Yesterday, Dear Photograph posted this:
For most of my childhood, my maternal grandparents lived only a few minutes away, and my sister and I spent countless days and nights with them. Family gatherings generally took place at their house – a constant throughout my childhood, and the place I felt the most safe. My grandfather passed away almost four years ago, after a long battle against a variety of diseases. He was on hospice care in his home, and it was a horrible last few months. After, I found it difficult to go back to the house that meant so much to me, even to visit my grandmother. The rooms that once filled with laughter seemed oddly still, and filled with unhappy memories. Watching my grandmother without her husband of 53 years was hard as well. In four years it hasn’t gotten any easier. But then, on Mother’s Day, as we gathered with my aunts and uncles and cousins in my grandparents’ home, I decided to use the box of photos on the living room table for a Dear Photograph project. This experience of creating a new picture by placing my grandfather back in the kitchen he loved, was the most therapeutic way of dealing with his death I’ve found so far.
I have lately become more and more aware of the fact that, since my grandmother died in November, I’ve only been to visit my grandfather twice.
That’s really not okay.
I adore my grandfather, and I always have. It’s not as though Gramma was a “favorite” and, since she’s gone, I have an excuse to not visit Grampa anymore; I love him in his own right. So, what’s keeping me from visiting?
I think that, aside from the very real reason of different schedules (the girls, now that they’re older and have their own things, are often simply not available at the same times – or at times that would be convenient to visit an old man), I’m finding myself reluctant to go to their house because it feels as though Gramma is still there. Nothing about the house has changed. Her chair is still in the same place; it was put back after the hospital bed in which she died was moved away (and is held as sort of a shrine; I encouraged the girls to sit in it the last time we visited just to get them over the feeling that it was somehow sacred and not to be touched). Nothing about her kitchen has changed. Her magazines are still on the side table; her jacket is still on the hook.
I didn’t expect – nor would I want – that every trace of her would be obliterated, but I did expect some changes would be made to sort of “fill the hole,” if that makes any sense. The last time I went to visit, I got the strong impression that we were just waiting for her to come home from someplace, so pervasive was the feeling that nothing about the house has changed since she died. I didn’t realize, until I read the caption to that Dear Photograph entry, that that feeling of expectation was making me really uncomfortable.
I’m actually pretty good with death (though how I got that way is a mystery to me). I don’t struggle with acceptance, I don’t fight against the fact of death or the implications of the permanent absence of someone in my life, so I didn’t think that going to Gramma’s house to visit my beloved Grampa would be a thing.
Except that it is.
Understanding this is a big deal, though, and I’m feeling like something’s clicked for me. I can’t gather the girls up after school today for a visit (Bean’s got art club until 4:00, I’ve got a yoga class at 5:30, Punk’s got jazz band from 6-7:30 and Grampa lives 20 minutes away – see what I mean about schedules?), but the first chance we get – probably Sunday – we’ll head over. I miss my old man, and I want to tell him I love him.