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In Which I Am a Drag

May 14, 2013

“Drag” is actually a great word for it–everything I do seems weighted down, slow, exhausting. I think longingly all day about the moment I’ll get go to bed, and then when I get there I worry about the morning. I feel terrible in the mornings–anxious, weepy, a mite panicky. I have all manner of fucked up dreams, and I don’t feel particularly dewy and wonderful no matter how long I sleep. I miss my children when they’re with their father. I miss my boyfriend when he’s not here. I miss everyone, and I want to gather everyone up and crush them, or eat them, or something. I have some kind of weird voracious urge to envelop and consume everyone I miss.

The last time I saw my grandmother she was so tiny and frail. It was about two weeks before she died, and she wasn’t demented–she never was–but she was half in and half out of this world already, and she slept a lot. She weighed about seventy pounds and she was tucked up in her bed like a little bird. She had developed a tremor in one hand–it wobbled, slightly, all the time–but she hugged me and patted my back when I lay down next to her. Her skin looked radiant, her hair was snowy white, her beautiful blue eyes were watery but clear. “You smell delicious,” I said, leaning in to kiss her again and again, and she said, slowly, “Thank you, darling. You smell delicious, too.”

I wanted to pick her up and hold her the way you would cradle an infant. There was nothing off-putting about her, nothing even slightly repulsive. For the last few years, my grandmother had seemed both like and unlike herself, and I had been a little afraid of her, physically–I don’t know how else to put it, and I know that that particular feeling was not laudable or kind. But she was on morphine for the arthritis that crippled her, and sometimes she drooled. Her nose ran, sometimes. She was grumpy when she was in pain, or just when she had had enough. I have taken care of children, and I know that a runny nose is not the end of the world, but it alarmed me and I was squeamish about the spectacle of my grandmother drooling or spilling her food or failing to wipe her nose. I felt guilty for being afraid and disgusted. And then, this last visit, that fear and shameful recoiling were gone.

I kissed her face and head and it was like kissing an infant–soft, warm, sweet. I was afraid I’d hurt her–she was so little–but I lay carefully down beside her and stroked her arm, her shoulder, her face, her hair. She liked it. She smiled. I told her again and again how much I loved her, how much I had always loved her, that we were kindred spirits. That was her particular phrase, used since I was a very small girl, for the particular affinity we had.

I was home for three days and I went to see her several times each day, staying an hour or so, leaving when she fell asleep and coming back later. She was happy to see me every time, remembered what we had talked about before, submitted to my caresses. She squeezed my hand, patted my arm. We spent a long time just looking at each other, her beautiful light blue eyes fixed on mine. There was no embarrassment in it. Her gaze was as frank as a baby’s.

My mother and my brother and one of my cousins, all of whom live near my grandmother, had warned me to prepare for the worst. She might be unresponsive, she might not wake, she might not, if she woke, even recognize me, they said. But she did. And when I came into her room the morning of the last day to say goodbye, I was in a wonderful mood. We’d had such a lovely time together. I was buoyed by the visit, and was planning to come again, soon. “I’ll come again soon, in May, I think, as soon as I can,” I told her, as I held her hands in mine and kissed her beautiful face.

How can I describe what came next? When I held her face and looked into her eyes, they were filled with pure sorrow, pure sadness and grief and pain. I had never seen her look like that. I kept telling her I loved her, telling her how happy I’d been to see her, but her eyes didn’t change. It was horrible to leave, horrible to walk out of the room and out of the house. Outside, I found my brother, and wept.

It has been all grief since then. Primal, selfish, illogical grief. I wanted to stay with her, I wanted to hold on to her tiny little body for dear life. A month has passed since her death, and I cry all the damned time still–I, who never cry. Please, I think, knowing that even the tense is wrong now, but unable to shake it. Please, swallowing like mad, tipping my head back so the tears stay put. Please, don’t go.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. kathryn conway permalink
    May 14, 2013 7:29 pm

    i know exactly what you mean. and i feel for you my friend.
    no one could have made me believe that it would be possible to miss another human
    being so much that your heart physically aches.
    i have no words of wisdom. i have no experience with such overwhelming and paralyzing grief. i can only let you know that i’m thinking of you and wishing you peace. xo

  2. Sharon permalink
    May 14, 2013 7:30 pm

    As I read your description of how you feel, it occurred to me that the death of someone you love this much leaves you… irretrievably broken….. I have been feeling this way lately, again/still grieving the death of a friend more than seven years ago. I need her. Now. There is no one to replace her. She was my touchstone when life didn’t make sense and nothing fit. There was no one before and has been no one since who knows me like she did. I can’t say this out loud to anyone because it really doesn’t make sense to still be grieving. But I am. I truly am.

  3. jane permalink
    May 14, 2013 8:26 pm

    Oh, that made me cry too.

  4. May 14, 2013 8:47 pm

    Oh, I’m just so sorry. Your writing is beautiful, as alawys, and this made me cry.

