A few weeks ago, my doorbell rang. It was my uncle dropping off some things from my grandmother’s house. You see, my grandmother died in January. A few days after my 33rd birthday – while I was lying in hospital. This woman had been like my mother.
For ten years of my life she took care of me, she brushed my hair, she dressed me, she made my lunch. She loved me like I was her child. When I turned 13, I packed my bags and moved in with my dad but until then, her home had been my home. I loved her so very much.
Of course as you get older, life changes. You visit your grandparents as much as you can but life gets in the way. You can’t get away for as many weekends as you used to. You can’t stay as long as you’d like to. You’ve got University to attend, a job to get to, a family of your own. Life gets carried away.
You miss them but you speak on the phone so that’s okay.
Then they get older and Dementia kicks in and the conversations become harder and harder to handle. Repeated sentences and confusion and ramblings about things that make no sense. So you start calling only on days when you’ve got the time to sit around a while. You don’t call as often as you should because it’s just too inconvenient. You’ve got things to do.
And then, they die.
You weren’t expecting it, well you were but somewhere in the back of your mind. Not in the real part that does all the regular thinking. No, that part thinks, they’ll be fine. It will be fine. It will all be okay. But then it’s not.
My grandmother died and then she was gone. Gone from our lives, from our future but she remains forever in our hearts. In our minds and in our thoughts.
When these boxes arrived at my house, I didn’t know what was in them. I put off opening them for days, just let them sit there on my dining room table. A centre piece – a constant reminder of the dead.
Eventually when I got the courage to open them, one by one I took out mismatched crockery, a few plates, a jug, a sugar bowl with no lid. Some bowls, a couple of mugs, three tea cups and five saucers…. box two is filled with things I can’t even identify. Something weird that hangs, a lacy bathroom curtain, a bed box frame (I have no bed bases in my house), some table cloths, some things I think might have been intended to be serviettes? A collection of junk. Nothing in my style, nothing that suits my house. I’m unsure about what to do with this box of memories. So for days, they sit there.
Growing up, we were surrounded by her clutter. As an adult, I vowed never to be like that. Never to hold on to things I never use and yet here I sit with two boxes of things that I don’t need, wouldn’t choose for myself and have nowhere to put. Instead of letting them go, they stare up at me. Accusingly, as if not hanging on to these things means I’m throwing my grandmother away. These things she valued are a piece of her. A piece that haunts me now.
Letting go is so terribly hard to do. Saying goodbye hurts so much. It feels like the least I can do is respect the things she loved so much. But where does that leave me and my future? Holding on to ghosts?
I need to remind myself that I loved her when she was alive, I love her still. Holding on to boxes of old things I have no use for doesn’t mean I love her any more and letting go of it doesn’t mean I love her any less.
I have to admit though, of everything in those boxes, the hardest to find was an old dictionary belonging to my grandpa. I bought it for him ten years ago, for Christmas or his birthday, they’re on the same day so which ever one you choose. He used it every single day, it was old and it was worn.
Last year around June, he asked me for a new one, a small pocket dictionary that he can carry around with him. It took a while before I got to visit him and bring him the new one and when I did, my cousin’s wife had mended the old broken one. Seeing that dictionary broke me down. He died before he ever got to use the new one.
I put in on my bookshelf.
I guess I’m not very good at letting go!