This grieving stuff is hard …but it’s a bit like recovering from an injury (and I’ve had a few of those); one good day followed by a bad day and hoping that eventually some form of healing will come.
Someone said to me today “we forget that our parents went through the same thing with their parents; we probably didn’t notice because they were being strong for us”.
My father’s dad died suddenly at a young age; my father was not long in Australia with a newborn – me. He did not go back to Guernsey; he did not have money for flights.
When it came to his mother though he had exactly the same sort of trip that I’ve just made . She was admitted to hospital in Guernsey and as she had apparently alienated all her friends (paranoid schizophrenic) it was up to the police to find her next of kin. It was me who answered the phone when they called and I rode my bike down the paddock to tell him. The flight from Australia to Guernsey is incredibly long & we lived 8 hours drive from Sydney to start with. One must fly Sydney to London (around 28 hours in those days) then onto Guernsey. He did not make it in time to say goodbye – she was only 63. He stayed awhile to tidy up her affairs; we did not see him grieve.
On my mother’s side; her father died at age 88. He dropped dead from a massive heart attack while cooking eggs for my grandmother’s breakfast. At that time my parents lived about 7 hours drive away; their car broke down soon after starting their trip. As my father was by then paralyzed down one side from his stroke, my mother had to call for help and wait another day for parts & repairs before setting out again. By that time my (ex) husband and I were already with my grandmother. I remember the funeral director coming and mum’s younger sister making the same sorts of decisions my siblings & I have just made. When my parents arrived my mother took on the role of caretaker of her mother; much as I’ve just done with her.
Mum’s mother went into a nursing home when she was in her 90’s and passed away quietly when she was 99. She had asked a nurse for a cup of tea and when the nurse came back Nan had just slipped away; no fuss. Nan hated to cause a fuss. I’d been to visit only a couple of weeks before and was back in the US when she died. Mum said “don’t come back” so I don’t know how she coped in that final step to becoming an orphan.
I’ve lost more friends than I have family. I never knew my paternal grandfather & I only met my paternal grandmother once when I stayed with her for 2 months in Guernsey after finishing high school. She never came to Australia; my father had left Guernsey in 1952 and only had one trip back while she was alive (1974).
We grew up with mum’s parents, Nan & Papa, being a huge influence in our lives. We lived on the farm; they lived in the town. We lived in dirt; they lived on bitumen. We saw them numerous times a week & I have many happy memories of weekends staying with them. But, by the time each passed away my life was far from that middle-of- nowhere town; Sydney when Papa died and Washington DC when Nan died. I was saddened but I was one step removed from them; I had my mother as the buffer. It occurs to me now that I probably never asked my mother how she was coping.
I took very few family photos during my 12 days home – one of my brother & his family the day after the funeral and this one below of my locksmith son and my daughter (the princess), the night before I flew back. In our culture we seem to be embarrassed by grief; I’ve been “strong” in front of my children and it probably seems to them that I have not been very upset over their grandfather’s passing which probably impacts somewhat on their own level of grieving. Life is a funny thing.