amanda_lodden: (Default)
I miss my mom.

If you haven't already done so, call or visit yours. Time passes faster than you think it will.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
I miss my mom.

If you haven't already done so, call or visit yours. Time passes faster than you think it will.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
I started poking through my old emails and put a few of them up on livejournal. One of them was the email I sent the day my grandmother died, and that sparked a whole lot of memories. The thing I remember most about her dying was that for months afterward, the only picture of her I could bring to mind was her corpse lying in her bed, the way I found her. Eventually, I could bring up the image of her lying in the coffin afterward, but it wasn't until almost a year later that I could remember anything about her life without first remembering her death.

This trend has continued in the memories tonight. The first memories to come back were the ones I wrote about in the email: finding her, trying to stay calm for my grandfather's sake, having a sheriff's deputy gently walk me through the process of actually dealing with a dead body. And then the ones the email was too early to know about: picking a coffin, picking an outfit for her to wear, picking flowers for the top of the coffin, sitting at the funeral with Grandpa asking every hour or so who the woman up front was (Alzheimer's is horrible), and longing to hear the words that I had utterly hated less than a week before: the crack-of-dawn, shrill "Mandy, it's time to get up" that had greeted me for 7 very long months.

And then the realization that filled me with terror: someday, I was going to come downstairs one morning and find my grandfather's body, just the way I found hers. Grandpa lived with us for a month after Grandma died, until he went into the hospital, and for that entire month I absolutely refused to go downstairs until John had checked and made sure that Grandpa was alive. (It's worth noting that John wasn't allowed to grieve for his mother when she died when he was 2 and a half. Consequently, he has a huge problem with death in general and grief in particular. Proof of how much he loves me? He checked for Grandpa's corpse every single day, without fail.)

And the other fear, less rational but no less gripping: I couldn't handle being in the front room in the dark, or turning my back to the door to their bedroom. It was actually worse in the front room, where I could see their bedroom doorway but not into the room itself, than it was to go into their bedroom. If I was IN the bedroom, I could see there was no body in there, but if my imagination had control of the room's contents.... This was exceptionally problematic because the stairs up to our bedroom face directly into the doorway to theirs. In order to go up the stairs at night to go to bed, I had to have so much light that the house looked like the Vegas Strip, which meant that John had to go downstairs afterwards and turn all the lights off. The breaking point came one night when we went to B's for the evening (before it was B's and AJ's). It was fairly late when we left, and dark out. John and I had driven separately, so we had to drive home separately. I drive faster than John does, which meant I got home first. I pulled into our driveway and realized that everything was dark. I was uneasy but okay at first, because I knew John would be along shortly and I could make him go in and turn on some lights. Even so, I couldn't bring myself to turn off my headlights and sit in full darkness. The problem was that John had misplaced his shoes at B's house, and left a good 15 minutes after me. The longer I sat there, the more "uneasy" turned into "scared silly". By the time he got home, I had had a full-fledged panic attack and had pulled the car up to the porch so that it was perpendicular across the driveway with the headlights (still on) pointing into the front room, which gave me enough light to get to a lightswitch and turn every single light in the house on. When he found me I was sitting on our bed with my knees up to my chin, sobbing and inconsolable. The next day, he bought me an X-10 keychain with a button that turned on every X-10-enabled light in the house. (He also bought a lot of X-10 modules, so that "every X-10-enabled light in the house" was about 8 lights.)

We still have some of the X-10 modules hooked up. I still don't like going up the stairs at night. I have, however, misplaced the keychain, and that does not cause me the slightest bit of panic. Time heals all wounds.

The next wave of memories is a mish-mash. Some of them are of happy memories, like driving around trying to get lost because we were bored. I'm certain that my sense of direction and my ability to get home from just about anywhere are a direct result of all the times we wandered around aimlessly and didn't head home until we weren't certain which way "home" was. Some of them are less happy memories, like her telling me that I'd never attract a husband unless I lost weight. (With as much as John did for them, for her sake it's a good thing that she was wrong.) Some of them are downright painful, like when we were moving them into our house-- since the Alzheimer's had robbed them of anything resembling an attention span, we moved our household and theirs mostly in mini-van loads, because they were antsy and fighting with each other (or bugging me incessantly) if I tried to load anything larger. On one of the trips out to our house with just Grandma, she was having a pretty lucid day, and we were chatting happily. Until she forgot a word. The thing is, she KNEW she'd forgotten the word, and she got frustrated about it and yelled "Why can't I remember anything?" And I had to explain to her that she had a disease that made her forget things, and she kept asking questions about it and I couldn't lie to her about it but every answer I gave her just increased the pain and sadness in her eyes. She asked me if she'd ever get better, and she cried when I told her the truth. I should have lied.

