Friday, September 26, 2008

My other grandmother, my dad's mother, died this morning. That makes the fourth death in the family this year. My aunt died in February, my maternal grandmother died three weeks later, and my great-uncle Fred died a few weeks after that. Now my paternal grandmother is gone, and I feel like I should be sadder. There are a handful of reasons why I'm taking this latest news so well. First, I simply have death fatigue. I'm tired of grieving. Second, my grandmother hadn't been herself for several years. Her death was sooner than expected, but still expected. She had Alzheimer's, diabetes, and renal and liver failure. She spent most of her time sleeping and repeating the same few lines of small talk over and over. I resigned myself to the fact that my grandmother was gone three or four years ago when she stopped bathing, combing her hair, clipping her fingernails and toenails, and managing her insulin and had to be placed in a nursing home. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's shortly thereafter. My dad, while definitely sad, mostly sounded relieved today. I also feel that relief. I don't want to see my relatives linger and decay, and I don't want to linger and decay myself. Third, I had little in common with my dad's mother. While I had, and have, so much to say about my maternal grandmother, an attempt to capture some of my paternal grandmother's life in as unsatisfactory a medium as a blog post would look something like this: She loved her family, liked to watch Murder, She Wrote and gossiped about the neighbors. We didn't really have conversations, just exchanges of small talk and occasional news about family and friends. However, I do remember her with affection. The last time she was well, about five years ago, I was home for a visit. My brother, sister, father, and I were eating dinner and watching a nature documentary about blue whales on PBS or Discovery. Soon, the topic of blue whale sexual reproduction came up, and the whale's gigantic penis filled the screen, popping out and wiggling around, looking for blue whale love. It was nearly the size of a medium-sized tree trunk. The narrator discussed the difficulties of attracting a mate in the ocean. My grandmother looked up from her fried chicken and said, "He's bound to get something with that thing." I will fondly remember her making way too many frozen pizzas every Christmas Eve, overestimating the size of our family by at least six people. I'll also remember mowing her and my grandfather's lawn every week for six or seven years, coming inside after I was done to eat a ham and cheese sandwich, drink a strawberry pop, and collect my five dollars.
On campus today, I heard a girl in the library answer her cellphone and say, "Hi, Grandma." I immediately thought to myself, "I don't have any grandmothers anymore. I had two of them and now I have none." I have only one grandparent left, my mother's dad. Two weeks ago, my 92-year-old great-uncle Swede had to move into the nursing home. The old generation in my family is rapidly disappearing. My parents, aunts, and uncles are slowly, but not too slowly, becoming that old generation, while I can put "middle-aged man" on my business card in less than nine years. My mother visited the cemetery in my hometown last week to see her mother's headstone and looked around a bit afterward. She said, "I know so many people there," before waiting a beat and correcting herself -- "knew so many people there." Someday, I'll be old, if I'm (un)lucky.
I decided to just get on with my life today, and the rest of the week. I went to class today. Movie night is still on for Saturday, band practice for Sunday. I made myself scarce after my aunt's and maternal grandmother's deaths, but I'm in a different place now. I think getting on with the business of living is the best way to proceed this time. What a year.

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