all through the night

January 17, 2008

I think about my grandparents’ death every night when I’m trying to fall asleep. It hasn’t happened yet. I run through the different scenarios: On hospital beds, frail, wasted from chemotherapy; quick, unexpected, heart attacks that rip through their bodies; a car accident, utterly unremarkable. I wish they had died when I was a toddler, when I wouldn’t be able to remember my grandma’s impeccably drawn-on eyebrows and my grandpa’s stories about playing trumpet in the Marines. I would grow up and have kids, and my kids would ask, “Did you have a grandma and a grandpa?” and I would answer, “Yes, but I never knew them.” That would hurt so much less than this, laying for hours in the dark every night, stuck.

I see my grandparents on every holiday and when they leave, I cry, imagining that the last time I will ever see them alive has passed. I have a reputation of being very emotional, but really the only emotion I feel is fear.

It’s heresy to love your grandparents more than your mom and dad, in a way, if your mom and dad put in all the work and your grandparents were the ones giving you treats and letting you stay up later than your bedtime allowed. I understand this. But still, there is something soft, genteel about them, that pair that grew up before Woodstock and were raised on farms in Nebraska. They’re savvy, but not in that modern day sense where it means you think you understand things beyond your years. It’s obvious that they have exactly 76 years’ worth of knowledge each. They don’t pretend to know more.

Incapacitated for months, fired from my job. Tension builds with my husband. I become reticent, withdrawn, prone to eating pints of ice cream in one sitting. These are the things that will happen when my grandma dies. And grandpa. And this chain of events will occur twice in my lifetime. Then my nighttime visions will take a different form. There will be restlessness and uncertainty and a question will come up that will keep me wondering for the rest of my life: Will I ever see them again?


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