I remember her teaching me how to sew when I was a little kid, no more than six or so. It took me a long while to get the hang of anything more complicated than a straight skirt, and she never did manage to get me to understand sleeves. I still get the urge to sew now and then (almost always in the fall, but I don't understand the timing-- there's nothing particularly special in the fall that I can remember), and I did finally figure out how sleeves are supposed to work, but I went through a lot of failed attempts over the decades before it finally clicked. Her own sewing degenerated over the years, but it wasn't until she died that I realized just how much; the outfit in the back of her closet that I picked for her to wear to her funeral turned out, on further inspection, to be one she'd sewn herself before I was even born. It looked so professional that I had to check it three times before believing it was handmade.

I remember playing in the back of the Mercury station wagon for countless hours as we drove out to the campground where we spent most of the summer, and then drove back for doctor's appointments or weekends with my mother. I remember sitting on a cooler on the side of the exit ramp on I-94 when that station wagon's engine caught fire, too. And I remember that my grandparents were both such practical jokers that when she called their friends at the campground to come pick us up, the friends thought it was just another prank and went to the bar instead. We sat on that cooler for a long time, until they got back from the bar and discovered that we still weren't there, and the realization that maybe it wasn't a joke finally sank in.

I remember Grandma telling stories about her that she really ought not to have been telling to a child. Like when she and a bunch of friends had arranged a group trip to somewhere (they traveled a lot together, so I don't recall which trip it was, and I doubt she did either), had all piled into someone's van to go to the airport, and she made the driver stop at a drugstore and made the entire van full of people wait because she forgot to pick up her birth control pills and she'd be damned if she was going to go on vacation without them. Or when she and Grandpa (before they were married, while he was still married to his first wife and she was his mistress, which is its own story) got completely drunk and drove around a hotel swimming pool in a golf cart, right up until they drove the cart INTO the swimming pool.

I remember helping her fill out a health questionnaire when I was in my early-to-mid twenties. I had been filling out the blanks as I read the question whenever I knew the answers, and I came to two questions that I thought I knew. The first was "Number of children", and I knew the answer was "One" (just my mother). I read the next one aloud: "Number of pregnancies". I had already started writing "one" in that blank as well when she said "Four." I didn't ask. I didn't want to know the answer, because I wasn't 100% sure it would be "miscarriage".

I remember her rule when I was sick: I got 10 minutes and one laundry basket, and I could collect whatever toys or books or what-have-you I wanted, but after that the rest of the day was to be spent in bed. It worked remarkably well; if I was really sick, I'd spend a lot of time sleeping and didn't need much to entertain myself, but if I wasn't very sick then one laundry basket wouldn't be big enough to hold enough entertainment to keep me amused, and thus faking sick to stay home became very boring very quickly. Not that I did fake sick at that point; I liked elementary school. It wasn't until middle school that I had any desire to avoid going to school, and by then I was living with my mother, who didn't have the laundry-basket rule.

I remember Grandma always being at school, too. She didn't work outside the house, so she ended up being the "room mother" pretty early on, and she found that she rather liked it. Every party, every holiday, every craft day, she was there. And sometimes she was there just because. One of my teachers was a big fan of laminating things, and Grandma was usually the one to take all the stuff down to the machine and run it through. Sometimes I got to help, and that was awesome-- nowadays there's tabletop laminating machines that are fairly cool to the touch, but in those days it was this great big behemoth of a machine that took rolls of plastic three or four feet wide, and it ran at some obscenely high temperature. There were signs all over the room that students were Not Allowed to be there, but as you might have guessed from the golf cart story, Grandma wasn't always a big fan of following the rules. So I not only got to watch, she let me run a couple of things through.

