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moof's prattling


January 20th, 2014

prehistory of the moof, part III: deaaaaaath @ 01:32 pm

When I was 3-ish, we trundled up to Wisconsin to see my great-aunt in the hospital; it was her 88th birthday. She seemed nice enough, I guess? I don't remember having met her before, and my dad seemingly had a zillion relatives who he knew pretty well, so she blended in with the crowd. We came back to see her the next day, and I guess sometime during the visit she died. I knew you were supposed to get upset at people dying, so I cried for a bit, and my grandpa took me for a walk to console me - not that I actually needed consoling, but probably did actually need to get out of the room where the adults were gathered.

My next funerals were when I was 16 (and thus solidly in protomoof territory); my paternal grandparents and maternal grandma all died within six or seven months of each other. The first to go was my dad's father; he'd had Parkinson's for years, and had been in really bad shape. The last time I'd seen him was when he was restrained in a wheelchair (to keep from falling out), and he knew his mind was fading quickly; it was heartbreaking to see. I wanted to be one of the pallbearers, but grandma had already decided everything in advance, and it was usually best not to go up against her.

Next was my maternal grandmother; she'd had Alzheimer's for at least four-five years, and she'd turned into a husk of her former self. Occasionally you would see flashes of her prior intellect and personality, but there really wasn't anybody home. Unlike grandpa, she wasn't aware of her own descent, but it was extremely painful for mom. The funeral there was kind of a shock: when I saw her body, she had her hair done, and was dressed nicely; she looked almost regal. Powerfully evocative of the woman she hadn't been for quite some time. I guess the best word, strange as it may sound, to describe the funeral was "pleasant" - it was a release, a relief to everyone involved, and a time for people to get together and eat hotdish and reconnect.

Finally, my paternal grandmother. She frightened me and my siblings when we were younger; she had a sharp wit and a sharper tongue. (In later years, it was somewhat of a relief to hear my mom express the same sentiments.) She had the bad luck to be an intelligent, ambitious woman in then-rural Wisconsin born near the turn of the century, and was bitter about her lack of opportunities to the end of her days. I suspect she's the source of the Aspie tendencies of my father and me, too; she could be casually, unthinkingly, harsh without realizing or thinking about what she'd done. She'd had ovarian cancer before grandpa died, and had mostly recovered from it - but after he died, she went into remission, and died within the year. Pretty much, she lost the will to live without him.

What's probably the biggest influence on my life happened much earlier, though. When I was 12 or so, I found an embroidered pillow with the names and birthdates of me, my siblings, and my maternal cousins - and then one more name, a few years earlier than the rest of us, that I didn't recognize. A few days after asking my parents "Who's Christine?" my parents sat me and the sibs down: four years before I was born, my parents were driving their firstborn child home from the hospital, when a drunk driver plowed into them. Christine died in the accident. Mom lost her front teeth, too. As they put it, they almost broke up, and couldn't find enjoyment in anything for years; they still recall the exact moment when the laughed about something again. (Mom had accidentally her paycheck in the trash, and dad had to go digging around for it in the dumpster.) I'd wondered if they were a little bit overprotective; yeah, not a surprise, in retrospect.

To this day I wonder if it's a coincidence my middle name is "Kristian"; while my Mom swears up and down that it's some great-uncle of hers or something and has nothing to do with Christine, I have my doubts.
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Date:January 21st, 2014 05:24 am (UTC)
A moving post, thanks for writing it.

My mom had a late miscarriage about four years before I was born. It would have been my parents' firstborn. That was hard enough (harder on my mother than my father - she blamed herself). I can't imagine what it would be like to lose a child in an accident like your parents went through - it's incredible they worked through it and moved forward.

moof's prattling