Five years ago I sat in this very Starbucks on a Saturday morning lamenting the loss of my grandfather, Hugo. Today I’m sitting in the same place, thinking about how I just lost my grandmother, Phyllis, as well. My cousin called me this morning while I was at work but I could not pick right up since I was on a call with a client. Her voicemail had all of the makings of a call I didn’t want to return - short, to the point, no greetings or anything friendly.
Sure enough, it was exactly what I had thought. Grandma passed away last night in her sleep and now she had joined my grandpa wherever they may be. Truth is, she had wanted to go for some time now. She missed my grandpa tremendously and had, more than once, wondered why she was still here when all she wanted to do was be with him. It always made me tear up when she said that because the thought of losing them both was just too much. They basically raised me and were certainly more “parental” than my mother was.
I really do not have anything but good memories of my grandma. She was always nice and never really got mad at me. Sure, when I was a kid she made me go grab my own switch off the tree for punishment (see, you can punish your kids without repercussion, Parents Who Refuse to Discipline Their Mongrels), but, whatever. I probably deserved it so why complain? I guess the one bad memory I do have, actually, is when I made her cry when I was in middle school. She was giving me a haircut and whatever she did was not up to my lofty standards so I got mad and yelled at her. She got upset and took off into the house, crying as she did. At the time I do not think that I cared or realized what I’d done. Looking back, it was obviously completely selfish and a completely dickheaded move. She was trying her best and doing what she could for me and I was a spoiled little prick about it. I never did apologize but I think in the grand scheme, it did not seem to bother her much afterward. She never brought it up again so hopefully that was the case.
I remember lobbying her for a Super Nintendo in the 7th grade and explaining just why I had to have one! Fairly certain there were some charts and graphs involved showing how I was doing my chores and getting good grades in school. Turns out, she had bought on for me already and was going to give it to me at Christmas. My lobbying was happening in July. Well, when I woke up the next morning, there was a nice new Super Nintendo waiting for me in the dining room.
At one point in my adult life, she also kept me out of jail, so that was nice of her as well. She jumped in at the last minute to cover the cost of me essentially getting caught for check fraud and it was not a cheap bailout. My grandparents also bought my first and second cars for me. At the same time, they also paid off my credit card debt though I did not ask for it. Naturally, I decided to screw myself over more and use them again the last few years, but, that is my fault and doing.I never understood why they offered that up and I felt terrible taking the money. Nobody in my family knows either and I aim to keep it that way, really. So, shhh, Tumblr! :)
I think my favorite memory is of us singing together down on The Property in Murrieta. Grandma and Grandpa owned 7 acres of land down in that area that they’d initially planned on retiring to. Since there was so much space, they had planted dozens of fruit and citrus trees. We had to drive down there every few weeks in order to water them and clean the place up. Grandpa would take a chair up on one of the hills and pick of ground squirrels with his .22 as well. We spent numerous Easter weekends down there and I always found the most well-hidden eggs and baskets.
During the weekends when we went down, we would walk up to the trees to water, Grandma and I. We would sit in the shade of the tangelo trees on concrete benches my Grandpa made at the shop singing together.
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. So please don’t take my sunshine away.
I cannot believe I still remember the words to that…
Just thinking about that song, let alone saying the words, has made me tear up for the last few years now. Writing that down brought me to the verge of tears and, boy, is it hard to hold this all in so that the hipsters here do not silently judge me…
Now, I am left to my own devices without my grandparents. Grandma deteriorated quickly this year. Her mind becoming less sharp as she had less to do. My mother lived in the house, but, they did not speak. My mom would just lay in her room watching television all day while my poor grandmother - who could hardly move around due to her heart and lung problems - just sat in the living room day after day. No one to talk to. Nothing to read since her eyesight had likely gone almost completely at this point. She probably just sat there all day, eyes closed, wondering where the love of her life was and why he had to leave. I imagine she is better off now though, to be honest. She was not living any kind of life recently. In fact, she probably deteriorated the way she did because my mother refused to display any sense of decency and bury their past as her mother wasted away in front of her. A mind left with no stimulation falls apart quickly.
The worst part was that I did not make it up there the last couple years nor did I speak with her in the last month or so. Each time I called, my mother just said she was asleep. I never made a trip because I never took the time despite going to plenty of other places for the weekend. That means I am batting 1000 when it comes to not seeing my grandparents before they die. I did not go see Grandpa because I could not bring myself to see him in the state he was. Plus, he said he would probably be gone by the time I got there anyway so do not bother. He was always funny and witty even to the end. Grandma, on the other hand, I just did not visit. Subconsciously, I probably did not go for the same reasons. I did not want to see my poor, withered away grandma, I want to remember her as she was.
Well, death and all its finality has surfaced once more and there is nothing to do other than move forward. The world spins, people walk by and nothing has changed. I have to decide how I will interact with my family, if at all. This will certainly spiral into some kind of shit show and remind me of all the reasons I do not speak to most of these people.
I will miss my Grandma tremendously. I will miss talking to her each week and constantly playing along with her asking how my job in Beverly Hills is going since she could never remember where exactly I worked. How she would procrastinate every morning while getting ready for work and then how she would suddenly transform into a bat out of hell to get dressed in the last 30 minutes! I will remember how much she loved me and how far out of her way she went for me so many times in my life when I did not really deserve it. Most of all, I will just remember her for all of the good she brought to me and how she helped shape me as a person, for better or worse.
RIP Phyllis Bracci