce of grief. But, this is not about my grandmother. Because God knows, I could write pages ranting about my grandmother and my deep seated childhood issues stemming from her games of emotional monopoly on each and every member of my family. This is about the after, about life after death and journeys that end in “C'mon, carry on.”
We all knew my grandfather would eventually move on. He’s not the kind of person to stay alone. But in the words of my Aunt Doris “I just didn’t think it’d be so fast!”
She held him down. We knew that, too. For the last five years of her life, she imposed an unofficial “no travel ban.” Going to see his siblings across the state? No way. Taking a trip down to North Carolina to visit their firstborn and his family? Absolutely not! Inviting old friends to come for a visit? Hell no! We always assumed it was a combination of both of them, that neither really wanted to travel or have visitors, and that both were just crotchety in their old age. We were wrong.
It was her. It was her all along. I should’ve guessed it, really. She was the spiteful matriarch who ruled over our family with an iron fist, always had been. He was just Grandpa, plain, old, goofy Grandpa. Just there, going along with what she said.
So, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when less than two weeks after we laid her in her grave, he was on a plane across the country. He was going to visit his daughter in Nevada. And then, he was in North Carolina, visiting his son. It had been half a decade.
And after that came Vegas with his brother-in-law, and the lake with his siblings, and golfing with his college buddies, and somewhere in there came Mary.
Mary came on a plane. Mary came on a plane and for lack of a better metaphor, flew right into his heart. (That’s a terrible way to put it, I know.)
Who meets their significant other on a plane, you ask? Who? Apparently my grandfather. I still don’t know the full story. My mom’s not completely convinced he didn’t meet her on a dating website and make up the plane story because it sounded better. But, according to him, it was about September when they met. By October, they were dating, or seeing each other, or whatever term senior citizens use. He held off telling us until after Thanksgiving. Guess he wanted to make sure he was well past the half year mark of widowhood.
You’d say the family took it well, to find out their father/grandfather had a “lady friend” while the dirt was still fresh over their mother/grandmother’s grave. Most of the family took it well. I think I cheered. My mother busted out laughing. My great-aunt yelled “I knew it!” My father told him to be careful, but that he was happy for him. My father’s sister “had a hard time with it.” (Yes, those were the exact words.)
So like I said, most of the family. Of them all, Jessica was the one we should've expected to flip a lid. She is, unfortunately, entirely too much like her mother. (I still think they struck a deal during my grandmother’s last days that Jessica would continue to do her bidding from beyond the grave.) Jessica whined, then she tried to background check her via the internet (Alright, I might be guilty of that, too.) But Jessica’s worst stunt was her refusal to tell her children, when every other grandchild had long known. This threw our family back into the inevitable cycle of secrets we’d just gotten out of following my grandmother’s death.
We’d always been secret keepers, tight-lipped souls afraid of the truth. We were the family who managed to keep silent for 30 years and two generations that our beloved great-grandfather was a paranoid schizophrenic. And then there had been the actual months leading up to her death, when parts of our family weren’t allowed to know she was dying, and my father, mother, and I found ourselves going behind closed doors and telling the aunts and uncles and cousins who were sick with worry what was really going on. So keeping one relationship a secret from a couple of clueless preteens? No one batted an eyelash.
But I gawked. I want to protest, but it’s not my place. I have no idea if my aunt has told her children yet. Hell, she’s probably planning to wait until a wedding announcement comes out. Or maybe until my grandfather shows up on her doorstep for a visit with Mary in tow. Whichever comes first, I imagine. We’ll see.
As I write this, I am less than a week away from being introduced to Mary. They will arrive at our door on a Tuesday night. And I’m saying my prayers she’ll be something special. Everyone talks about how she won’t replace my grandmother, how we don’t have to worry about that. But secretly, I’m hoping she does.
I’ve always had only one grandmother. I had one grandmother and I had one horribly bitter old woman whom I was related to by blood. There was my mother’s mother, who loved and cried and laughed with me, and who I called my grandmother. And there was my father’s mother, who hated us and drank too much, whom I was tied to only because I had to be. I did not call her my grandmother. I feel like this is my second chance to have another grandmother after seventeen plus years of emotional abuse by the woman supposed to fill that role. I hope, somewhere down the line, I can say I have two grandmothers.
Mary arrives in less than a week. And I? I can’t wait to meet her.