What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

06 February 2021

In an Old Photograph, Torn, Tattered, and Stained

It was the middle of the workday on Thursday when I remembered that I need to let some coworkers know in a reasonably timely fashion that I will be not be working on the 18th & 19th this month, in case we have any critical deadlines that fall on those days. So I opened my calendar to see how much time I had to give them a heads-up (because knowing either the date or the day of the week is not my strongest suit), and I saw that the 18th was two weeks away. All good.

Two weeks away.

Two weeks. 


Not all good. Not remotely good. In fact, pretty lousy.

My paternal grandmother died on February 4, 2015. A date that would have under any other circumstances been emblazoned upon my brain, so that I wouldn't have had to look at a calendar on February 4 this week to know exactly what day it was. But her passing wasn't under normal circumstances, since my Chadwick joined her just two weeks later. If I concentrate, I can remember snippets of the days surrounding her death: how I was in constant touch with my cousins in a way I hadn't been since we were young (and have not been since), how Denise and I had to wait an extra day before we headed home because money for airfare was tight, how Chadwick opted not to go, so we inadvertently spent one of his final two weeks on this earth apart.

This is, and I imagine shall forever be, my favorite picture of my grandparents, with six of their eventual eight children. I told Grandma once how much I loved it, and she said, "Why??" And then she told me she was laughing at Grandpa's socks right when this was taken.

How when our plane landed in Denver (I'm pretty sure it was Denver) for a layover, Denise and I turned on our phones to receive the message that we were going to arrive too late to see Grandma alive, that she had passed beyond our reach while we were in the air. And that in the middle of a flurry of family Facebook posts about our loss, someone else (not a relative) happened to have posted this at exactly the right time:

How at lunch after her funeral, Uncle Buster rose to say that it was good to see everyone in one place, and that we should do this again when someone hadn't just died. He's gone now, too, also taken in a February, in fact taking the slot exactly one week between Grandma and Chadwick. I hate this month so much.

When I search my memory like this, and can come up with so many details, I like to imagine for a moment that I remember it all clearly. But the truth is that week is covered in smoke in my mind, as is the entire first half of 2015. Everything from that time of my life is hidden by a dense fog, through which I only see glimpses, and every glimpse hurts like hell.

Like this one: a day or two into that Indiana trip, I saw a news article that an unidentified pedestrian had been killed by a driver in our Austin neighborhood. I called Chadwick in an absolute panic, to be met with his reassurances that he was fine. I'm glad we didn't know that was my last time to call him irrationally just to check if he was still alive.

He was fine.

I am so not.

When I checked the calendar on Thursday, and realized what day it was, I was hit by a wave of grief followed by a crushing wave of guilt. It's guilt that I suppose will follow me for the rest of my days, that I can't hold both of those dates in my head. That when it came time to decide which grief was greater, it was no contest. That her passing is but a footnote in my mind, a thing that happened before the bigger Thing That Happened. And while I'm sure that most people would say that I made the correct choice, that in fact it wasn't a choice at all, and that Grandma herself would say that it's right that I grieve my husband taken too soon more than I grieve my grandmother who lived a long and full life: I know all those things to be true. And yet, these emotions will remain, and I'm the one who has to sort through them as best I can.

Did I mention that I hate February? It's really the worst. 

Post title is a line from the song "The Green Fields of France," a song that has no relevance to this post whatsoever, but I thought of it while thinking about how difficult it is to pull up any memories from 2015. Torn, tattered, and stained, indeed.


Susan said...

Your words make me weep. The way you describe your memories as painful and hazy is simultaneously beautiful and horrible. Hugs, of a virtual nature.

Courtney said...

I am so sorry friend. I think of you so often. Can I help you grieve?

Courtney said...

I am so sorry friend. I think of you so often. Can I help you grieve?