My maternal grandmother, Leila Joyce “Joy” Greenwood, passed away at around 6 am this morning. She was 94. She is survived by three daughters, seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
A few years ago, I was instrumental in getting her into the care of a nursing home when it became evident she wasn’t coping too well on her own. She didn’t like it one bit, and was pretty peeved at me, but that didn’t matter. She probably lived a number of years longer for it, and towards the end, when her memory had faded to the point where she no longer recognised me, I knew that whether or not she’d forgiven me, it didn’t matter; I was forgotten, and so were my actions.
I guess it was at that point that I really began any grieving for her. This might explain my numbness now. I’m not grieving my grandmother, but I am sad and concerned for my mum.
Grief is a funny thing, though. When I spoke to my mother this morning, she informed me that while the phone call from the nursing home was expected, the news was still a shock. That shock, mum told me, soon wore off, and now she feels, while sad, a little relieved. After all, Joy had been in failing health for a long time, and been in palliative care for a week or so. However, that doesn’t mean mum has finished grieving. I know only too well that the sorrow can come back in waves, months or even years later. I still find myself having conversations in my head with some of the deceased who were near to me, some several years after their passing. There’s every chance that while my mum says she’s fine now, she might not be later.
I can’t speak for my mother or her sisters when it comes to their memories of my grandmother. Mine, however, really are a mixed bag. As a kid, she was at times fun and slightly mad… Okay, maybe a bit more than slightly. Truth be told, we’d all long held the opinion that she was bat-shit crazy. She could also be stern and given to dishing out harsh punishments for perceived misdeeds, even if those receiving them were completely innocent. Once, she washed my mouth out with soap because she thought I’d done something naughty. Sure I did a lot of naughty things as a kid, but that particular time, I wasn’t guilty and none of my protestations would change her mind.
A few years later, my cousin Phil and I built a billy-cart and loaded Gran onto it and sent her hurtling down the middle of her street. It got the speed wobbles and fell apart, sending the poor old duck sprawling, howling with laughter all the way. “Fiends!”, she yelled. “Villains!” But she wasn’t angry. Far from it. She thought it was a hoot. Another time, she ruined all my mother’s baking trays by using them as sleds and sliding down the stairs on them with some of her other grandchildren.
I don’t know if I’ll treasure these memories, and others like them, or try to keep them, while also trying to forget the bad ones. One thing I do know is, though it’s a sad time, I’m a little relieved and hopefully jealous. Is that such a thing? The Germans probably have a word for it, same as they do “schadenfreude”, which is the pleasure one feels at someone else’s misfortune. When I go, I’d like to not know it’s coming. Gran went in her sleep, completely unaware of what was coming thanks to the wonders of morphine-induced bliss.
So long Gran. If our mad family has any black sheep, you were certainly one of them and will be missed more for that than anything, I guess. Take care out there, wherever you are, and next time if someone asks if you want to test drive a billy-cart, tell ’em since they built it, they should be the ones to test it.