Pay No Attention to the Melancholy Behind the Curtain…

I lost my grandmother in January.

Lost is kind of a odd word here, I believe. I mean, I didn’t really lose her… I know where she went. What happened to her.

Just as I know about the cancer.

And the struggle that I refused to acknowledge out of the simple desire to hold on to the fact that nothing like that had ever happened to anyone that I loved.

That we were, in terms of health at least, invincible.

Until six years ago, both of my great-grandmothers on my mother’s side of the family were still hearty and significantly more “whole” than one would expect women who have lived nearly a century to be. As a matter of fact, one of them continues to be so. The other, who I was much closer to, smoked like the freight-trains she worked around for forty years, cursed like the dirtiest of sailors, lived through two husbands, survived great depressions of all kinds, and died in her bed at the ripe old age of “older than Methuselah”.

Her daughter, on the other hand, was 67 when she died.


To my eyes, ears, mind, and heart, a number that remains a far cry away from a century. A far cry away from an age where a final good-bye is warranted or deserved. An even farther cry away from being some sort of marker for a death that was to be expected.

Despite the cancer.

Despite what everyone else’s eyes and ears and minds and hearts told them.


At her funeral, we were asked to say a few words– of her, of memories, of what she meant to us, of whatever came to mind, I guess. And I did. I stood up and said a few words that were as unprepared as words could ever be. Not only because I wasn’t expecting to speak, but because I wasn’t actually expecting her to die.

I expected to call home every couple of months for the recipe to her caramel cake or broccoli casserole. I expected to check in with her every once in a while to see how things were going. I expected to stop by and visit whenever I happened to be in town. I expected her to tell me how old and tired she was in one breath while telling me that I needed to cut my son’s hair in another.

I expected to be able to continue to take her for granted. Because she was my grandmother, and that’s what children do to grandmothers.

What I expected was invincibility.


Wrinkles upon wrinkles and two packs a day and a century.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Despite the cancer.

And now I sit here, a granddaughter without a grandmother. A thirty-year-old woman whose expectations of life have somehow become different with not the loss of her grandmother, but the loss of a part of herself.

Because I didn’t really lose her… I know where she went.

It’s where I am- that point where forever becomes but a moment, a lifetime but a day, a child unwillingly an adult- that scares me.

July 24, 2008
Categories: Daily

1.©2008 by Courtney Hebert as Judith Shakespeare.
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