It's Not Less
So it's almost four years since we lost Alice and though I don't cry every day anymore, my heart still aches for her. I think it always will. Sometimes I see her out of the corner of my eye, wagging her tail, growing her little pirate growl (arrrrr! which she'd do on command for something good, like turkey), strutting around in her raincoat like the badass she was. I no longer see her neck turned painfully to one side or hear her yelp from the pain of that bad neck. I just see us, walking around Sunnyvale, going to work together, bobbing for hotdogs and oh yes, I will always hear the pirate growl. That soundtrack is stored deep within my heart.
I don't feel that way about Ellie. Ellie was ours for such a short time, and really, she was never really ours. She died 5 years ago this week (10/8) and though we honor her every single day through our Roos, I don't feel the same gut-wrenching heartache that I do about Al.
Right after Ellie died, I heard this piece on This American Life where they interviewed a family who honored their dead son through their restaurant. One of the relatives said something like "the loss doesn't get any easier, it only becomes less immediate." I've clung to that statement over the years, because for me, it's true.
The family all wore shirts indicating their relationship to their son -- Chad's Mom, Chad's Cousin, etc. At the time I imagined my shirt would say 'Ellie's Mom' but now I know that's not true. I wasn't really ever her mom, I just got to love her for a short time.
But Alice. I was 100% her mom. It didn't matter that we met when she was 9, that she died too soon, when she was 12, a month and 4 days old. Didn't matter a bit. We've had Zeus twice that time and I know in my heart that when we lose him, it won't be like it was for her. It won't be nearly as hard because we haven't been gypped of a single day. With Alice, I was robbed of at least 2 good years. I know this in my bones.
And so it is with Grandma. We were all robbed of 5 years, of those last 5 years where her world became just her bedroom, where holding court no longer took place at the breakfast table but around a hospital bed and a barcalounger, medical supplies and knitting all around us. She should have been walking around, driving her car no faster than 30mph, leaning on the shopping cart at Kroger as she bought Cokes for us kids, buying her own lottery tickets. I will always feel robbed of those years, just of the last 5, when things were so much harder for her than they should have been. She did not deserve that kind of pain, not after the 95 good years she'd put in to get to that point.
Right before she got the infection that eventually led to her being so damn sick for far too long, she was walking with just a cane. She said to my mom, "Look! I can do it!" Two days later she went to the hospital with what we thought was the flu but was actually a staph infection wreaking havoc on her body. She never really walked again after that.
This morning, I woke up crying. I'd been dreaming about Grandma (and inexplicably, we all had houses with pools in Las Vegas). We had a (also inexplicably) Baptist service celebrating her life, a service filled with song and joy and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Grandma across the aisle from me, smiling and singing her heart out.
When I turned to her, she was gone.
I will always feel the loss of all of them, of Alice, of Ellie and in so many profound ways, of Grandma. But if I had a t-shirt, I think in the end it would just say "Alice's Mom." Because the entire world was Martha's Grandchild, anyone who asked could call her Grandma. And if you ask me, everyone should have. She was the kind of storybook Grandma that I have no doubt some of you dreamed of having. That you didn't have her, I am sorry but I am oh so very grateful that I did.