It’s a pretty average Thursday at work. I respond to common-place emails and try to sit still. And then I’m completely still. A moment between parking reservations and room confirmations…a moment of grief and longing and nostalgia and wonder and love and light found me. Pushed me properly into my swivel chair. My fingers no longer typing. Instead they relax open as I rest the back of each hand on my legs. A tide of the unknown in the category of feelings heading my way. Yet I sit so still.
Oh! Oh…it’s a sensation completely unique in it’s complexity. I’m talking about that sensation of missing someone whose no longer alive. A bruise-to-the-touch feeling. Starts and stays at the heart.
I felt the strongest need to see my Grandma Mac. I miss you. That’s all I wanted to say. I wanted her validation specifically.
“Grandma, it’s weird…it’s beautifully strange. I miss you in a different way in this moment. The intensity a slightly different frequency and I don’t quite know what that means. But I miss you as a woman you’ve never met. And that’s not the weird part…the beautifully strange part is that I know (a knowing from the root of the root) that you already knew me as a woman before I grew into her. And you were never worried. Even when I got lost and lost and lost again in my 20’s.”
And then just at the top, just before the creschendo of it feeling painfully unbearable, like a small cut on the lungs…I felt peace. Light.
I think about her often; however, it had been a while since I missed her so intensily. Unquenchably. Opening. I let myself miss her and I didn’t break onto the floor. I let myself really miss her knowing the absolute impermanence of this silly thing called life. I let myself miss her without knowing what to do with it. I carried my grief with compassion. Maybe for the first time.
This otherwise average Thursday continues. The end of the day finds me at home and a bit cranky and still in the ‘on’ mode that work demands. I attempt an impromptu exercise known as mindful vacuuming. Which abruptly ends when I jam the vacuum into the corner of a box peeking out from under the bed. That’s it. I turn off the vacuum a bit dramatically. I use my heel and yank this troublesome box completely out.
It’s one of the many boxes filled with a mish-mash of memories from unmarked decades. Which is why I paused when I saw the open Strathmore sketchbook on top. I collected them and filled their pages specifically in my college years. The time of life when feelings needed space outside of the lines..
The book is open to a page covered by very deliberate handwriting. Extra small and extra neat. A sign that I was pulling these words from a delicate place.
The first line read: “SometimesI have to remind myself that it’s ok to miss someone.”
The vibrant red of my crankiness diffuses. Despite the bed and the chair I sit on the floor. This entry is from May 2011 and a year after the aforementioned Grandma passed away.
Again I feel the energy of unique to nostalgia and longing and grief. I let myself miss her again.
I read over each word knowing they were once coaxed out by a 21 year old version of me. She’s still a girl who doesn’t know exactly how to carry loss. She’s asking for validation in a journal hoping some other part of her will know the right words.
Grief, for me at 21 and still at 29 is a very private act. Not out of shame or denial. It’s because I want to be alone with the one I miss. I want to know where I feel their absence. I need to touch that place. So that I can remember them wholly. With tears and laughter. With anger and fear. With grappling acceptance.
Even still, at the center of grief waits a loneliness so pure it can feel frightening. Like your bones may break the same minute you forget how to breath.
But in this moment, on the floor I feel something weird…something beautifully strange. The girl at the door of her 20’s and the woman curiously toying with her 30’s…reach for each other.
Eight years ago I held grief in two hands and tried to accept it. Wanting, ultimately, the same thing I wanted this morning. Validation. For someone to touch that still-raw place and say, “Miss her, baby. Miss her until you know how to get off this floor.”
And I felt more than heard those words. From the place just beside my heart. Where I carry my Grandma and the light she gave me.
Below is the excerpt (no edits made). Sharing her memory with the world through my writing…that’s how I get to meet her as a woman.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s ok to miss someone. Even when the act of ‘feeling’ can’t change anything. Can’t bring them back.
My grandma’s house smelled like freshly brewed coffee in the mornings and spaghetti at night.
Only on Friday’s were we allowed a diet soda and popcorn.
She had a candy tray of Hershey kisses. A chocolate in exchange for a real kiss.
Her refridgerator was covered in magnets. Family and friends never returned from their travels without a new one for her.
On Thursday nights, Sarah and I would watch survivor on her couch. She’d call each family member during the commercials to ask who they believed would be voted off. After the show, she’d watch us walk three houses down.
My grandmas was my neighbor.
She pronounced wash ‘warsh’ and always used those corn on the cob holders.
Her house was covered in butterflies.
She sent us to the ‘time-out’ chair, made us take naps, assigned us chores…she taught us to be respectable adults.
Sarah and I used to sneak her hair spray. I’ve never come across another bottle of that brand.
Her vices were hostess cupcakes and Pay Day candy bars. Both kept in the freezer.
She never seemed tired. Even after raising ten grandchildren.
She never seemed scared. Even after fighting seven years of cancer.
She always took home napkins and condiment packets from restaurants. She always held onto food a bit past its expiration date. Ok…years past its expiration date.
She’d send Papa after us when we called from the nurses office at school.
She loved Hamburger Factory and the slots and her Chargers.
She taught me how to tie my shoes, how to roller blade and even how to walk on stilts.
She never missed a place, a dance recital, a baseball game, a soccer game, a basketball game, a band concert or a birthday.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that being afraid that I’ll forget is valid but impossible when you love someone that much.
Thank you for reading and listening as I unpacked this ‘average’ Thursday.
With love & more love for good measure,