Thursday, January 26, 2006

Emptiness you can never fill

I've never written much about my grandparents. Just wrote a small bit here. Wanted to write a bit more.

I was 19, in college, and still living at home. I had been out one night, I think it was a weeknight, so it wasn't too late. When I came home, I noticed that my mother's car wasn't home, which was odd for 9 or 10 o'clock at night during the week. As I reached the foot of the stairs, Dad opened the front door and told me my grandmother, my mother's mother, had passed away. I was stunned. Mom, the eighth of twelve children, had left to go be with her brothers and sisters.

She was my last living grandparent. And now she was gone. I think I walked around in a daze the rest of the night, and probably the next day. I didn't want to go to school anymore. I didn't care about much of anything for a few weeks. She was 77. But it was still unexpected. She hadn't been sick. And I never got a chance to say goodbye. That's the worst.

Mamaw never learned to drive. She outlived my grandfather by almost sixteen years, but never remarried. Never even thought about even seeing anyone else. For the last several years of her life, she lived alone in a tiny two bedroom house in the country, where her mother had lived. And yet despite having no car, somehow managed to get by. The story goes that a tornado had picked the little house up and set it back down several feet from it's foundation, otherwise unharmed for the most part.

There was a small pond on someone else's property, just down the drive and across an electric fence, which shocked me at least twice. I learned to fish there, using raw bacon or bologna for bait. The pond iced over once and my cousin and I wanted to "skate" out on it, but were scared we'd fall thru. My uncle told us it was solid and that he could drive a truck out on the ice. We never chanced it though. He came in later wet from the waist down, and I was glad we hadn't.

I liked spending the night there. But I did it far too seldom. During the summertime, Mom would take my sister and I and we'd go pick up Mamaw and take her out to breakfast. Those were some of my favorite times. It seems to me that grandparents and grandchildren often just naturally form an alliance. If I was in trouble with Mom or Dad, I could always count on Mamaw to say something like "Leave the boy alone." It's sad to lose that.

When I was a junior in high school, I was dating a girl a year older than me from a nearby school. She invited me to her senior prom. This was the same girl that I used to only ask out every other weekend, because I'd skip lunch and save up my lunch money for two weeks to pay for our dates. I blogged about it once. Can't find it now. My parents seemed to be struggling at this time. And me? I was cleaning up. $3.80 an hour. ("Isn't that the new minimum wage?" "And now you know who to thank.") Mom took me to Mamaw's and made me ask her if I could borrow money to rent a tux. I am sure I thanked her. Can't remember ever paying her back.

Suddenly this feels too personal. At the funeral, I was a pallbearer. Even at 19, I felt like a kid still. I wanted to cry so bad, but the tears would never come. Not sure why. I think I was still stunned about the whole thing. As the saying goes, it hadn't hit me yet. Nowadays I visit her grave. Alone. At least once a year. Sometimes more. I've learned that the tears will come when they come. Often when I visit, I'll start talking to her. As if she were standing there. Just about life in general. How much I miss her. The wind picks up. The leaves rustle... Maybe I'm just talking to the wind. Whatever. It helps.

For several years, I would have dreams about her. As I mentioned in the other post, to this day, I still remember her phone number. When I think that all my grandparents are gone, it deeply saddens me. I know many people have suffered more losses than I. I still have my parents. My sister. All my close friends. I hope if you still have grandparents living that you will treasure them. What I'd give for one more day... I could write more. But this is enough. For now.

I can still remember so many of the things I felt standing there that night, at the foot of the stairs. I felt robbed. Of so much. I was shocked. I felt it was so unfair that I never got to say goodbye. Most of all, I felt empty.

Almost fourteen years later... nothing ever fills up that space.

"If heaven was a town it would be my town, on a summer day in 1985. When everything I wanted was out there waiting. And everyone I loved was still alive..."


  1. I hate when you do this to me. Now I just want to go home and cry. You've written another wonderful story. As long as you keep telling stories about your grandparents, they will never truly be gone.

  2. Sniff. . . sniff. . . .

    After reading this a whole bunch of memories about my own grandparents (all deceased now) are flooding back.

  3. thanks for commenting today on my comment whore post. I still have both of my grandmothers, but I know it won't be much longer. Thanks for sharing about your grandmother...I don't have those kind of memories, but my Darly will have them of her grandmother, they are very close.