    The mother of one of my students once told me how she had instructed her young daughter to always hold her grandmother’s hand when they visited her in the nursing home. That older people are often deprived of touch. I never forgot that, and that thought came to mind while reading this post.

  5. Natalie permalink
    May 14, 2013 9:36 pm

    Thank you. For sharing those tender moments. I am in the very same place, and it breaks my heart.

  6. Tatyana permalink
    May 14, 2013 9:56 pm

    Beautiful writing as always… I lost my grandfather when I was 11 (I was already down to one at that point having lost the other one 10 years prior). We were also very close and he was supposed to emigrate a few months after we did but at the required physical a spot showed up on his lungs. He was gone just a few months later (we had left the Ukraine less than a year before he passed away). It’s been 20 years now and I still think about him and miss him every day.

  7. Melinda permalink
    May 14, 2013 10:56 pm

    You have transported me back to my mom’s deathbed last fall. That unwavering wordless gaze – I had nearly forgotten it. Grief is awful, horrible, and I suppose a necessary part of the human condition. But I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Wishing you peace, with tears in my eyes. I too am tipping back my head to impede their fall.

  8. May 15, 2013 5:19 am

    I’m so very sorry for your loss. The love you showed as a grandchild counts for so very much and soon your memories will make you smile again, I promise.

  9. telechick permalink
    May 15, 2013 6:49 am

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Grief is exhausting. I always know when I’m going through another grief “spurt” because I am so tired and have no motivation for anything. Treat yourself gently and let yourself grieve. Many (((hugs))).

  10. May 15, 2013 11:32 am

    Oh, hon. Let yourself be sad. And this is beautiful.

  11. Christa. permalink
    May 15, 2013 12:05 pm

    So very sad. So very moving. Words are inadequate, but I’m sorry for your loss. Hugs x

  12. May 15, 2013 4:20 pm

    My first visit here, and this is beautiful, heartbreaking, so exquisitely evoked. I’m so sorry. I “could have written this post” about my grandmother’s death, except I couldn’t have – you did, and brilliantly.

  13. May 15, 2013 7:23 pm

    I’ve come from Belgian Waffle, the source of all good things, and wept through your beautiful, devastating post. I lost my father recently – he was 86 and wanted to die – but that didn’t stop me from wanting to hold on to him forever. Two months later, his death still seems like an impossibility, and like you, I stumble through a thick, murky fog of grief, fearing that I am boring everyone, that I am a drag, that there is something wrong with me that I still feel like an amputee. Does it help to know that your post was the cry I couldn’t quite manage this week until now? That you are not alone? And not even remotely a drag? Probably not. But I thank you, anyway, for such a moving portrait of loss. I wish you all love and courage. xo

  14. May 16, 2013 1:31 am

    I’m so sorry. Breathe in your boys, keep breathing. Again, so sorry.

  15. May 16, 2013 4:17 pm

    Remember when the workmen were swarming all over your house before you moved, making you miserable and vulnerable and stressed to your limit of tolerance? It sucked, but the house was fixed when they left. And it rented, and you’re in a new place literally and figuratively.

    That’s happening again, inside your brain, and they’re going to stay as long as they need to until you’re fixed and in a new place. It sucks, and it takes way too fucking long, but they know what they’re doing. I was measurably depressed for years after my mother died but I couldn’t see it. Now I do.

  16. May 16, 2013 10:28 pm

    I would have called my grandmother my kindred spirit too; someone who understood me, cared for me in ways unlike my parents. I spent childhood summers with her, swimming and snacking and buying thongs from the corner pharmacy to protect my bare feet from Arizona summer pavement. When I was in my early 20’s (she was barely 63) a routine procedure took an awful turn and within 6 months she had died the fastest slow death one could imagine. I would go to her home after work most days and climb into her bed listening to silly stories she wanted me to hear for the first time, sorting through treasures she directed me to go “find” in various hiding places. I was seeing these memories for the first time while she said goodbye to them. One morning after she had returned to the hospital, I decided to go to work for a while rather than stay while others were visiting. We knew she had returned to the hospital to close her life; but I was not prepared for my mom to come fetch me just a few hours later to tell me she was gone. I had lived many years feeling so disappointed and guilty to have missed saying one last goodbye, giving one last look into her eyes when I realized she hadn’t wanted me there in those final few hours. I missed her and ached for her and stumbled around forgetting to live my life for several months. Losing someone you love is an awful piteous mess that I’m convinced one must just wail through.

  17. May 17, 2013 5:01 am

    My Granny died on April 13. This post of yours is sad and beautiful.

  18. May 18, 2013 1:49 am

    You write so beautifully and your pain so tangible. I wish I had the right words for you. You are in my thoughts.

  19. June 16, 2013 4:00 am

    Oh this brought back to me how in the days running up to my mother’s death she would stare and stare at her children and grandchildren as if she wanted to inprint their features forever. I am sorry for your loss.

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