I miss my Grandma.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
I started poking through my old emails and put a few of them up on livejournal. One of them was the email I sent the day my grandmother died, and that sparked a whole lot of memories. The thing I remember most about her dying was that for months afterward, the only picture of her I could bring to mind was her corpse lying in her bed, the way I found her. Eventually, I could bring up the image of her lying in the coffin afterward, but it wasn't until almost a year later that I could remember anything about her life without first remembering her death.

This trend has continued in the memories tonight. The first memories to come back were the ones I wrote about in the email: finding her, trying to stay calm for my grandfather's sake, having a sheriff's deputy gently walk me through the process of actually dealing with a dead body. And then the ones the email was too early to know about: picking a coffin, picking an outfit for her to wear, picking flowers for the top of the coffin, sitting at the funeral with Grandpa asking every hour or so who the woman up front was (Alzheimer's is horrible), and longing to hear the words that I had utterly hated less than a week before: the crack-of-dawn, shrill "Mandy, it's time to get up" that had greeted me for 7 very long months.

And then the realization that filled me with terror: someday, I was going to come downstairs one morning and find my grandfather's body, just the way I found hers. Grandpa lived with us for a month after Grandma died, until he went into the hospital, and for that entire month I absolutely refused to go downstairs until John had checked and made sure that Grandpa was alive. (It's worth noting that John wasn't allowed to grieve for his mother when she died when he was 2 and a half. Consequently, he has a huge problem with death in general and grief in particular. Proof of how much he loves me? He checked for Grandpa's corpse every single day, without fail.)

And the other fear, less rational but no less gripping: I couldn't handle being in the front room in the dark, or turning my back to the door to their bedroom. It was actually worse in the front room, where I could see their bedroom doorway but not into the room itself, than it was to go into their bedroom. If I was IN the bedroom, I could see there was no body in there, but if my imagination had control of the room's contents.... This was exceptionally problematic because the stairs up to our bedroom face directly into the doorway to theirs. In order to go up the stairs at night to go to bed, I had to have so much light that the house looked like the Vegas Strip, which meant that John had to go downstairs afterwards and turn all the lights off. The breaking point came one night when we went to B's for the evening (before it was B's and AJ's). It was fairly late when we left, and dark out. John and I had driven separately, so we had to drive home separately. I drive faster than John does, which meant I got home first. I pulled into our driveway and realized that everything was dark. I was uneasy but okay at first, because I knew John would be along shortly and I could make him go in and turn on some lights. Even so, I couldn't bring myself to turn off my headlights and sit in full darkness. The problem was that John had misplaced his shoes at B's house, and left a good 15 minutes after me. The longer I sat there, the more "uneasy" turned into "scared silly". By the time he got home, I had had a full-fledged panic attack and had pulled the car up to the porch so that it was perpendicular across the driveway with the headlights (still on) pointing into the front room, which gave me enough light to get to a lightswitch and turn every single light in the house on. When he found me I was sitting on our bed with my knees up to my chin, sobbing and inconsolable. The next day, he bought me an X-10 keychain with a button that turned on every X-10-enabled light in the house. (He also bought a lot of X-10 modules, so that "every X-10-enabled light in the house" was about 8 lights.)

We still have some of the X-10 modules hooked up. I still don't like going up the stairs at night. I have, however, misplaced the keychain, and that does not cause me the slightest bit of panic. Time heals all wounds.

The next wave of memories is a mish-mash. Some of them are of happy memories, like driving around trying to get lost because we were bored. I'm certain that my sense of direction and my ability to get home from just about anywhere are a direct result of all the times we wandered around aimlessly and didn't head home until we weren't certain which way "home" was. Some of them are less happy memories, like her telling me that I'd never attract a husband unless I lost weight. (With as much as John did for them, for her sake it's a good thing that she was wrong.) Some of them are downright painful, like when we were moving them into our house-- since the Alzheimer's had robbed them of anything resembling an attention span, we moved our household and theirs mostly in mini-van loads, because they were antsy and fighting with each other (or bugging me incessantly) if I tried to load anything larger. On one of the trips out to our house with just Grandma, she was having a pretty lucid day, and we were chatting happily. Until she forgot a word. The thing is, she KNEW she'd forgotten the word, and she got frustrated about it and yelled "Why can't I remember anything?" And I had to explain to her that she had a disease that made her forget things, and she kept asking questions about it and I couldn't lie to her about it but every answer I gave her just increased the pain and sadness in her eyes. She asked me if she'd ever get better, and she cried when I told her the truth. I should have lied.