    And yes, I am happy now. Thanks again for commenting. :D *virtual kisses*

  4. Love, love, love this post.
    I just had a conversation recently about this very subject.

    I remember my Mama P. (mom's mom) always kept banana popsicles for the grandkids in her refrigerator. There were a million of us and she didn't have a lot of money, as her husband, my grandfather, died when my mother was 6. So, for Christmas every year, we got an ornament with the year and Love, Mama P. The last one I got was in 2,000. She died that year on Thanksgiving Day. The ornament said, "In memory of Mama P." I cry every time I pull it out at Christmas.

    My grandfather, the only one I ever knew, was my hero. The most amazing man. Going to him and my Granny's house was such a treat. He was the one who kept the horses. A few year's ago, dad found a video he had converted into a DVD, that i now have on my computer. It's of my grandfather breaking a horse for the plow. I think it's the most amazing thing I've ever seen.

    The day he died, me and my older cousin got in the car and just drove forever. We put in a Randy Travis tape he had kept, because ?I?m Gonna Love You Forever? was his song for my Granny. I think for the first time I heard the song, ?I Thought He Walked on Water.? That song is my Grandpa.

    I could go on forever. Don't mean to take up so much space. But this post brings back so many memories.

  5. Oh Bone, that was too beautiful

  6. Dang. I think I need to go cry now.

    I've never gotten to meet my grandparents on my mother's side, as they live in Vietnam. My grandfather died a few years ago.

    My grandparents on my dad's side are also deceased now. I knew them so it was much tougher on me. My grandmother was the one who crocheted that multi-colored blanket I had a picture of in one of the Haiku Smackdowns. I *LOVE* that blanket. I never got to see her before she died though. My grandpa was at a family reunion about a year before he passed so I got to see him and hug him and get a picture taken with him before he passed.

  7. I have 2 grandparents left- both maternal. I eat at their house every Sunday- we've had the exact same meal of rigatoni with gravy (chicago italians call "sauce" gravy), meatballs, italian sausage, bread and diet rite (always) for every sunday of my life since i was a baby. i really do love having them around, and the thought of one of them dying--- it's going to hurt. my dad's mom died 3 years ago next month. I remember the last time I saw her. I took her to breakfast. she ate a short stack of pancakes. she was so embarassed to eat so much. it took her so long but i was happy to be there with her. i do miss her. and now i'm crying.

  8. Well written Bone.

    When I was a bit younger, I had all my grandparents and even a set of great-grandparents...

    Now I miss them terribly.

  9. Obviously your grandmom touched your life deeply, so why wouldn't her death still bother you? There's no timetable for grief. Don't be ashamed of still missing her. She was a big part of your life and her death left a void.

    I loved my paternal grandmother. I was 14 when she died and oh how I cried. I still miss her sometimes after all these years (it's been almost 20 years now) and I dream about her occasionally. I have a few of her things and they are very, very special to me because I feel like through those objects, I still have a connection with her.

  10. This is an amazing post, Bone. I think I will definitely be calling my grandparents tonight. Thank you for reminding me of childhood memories and how truly precious my grandparents are.

  11. Amazing post. I really liked reading that.

    Same with Tenacious T - great comment.

  12. I love your stories, Bone. Thank you for sharing the beauty of Mamaw with us. Although you ache missing her, the emptiness will be filled when you see her again.The emptiness is actually key in appreciating just how much she did fill your life. She isn't gone, just in a different place at the moment. She still laughs with you, roots for you, and surrounds you in her love. My husband's pop passed away in 83 when he was 19. Although I never met him, I love him and respect him and miss him so much it hurts sometimes. When my sweetie does things that remind me of the stories about his dad, or when a particular song comes on the radio. "Hi Cal" enters my mind and I feel close to this man I can't wait to meet. Do you have a song or phrase that instantly puts her into the forefront of your mind/heart?

  13. Thank you all for the comments and for sharing your own memories and stories as well. I really felt drained after writing this one, like I had poured myself out. And I hope you'll excuse me if I don't feel like responding separately to each comment just this once. Just know that I appreciate your comments and feedback, and just appreciate you reading something I've written. It means a lot.

  14. bone,
    hey thanks for the story of our grandmother,you know that we really loved her and she was always good to us grandkids and what she wouldn,t do for us. i know the day that she passed away and she went on home to be with papa that just really broke my heart but you know as well as i do that were gonna meet her again one day with open arms.well that is all i have to write about that because if i don,t stop writing about our grandparents i,m gonna cry go bye for now.i guess your wondering who i am but i,ll let you guess and wonder who i am.bye!!!!!

    talk to you later,

  15. Wow. Amazing post man, I had to hold back the tears. I miss my grandparents a whole lot more now. Thanks for the wonderful post.