Do you ever pre-mourn something? Something you know is inevitable, so you start processing the feelings in advance, even though it hasn’t happened? I’ve been doing that the last couple of weeks, for my grandma. She’s 93, in an extended-care facility, and while reasonably healthy she’s slowly losing her mind. I’ve dreamed about her packing her bags to leave, heard reports from my mom that her short-term memory is gone, and am afraid that she won’t know me at all the next time I see her. She very well may be around for a few more years, but she won’t be Grambie to me. She’ll be like her own mother, the one I remember mostly as a frail bird perched on the edge of her bed in a nursing home, spitting cookie-bits across the room when she couldn’t gum them well enough. I never really knew my great-grandmother before she was senile, so there wasn’t a relationship to mourn.
Grambie Rotten Kid Rule and I? I can’t even begin to tell you how much she means to me. I’ve always had her in my life. Babysitting me as a child, making popcorn and letting me listen to Bill Cosby records. Sewing tiny doll clothes, dresses for me, and then finishing anything that I started to sew on my own but inevitably got hung up on. Burying my head in her lap, digging through her bottomless purse during church and sucking on the tiny fruit candies she always had in a tin. Watching her fold her handkerchief into babies in a cradle. Listening to her stories of growing up in Kansas City, about being a tomboy until she had to take on responsibilities too young. Knowing in my heart that I was a lot like her, that the love we share had a special fierceness to it. I’m afraid of that fierceness fading, and not being able to put my head in the lap of the bird she’s becoming. Of being lost to her.
She asked me years ago, when she was about to go into a home and lose her car (which equalled freedom and life to her) for permission to go. Somehow I knew she was going to ask and had prepared myself to give it to her, which I did. Watching her go slowly, fading a bit with each conversation and visit? I didn’t expect that, nor did I realize how it would feel. So I mourn her life before she’s left it, and wonder if this is the year. She’s 93, I’m 39, and I still love her so fiercely it hurts.