I don’t want to change my contacts. They were what helped me see the last moments of my grandma. They helped me see her breaths and stillness alike. I don’t want to throw away the two pairs of shoes I have filled with holes for the same reason, despite now living in Seattle where it rains regularly. My socks get wet and holes grow in my socks as if to match and protest what’s happening to the shoes themselves. I’m not ready.
When I saw her in December, I thought it would be the last time. I drove my car around to the side of the rehab hospital where I knew she could see me from her room. She was headed to therapy shortly before I left but I still went just in case she was there. I told her to look for me and I stood outside my car, waving and blowing her a kiss. She didn’t end up seeing me having been whisked away before I could get there. I hope someone else saw it and thought it was for them.
I kept the badge they gave me and stuck it onto the inside of the driver’s side door. It’s still there, trying to curl up on itself in the same way my grandma’s paralyzed hand did. From time to time, I try to open it and restick it properly onto the door. What a gift to be wrong. That wasn’t the last time I’d see her. Why do I keep it then? I don’t know right now.
A piece of me is gone and all I want to know is what pieces of those around me are missing too. I have no need to fill that missing part of me. I want to keep it just like my hole-y shoes and over worn contacts.
She intimidated me growing up. We didn’t have an exactly warm dynamic. She was private and strict with a lot of rules, a nice house, and a no nonsense attitude. She had a bad stroke when I was quite young and this seemed to soften her likely due to needing to ask for help. She let me roughhouse in her wheelchair, donning my paintball helmet to race around the marble floors of their giant house. She felt hard to connect with then.
The stroke should have likely killed her. Instead, I got the gift of nearly 20 years of extra time with her. I’m lucky to even remotely say I knew her. I’m lucky to have a hole in my heart in her absence. Even as I feel this luck deep within, I still can barely type through the tears.
Over time, we grew close. My granddad, her husband, dying accelerated that nearly 8 years ago. I remember calling her during Pride in San Francisco where I had just moved. A friend and her partner were in town but I stepped outside when she called me back. Within a minute, she was in tears, unable to speak due to her stroke making it too difficult to create words mixed amongst the tears and emotions. I talked to her trying to offer comfort before she soon hung up.
On May 26th of last year, I wrote this in my private blog:
Cut to today and my dad asked if I was up for facetiming my grandma as she wasn’t doing so well missing granddad. I jumped at the chance. We were in tears hardly a minute into it. When she cries, she can’t really speak so I just spoke at her sharing how I cried last night, how awful it feels to miss someone so much, how hard this year has been, how we are both likely thawing out after being numbed out for so long, and how while she might feel alone she isn’t. She said she hates feeling this way. I agreed and laughed. I told her that’s what chocolate was for. I told her about voicemails of granddad that I listen to and how I carry them with me wherever I go (“I’ll see a beautiful mountain view and just pretend you all are there”). We cried until she had to go. I texted my dad after that saying I know I didn’t make her feel better but that I hoped I helped her feel less alone. I passed along audio recordings of voicemails from him to play for her. I can hardly think about work now.
I feel as though the crying flood gates are open and I’ll just weep for days. Oh to thaw out. Oh to feel.
It was all extra. It was all extra. It was all extra.