Friday, February 26, 2010

Can time stand still?

Vacation is over. After all the anxiety about staying in my grandma's house without her, our stay came and went. It was hard being there without her. I spent a week feeling like something was missing. I've been wanting to write about it but wanted to wait until I could wrap my head around everything I was feeling. But I realized that isn't going to happen. All of the feelings, all of the emotions - they were so big. So present. So full. With a giant gaping hole smack in the middle.

When we arrived, driving into the community, everything looked the same. The people. The scenery. It was almost as if time had stood still since my last visit 8 years ago, January 2001. Walking into my grandma's apartment, I had remind myself to breathe.

In and out.


Instinctively, I looked at the corner of the couch. Her spot. And for a split second, I think that I really truly expected her to be sitting there awaiting our arrival. As if over the past eight years, she'd spent her days sitting and watching her programs just as she always had as we all lived our lives back in New York. When I looked at her spot and snapped back to reality realizing that she wasn't there, I felt such an unbearable pain shoot through my heart, it was as if I lost her all over again. And although it did lessen some over the course of the week, I felt that pain every single time I walked in that door and looked at that spot on the couch.

The first day we were there, everything I looked at made me cry. Things I haven't thought about in eight years. Things that if you asked me, I never would have remembered.

Like the toothbrush holder in the small bathroom. Or the dishes in the rack on the counter. Or the clock hanging on the wall in the kitchen. Or the sound of the doorbell.

All of my grandma's little things were still there. The same photos stuck in the side of the mirror. The same jar holding pocket change on the dresser. The same pillows on the rocking chair in the bedroom. At that point on that very first day, I had absolutely no idea how I was going to last 6 nights in this apartment without drowning in my own tears.

The only laugh during that first afternoon was when my daughter asked, "Mommy, why are there pictures of me in this hotel?" I couldn't explain to her that this wasn't a hotel. I couldn't explain the special-ness of this place. I felt almost like I shouldn't have to explain it to them. I wanted my kids to feel it in their hearts and in their souls. I wanted them to feel the same special-ness and happiness that I always felt in this place. I wanted them to feel the love. I wanted them to feel like she was there. Most of all, I wanted to feel like she was there. And on that first day, I cried for how empty the place was. Because even though some of her things were still there, she wasn't walking in the door or sitting in her rocking chair. I cried because I half thought I would feel happy, feel like she was there. And I didn't feel either.

Over the course of the week, things changed. My tears were slowly replaced with laughter. And stories. And showing my kids all of the things I used to do. All of the places I used to go. Silly things like how I would throw the garbage in the dumpster every night after dinner. Or walk down the street and visit my aunt. Or cut through the walkway at the building across the street to get to the pool. And all of these things made me happy. And smile. And remember. And feel like she was there.

There were times I could hear her, see her, feel her. I could hear her feet padding into the kitchen early in the morning. I could see her opening the freezer and taking her nightly ice cream snack. I could hear her yelling to my grandpa, "Murray, what do you think, someone's going to break in and steal you?" after she came home to find the front door locked. And I started to enjoy being in her house, around her things.

It was a week of significant reflection and so many memories. I thought about how much she would have loved my kids if she had the chance to meet them and how much she would have laughed with them. I thought about how although she would have loved them with her whole heart, she would have felt, and said, that being a great-grandma made her old. I remembered so many good things and felt so much closer to her, like I never wanted to leave this place that had changed from making me feel grief to making me feel somewhat comforted. But although I miss her so much, now more than ever, and would do anything to have her back even for a second, I feel like she did know that we were there, and she was there with us.

But most of all, I remembered how lucky I was to have my grandma until I was 27 years old. There aren't too many people who could say that.

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