Astride The Broken Glass – Losing My Grandmother, And Keeping My Hope
From my journal on 10-1-12
I originally journaled the writing below on October 1, 2012. What inspired me to write it in the first place was a conversation with my grandma Dede. Dede’s “grown up” name is Dorma, and she has been sick for the last few years, and she has slowly gotten weaker and weaker. That sickness recently took a turn for the worse, and she passed away on Sunday night at 8 PM. This is been very hard for our family, but we had quite a bit of time to prepare ourselves, and everyone got to say goodbye. We all told her that it was time to let go, and fifteen minutes after my dad told her it was time and came home she took her last breath. I’m getting pretty worked up thinking about this right now, but it’s still a very fresh wound.
Over the last few years Dede has lived about a mile and a half from my parents, and so I’ve gotten to see her all a lot. I decided to record some of our conversations on my phone’s voice memo app (I recommend doing this with your loved ones), and I plan to go back through those and listen to them to share with others, because some of them are pretty long.
Dede raised three wonderful children, including my dad, and she has lived through having 2 successful marriages that each tragically ended too early. She was always very politically aware, and more up-to-date on current events than any of the young people in our family… She had become a pro at knowing who to listen to, to find out what was going on in the world, or at least who was saying what. In the last few days of being able to speak she actually said to my cousin Travis that he needed to watch Morning Joe everyday (it’s free on iTunes), because “they are the fairest option right now”, and she insisted that it’s important to know what’s going on. I’m very proud and happy the Dede has been and will continue to be part of my life. I probably should’ve shown her this journal entry before she passed away, but she would still want me to post it, as I think that she would’ve appreciated much of what it says, but was were able to talk about plenty and I won’t have regrets.
One thing that I usually try to avoid when people start talking about death is what I will get to keep from them in terms of possessions. I usually don’t care at all, however I decided a little while back that I wanted to ask Dede for her signed Hillary Clinton book “It Takes a Village”, she was very proud of that when I was little boy, and my sister Claire found it on her bookshelf, and so that and a few other books that represent our relationship pretty well. I’m sorry this is so long, but it’s hard to lose someone, and when I stop writing part of me is saying goodbye… I love Dede, and I’m so glad that she was a part of my life. Sorry for being sappy, but this is my blog, and she was my wonderful grandma. I hope you enjoy the journal entry, as I’m sure she would have. This is a journal entry, so it’s not perfect, but it comes straight from my heart, which is grieving right now, and it feels right to post it. Maybe it’s time to take a moment in your day to call someone that you love, and maybe just put it in your calendar to do it regularly so that it becomes a habit. And maybe record your conversations with your grandparents on your phone, or something like that – just plan ahead to fit people who you love into your life.
Astride the Broken Glass
I would like to discuss the lives of my mother and my grandmothers. It’s difficult to write about my mother and grandmothers in such a personal way while they are alive, life’s closest bonds can seem to feel like a secret. Sometimes being in a crowd with someone you adore feels like a private understanding of faith and trust in someone that should remain unspoken.
My mother has encouraged me my entire life that no question is a bad question, and by that I mean that no question makes you a bad person if it is asked sincerely with earnest curiosity. I’ve felt this since I was a young boy. But as stories change in time (ie: a big fish story), so changes the way one comes to understand one whom they admire. I want to tell the story of my mother and grandmothers, whom I admire.
Hearing a story about someone who loves their parent is not all too foreign a story in the world, but I feel that we are living in a time where the parental paradigm has shifted, and I feel like I’ve had a front row sweat. When a family member is lost the tenth degree of inconvenient cannot describe the vacuum that one can feel in their center. I have been fortunate not to lose too many members of my family. But as I’ve witnessed the lives of the women who occupy my own life I notice a growth that has become a mysterious trove of history in my family that I have felt incredibly blessed to have observed. Both of my grandmothers are still alive, and though they are very different from one another they both have had very profound impacts of my life.
DeDe: She tends to want to talk about the now, and the future. She is always very up-to-date on what is going on. Dede has been a passive leader of my family, and managed to raised 3 successful children with strength and grace. We weren’t as close when I was young, but at some point I figured out that her role in my life is unique, she’s helped to teach me boundaries and expectations.
Dede was always very well kept. She was a very classy woman.
Honey: My mother’s mother loves to talk about the past, as she has very high expectations for humankind. She is very religious, and sometimes it’s almost as if she has been picked right of the 1950’s. She has experienced a lot of grief in her life, and she still manages to laugh, and I love our family so much. She has strength that I’ll probably never know.
Honey and I took an impromptu nap while she was telling me stories recently.
Mom: My mother has been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember, and she is now flipping houses (where did that come from?!)… She raised 3 college graduates (and 2 highly educated women – a doctor of psychology, and a lawyer). She has been an example of how to surround yourself with love, and also how to be strong through pain. And when I say pain I mean physical pain, as she has undergone a multitude of major surgeries on her back shoulders and hip, and yet she won’t slow down… Sometimes I like to try to picture her on my grandpa’s old ranch land, just being a little cowgirl, because in a lot of ways she still is.
The degree of personal freedom for women has changed over a few generations, and things are getting better! Of course for a lot of people this starts to sound like a conversation about abortion, but that’s not what I am talking about. I am talking about women being treated with dignity and respect for their abilities. When I look at the lives of my grandmas, my mother, and my sisters there are some very stark contrasts when it comes to opportunities and expectations. My grandmothers were obviously supposed to be homemakers, according to society. My mother was able to live through a period of time where women could work, but obviously there was a stigma about what kind of jobs they could have (ie: Mad Men), and she was able to watch the discussion brew over women working and making it home. Now women like my sisters, and others in their generation are much more likely to have high-paying, or more powerful jobs, and for some of them the debate is not how to both have a job and make a home, but whether or not to do both. We are still living in a very transformative time. I think that as people realize this they need to start asking the question about how they can support women progressing in this world, and my best guess is that it’s done a microlevel with the woman that you know, encourage them! Regardless of the national debate over policy and laws for women’s freedom and what course it might take, the real fight will be lead by women who make a change – like my mother, and like my grandmothers.
I don’t believe that having a fighting spirit is something to be shunned, yet I still consider myself an altruist. Women in leadership roles will continue to encounter struggle, but I can’t help but be inspired by watching this flower bloom, and my sister’s have become the next peddle on the rose… Having a since of human pride I am sometimes slow to concede to my sister’s, but they have crossed a void that I will doubtfully ever cross by comparison. One of my sisters is a doctor and the other is a lawyer (this sounds like some kind of a joke I know), and they have each been met with challenges, and they have taken those challenges head on. Thanks to women like Dede and Honey there has been a path and an example for women like my mom. Observing the chain reaction between my grandmothers and my mother, and then from my mother to my sisters has been very humbling. Younger women like my sisters are going to change the world… And I couldn’t be more proud.
We’ll miss you Dede, and I’ll be listening to our old conversations for a long, long time 🙂