I remember her teaching me how to sew when I was a little kid, no more than six or so. It took me a long while to get the hang of anything more complicated than a straight skirt, and she never did manage to get me to understand sleeves. I still get the urge to sew now and then (almost always in the fall, but I don't understand the timing-- there's nothing particularly special in the fall that I can remember), and I did finally figure out how sleeves are supposed to work, but I went through a lot of failed attempts over the decades before it finally clicked. Her own sewing degenerated over the years, but it wasn't until she died that I realized just how much; the outfit in the back of her closet that I picked for her to wear to her funeral turned out, on further inspection, to be one she'd sewn herself before I was even born. It looked so professional that I had to check it three times before believing it was handmade.

I remember playing in the back of the Mercury station wagon for countless hours as we drove out to the campground where we spent most of the summer, and then drove back for doctor's appointments or weekends with my mother. I remember sitting on a cooler on the side of the exit ramp on I-94 when that station wagon's engine caught fire, too. And I remember that my grandparents were both such practical jokers that when she called their friends at the campground to come pick us up, the friends thought it was just another prank and went to the bar instead. We sat on that cooler for a long time, until they got back from the bar and discovered that we still weren't there, and the realization that maybe it wasn't a joke finally sank in.

I remember Grandma telling stories about her that she really ought not to have been telling to a child. Like when she and a bunch of friends had arranged a group trip to somewhere (they traveled a lot together, so I don't recall which trip it was, and I doubt she did either), had all piled into someone's van to go to the airport, and she made the driver stop at a drugstore and made the entire van full of people wait because she forgot to pick up her birth control pills and she'd be damned if she was going to go on vacation without them. Or when she and Grandpa (before they were married, while he was still married to his first wife and she was his mistress, which is its own story) got completely drunk and drove around a hotel swimming pool in a golf cart, right up until they drove the cart INTO the swimming pool.

I remember helping her fill out a health questionnaire when I was in my early-to-mid twenties. I had been filling out the blanks as I read the question whenever I knew the answers, and I came to two questions that I thought I knew. The first was "Number of children", and I knew the answer was "One" (just my mother). I read the next one aloud: "Number of pregnancies". I had already started writing "one" in that blank as well when she said "Four." I didn't ask. I didn't want to know the answer, because I wasn't 100% sure it would be "miscarriage".

I remember her rule when I was sick: I got 10 minutes and one laundry basket, and I could collect whatever toys or books or what-have-you I wanted, but after that the rest of the day was to be spent in bed. It worked remarkably well; if I was really sick, I'd spend a lot of time sleeping and didn't need much to entertain myself, but if I wasn't very sick then one laundry basket wouldn't be big enough to hold enough entertainment to keep me amused, and thus faking sick to stay home became very boring very quickly. Not that I did fake sick at that point; I liked elementary school. It wasn't until middle school that I had any desire to avoid going to school, and by then I was living with my mother, who didn't have the laundry-basket rule.

I remember Grandma always being at school, too. She didn't work outside the house, so she ended up being the "room mother" pretty early on, and she found that she rather liked it. Every party, every holiday, every craft day, she was there. And sometimes she was there just because. One of my teachers was a big fan of laminating things, and Grandma was usually the one to take all the stuff down to the machine and run it through. Sometimes I got to help, and that was awesome-- nowadays there's tabletop laminating machines that are fairly cool to the touch, but in those days it was this great big behemoth of a machine that took rolls of plastic three or four feet wide, and it ran at some obscenely high temperature. There were signs all over the room that students were Not Allowed to be there, but as you might have guessed from the golf cart story, Grandma wasn't always a big fan of following the rules. So I not only got to watch, she let me run a couple of things through.

I miss my Grandma.

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