I’d stayed up late again. I even documented it. I was happy that I had managed to write two days in a row. I’d honestly thought that the next time I wrote it would be much of the same. What a difference just a few hours make. It wasn’t until 4:30am that I again went to sleep. I was busy being busy. This morning I was awoken by a phone call from my mom. At first I didn’t think much of it. For all I knew it was already mid-afternoon and I had slept the morning away. The phone rang with the distinctive ringtone I have for her, Luther Vandross’s, Here and Now. In typical fashion I answered with my ear plugs in. The sound that came from the phone made no sense at all. I immediately knew something was wrong. My mother sounded labored, delirious, upset. I knew that sound, I remembered it from almost 8 years prior when my Aunt Gloria and my Papa died. I sat up in bed and Kenrick jumped from the bed ready to go and find my mother wherever she was. She sounded frantic. She kept repeating that she couldn’t find her car. It was somewhat nonsensical. My brain couldn’t understand why my mother sounded so bereaved because she couldn’t find her car. But then the words came that I never wanted to hear, the words that pierced like a knife through the confusion, “Mommy is gone!”
I was still coming to, my brain trying to keep up with the conversation, the sounds, the feelings. Nothing made sense, nothing felt real. There was a delay in my tears but they assuredly came as we neared the end of our conversation. My husband rushed back into bed and held me close. He hushed me in a manner similar to how my grandmother, the very one who’d just passed, would when I’d skinned my knee or was upset about something that had hurt me. I immediately wanted to call my grandfather to see how he was doing. I knew the answer but as their only granddaughter and oldest grandchild my thoughts gravitated back to my youth. The image of every night grandma and grandpa going off to bed together played back in my mind. They have shared the same room for the entirety of my life. And here I was, in that moment, thinking of what he would certainly feel when this dreadful day was done. I’d seen them together just two months ago as we all celebrated the wedding of their middle grandchild. There were even plans for her to come and visit this year. It was to have been a truly wonderful Thanksgiving with a big part of my Jamaican family here with us during the holiday. But that, as my mother said, wasn’t meant to be.
My mom, ever the diligent, devoted and loving daughter-in-law spoke to my grandmother with more regularity than any of us. That is her way. She’s the family’s historian, the family’s glue. Mom was broken. We’re both broken. Grandma wasn’t the same after suffering her first stroke a few years ago. It seems that over the past few years she’s suffered from other mini ones as well. Even two weeks ago she was in the hospital. We’d all thought that if it was going to happen, then would’ve been the time. However, she rebounded and seemed to be fine. She was by no means and invalid. She’d just slowed, retracted from the active life she once lived. The last thing she told our housekeeper of over 30 years on Friday was that she was looking forward to the trip because she was to also come along. Two women who’d changed my own diapers, two women whose relationship transcended that of employer and employee, broken.
I spoke with the middle grandchild, JJ when I tried to call my grandfather. However, I could hear my grandfather in the background. He was handling calls and keeping things together as he always does. We were there for JJ’s wedding and now, we’d be there for my grandmother’s funeral the day after his birthday. Those who know me now know that I’m no longer a religious person. And it is, I believe, because of that I was able to make it through thus far. The rational mind can be hindered (and some say even helped) by “religion.” In the past it was easy to be angered by life’s unfairness. Today, I just see it as one of life’s ultimate but necessary cruelties. The fact is, I still grieve even today for my grandmother’s sister, Aunt Gloria.
But in truth, I feel that I’d somehow prepared myself for this moment. I remember when I was in Jamaica in July that I wrote a recent newspaper article about the longest goodbye. I know that I didn’t call my grandmother as much as I should and that I have been keeping my distance. It wasn’t done out of selfishness, it was out of a need for preservation. I know she understood because she had done the same in little ways. However, I did speak to her a week ago and, as fate would have it, I was using Skype. I have an add-on program I purchased for Skype that is set to automatically record all my Skype calls. I have never been so grateful for a piece of software. The last call. There are only a few people in my life that I have ever truly loved. My grandmother is and will always be on that very short list.
My husband and I spent the day with my mom and dad. Dad and my brother were stoic. They’re always reserved. Mother and I are the more animated ones in these situations. When Kenrick and I got to the house my father was already there. My mom had not planned on telling him until he was home from work but realized that it was likely someone would call him and felt it best to let him know before that could happen. I know it pained her to have to tell him over the phone. Just like my Aunt Gloria and Grandma, upon our arrival my mother immediately asked us if we’d eaten and proceeded to whip up brunch in a matter of minutes. There were tears. There was laughter. We spent the day sharing in the wonder and love of the woman who tied us all together.
My husband and I finally decided to drink the bottle of wine that we’d had in the fridge for over a month. Arbor Mist Strawberry Mango Moscato. We finished the bottle. I was numb long before drinking the alcohol and although I can’t really tell if it’s in any way impacting or impairing me right now as I type, I do know that it was a true blessing that this happened on a day when we could all be together. I’m sure grandma didn’t know that this would’ve been her last day and none of us wanted it to be but in death she’s continuing to do what she did in life, unite us.
Although my Delta Amex was already maxed out when I booked our upcoming trip back to Jamaica, there was no doubt that we’d be there for the family, and with the family. I know I will miss her for the rest of my life. But I also know that I am a better person for having been so loved and cherished by my grandmother.