So far, this blog has gotten a great response. My goal was to help people. Even if it was just one person, to me that was success. But so far, I've had so many people reach out and tell their stories for the very first time and feel the vulnerable state that I have hopes in normalizing. So, in light of recent events and on behalf of my fellow readers who are experiencing some type of loss, I've decided it's time to give my Grandma and Nana the tribute they deserve.
Growing up, my Grandma and Nana (Great-Grandma) were my safe place. The way I saw it, they were the bit of innocence my life had left. They lived together for as long as I can remember and I loved going to stay with them because I got to be a kid and nothing more. My Nana was famous for her breakfast Oatmeal and Huge waffles with way to much peanut butter at my every request and my grandma was known for her cross words and yelling to my Nana to quit slamming the cabinets. I can recall admiring their hands holding mine and watching age wear on them at a slow pace over the years.
We enjoyed hours at the pool and repetitive stories about their friendly neighborhood squirrels while they lived in Oklahoma and we just couldn't get enough of them. Their love was so pure and genuine. I used to fantasize about love and ask my Nana stories and she'd go on and on about her husband who had passed and tell me stories about what life was like the years during and after the war. And then my grandma had this sweet, but stern no BS type of personality. From both of them, I got a true love. A real love that warmed my heart and made me feel like an actual kid, which for most of my time growing up, I was raising myself mentally and navigating the world alone. With them, I felt safe.
Around my junior year of high school, my grandma no longer lived with my nana and moved in with my mom. She moved in during a time of a lot of fights. I felt like she saw things for what they really were: petty fights. I wasn't an easy kid and she would say that, but she used to say, "at least you do good in school and you are working at a young age; I don't see what there is to fight about." I talked to her a lot and gosh, it was so great to have her around. I loved chatting, and we'd smoke cigarettes together and she would give me advice, ultimately convincing me to take over the world. (Grandma, I'm still working on it!)
But then things started to take a turn. I woke up late for school one morning and obviously was rushing. My Grandma was up, cooking in the kitchen and I had to ask for a note for school. (I hated doing this because she would always give me the "do better" speech.) But that day she didn't. She told me she turned my alarm off and to sit down. She passed me a plate of French toast and went off on a rant about how proud she was of me. That amongst everything I have been through, I still managed to survive and fight to be successful. She knew I was so smart and I was going to crush high school and be so successful in this world.
Now, I was just stunned. Why was she telling me this? I had to rush to leave and I kissed her goodbye for the last time. And I had no idea it would be my last time.
Everyday I went to school and then I went to work right afterwards at Jack in the Box. I was a team lead at the time so my shifts always ran long. I worked the whole night and got home around 3 am. I just remember being exhausted and I believe it was the weekend and I didn't have to go back to work until 3 pm the next day. I woke up around 10am and had some leftover Chinese that my family had while I was at work the night before and flipped on the TV. I remember gushing at the fact that I was the first one awake, especially since everyone always picked on me for my sleeping-in habit.
But it was about 1030 am at this point and I started to wonder where everyone was. My dad had left to work, my mom was known to sleep in when she didn't feel good, but where was grandma? I wanted to start getting ready for the day so I grabbed a towel and headed down to the bathroom but something was really wrong. I could just feel it. I swear the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up and the house was too quiet. I looked ahead and saw the door cracked to her room and the light was on. I pushed the door open only a couple inches and saw her, laying there. I didn't need to go in and check, I just knew. But I hoped and prayed I was wrong. I ran and woke up my mom. She didn't feel good so she was going to use the bathroom and then come to see what the commotion was about, but then I remembered.
This is my grandma's daughter we are talking about and I'm sending her to her worst nightmare. What the hell did I do? Why did I ask HER to check on grandma? So I ran back to my grandma's room, I pretended like I wasn't her grand-daughter and marched right in. Okay, I knew for sure now. I ran back out and stopped my mom and said "We need to call the police, grandma passed away. Please don't go in there, I already checked." And she got PISSED at me! She's a deep sleeper, she always does this, etc., etc. because in her head, she wasn't going accept what was really going on. So I got on the phone and made the call. The sheriff was on the way with the coroner but we lived far out of town, so it would be a little while. But, they were coming as quick as they could. My mom however, bulldozed past me and ran in there. I felt like I was watching everything from up above. I felt like I was in someone else's body watching my mom fall apart and watching myself just stand there. I felt like it wasn't real. To see a grown women break and scream at the God that she is so faithful to; it broke me. She begged her to wake up. My soul was screaming. What did I do? Why did I get her? Why did I wake her up? I could've just called. I could've took all the hurt and wore it alone. That hurt I would never want someone to wear, I gave it away and put it on her for no reason. I was so mad at myself. So, how could I cry?
I did all the things I was supposed to. I called my dad to get him back from work, I called my boss and said I needed the day, I did my best to comfort my mom who had no idea what the hell she was going to do. But all the while I wanted to run away. I want to leave. I wanted to go anywhere else but there.
I had nightmares for weeks. I kept dreaming she would come back. That while my mom and I stood in the living room, mortified, that my grandma would walk in and ask us what all the fuss was about. Like nothing happened. I felt all the relief in my dream, but of course, I always woke up. I woke up and felt the tragedy over and over and over again.
Here's the thing about grief. The minute you think you're moved on to the next stage, you have days where you are right back to square one. The biggest thing I learned is to turn to those you love and talk about all the emotions you are going through. And if you can't turn to family, turn to a crowd that understands. There are a lot of support groups out there that can help you and people you can turn to. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE.
My grandma would tell me not to cry, that it's normal and I'll see her again someday, "so stop being a drama queen!" So for her, I do that. And you should too. Whoever is it that you're losing or have already lost, you have to do for them what they would've wanted you to do. Stay strong, make them proud, and smile when you remember them. Because your loved ones don't want you to hurt or cry.
It's been 8 years since she's passed away and it feels like yesterday. That's 8 years closer to the day I see my grandma again.
Thank you for your time. There will be more and you will find out how I've managed to navigate through grief and losing a loved one, because this is only one part of a very dear experience to my heart.
Rest In Peace Hazel M. Clark. (Jan 17, 1950 - June 06, 2012)
I will love you forever and prove you right.