Friday, July 31, 2009

on grandparents

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of my grandmother's death. Anniversary seems like such a strange word for this "occasion," doesn't it? I mean, anniversaries are supposed to be marking a momentous day, a happy time of celebration, and momentous and happy celebration are not words I use to describe death.

Six years ago, I was in Krakow. In theory, I was spending the summer writing my thesis. In reality, I was sleeping in, having lunch with friends, spending sun-filled days on the Rynek Glowny and having a love affair with a Polish farmer who found a little corner of my heart. I certainly wasn't in love with him, but it was short and sweet, as those sorts of things always are.

A few years prior to this, my grandmother had been diagnosed with lung cancer, after more than forty years of smoking. She quit cold turkey, but the damage was done. She'd been doing well, so it seemed, but I am not a doctor, nor a cancer specialist. I was home that Christmas and she seemed to be really good. Apparently those few months after, she did a downward spiral. My father called me in early July saying that I should plan to come home soon. I told him that I hadn't planned to come home until after I graduated, which wouldn't be until the following January, six months later. He said I needed to come home for Meme. Of course, I went to the nearest travel agent and found the most round-about flight home. Krakow-Vienna-Paris-Washington, DC-Boston. Seriously. It was last minute and it was cheap and it got me home. I flew into Boston-Logan and my father picked me up. We stopped at the hospital on the way, where she was asleep. That night, she passed away. I don't know if she knew I was there.

Ironically, when I'd been home for Christmas six months earlier, my grandfather passed away very suddenly. They were opposite grandparents- my mother's father and my father's mother. I still have the other two; my mother's mother and father's father are still alive and well. Of course, a huge part of me felt (and still feels) guilty for not really being there. It is times like this when I hate being so far from my family.

At the same time, I know that I've been so lucky that until just six years ago, all four of my grandparents were in good health and both sets lived within ten minutes of our house. They were there for every birthday party and graduation celebration; they were there for random Sunday dinners and visits after church. Christmas Eve was always, always with my father's family and Christmas Day was with my mother's. We still do that. I loved that every holiday could still be spent with both families and I know that my children will not have that fortune.

Meme made the best raspberry squares and tourtière pie. She didn't cook much other than that though! Steve has come to love tourtière too, and has evil plans to try to add cheese (SO not allowed!). I haven't made it yet- right now, the responsibility falls to my father, but I can't wait for my opportunity to test out the family recipe. I know it won't be anywhere nearly as good as Meme's.

My Pepe had a mass for her yesterday. I wish I could have been there. Of course, because I've been so frazzled the last few weeks (my final two classes are going on now), I didn't realize the significance of the date until I was getting ready for bed, and of course, then felt horrid for forgetting. There is a church two blocks from my office. Maybe I will go over at lunchtime and light a candle for her. Maybe I will go to Mass on Sunday and light a candle there for her.

Maybe I should do both. I think Meme would like that.


Jess said...

This is such a sweet tribute. I was never that close to any of my grandparents and my last surviving one died in 2004. I plan to raise our kids to be much closer with their grandparents. Nothing can replace that relationship.

Janssen said...

I love hearing what people call their grandparents. I have Grandma and Grandpa and then Grannie and Granddad.

Princess Freckles said...

What a nice tribute post for your Meme. I was already planning to visit my grandparents this weekend, and after reading this, I'm really glad I am. My grandfather is pretty sick. He's 91 and its just the end of his life, but I want to spend as much time with him as I can!

LiLu said...

Ohhh, you should. You really should. Last year for Christmas, I asked my grandma to make a recipe book for me with all her favorites in it, all the family traditions, so I'll always have them, even when I don't have her. :-)

Love the new digs, btw!

Teresa @ Grammy Girlfriend said...

A bautiful post...It is a rainy day here in La and I have enjoyed some blog reading....So glad I stopped by yours. I enjoyed my visit.