Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Past Connections

I lost my last grandparent in May.

My grandmother, Janice S. Bartels, passed away on May 19th, just a little under a month from her 90th birthday.

I have never heard anyone say that death is easy. Ever. Even when you know that it's coming at some point -- there's no other end for us humans -- the reality of it isn't pleasant. Even when you know the person is "better off" because now he/she "isn't suffering," it isn't nice. It just feels so...final.

Suddenly you think of all the wasted moments, the times, the events -- good and bad -- that you won't get to share with that person. You can't just pick up the phone and call her anymore. You can't ask questions about her past to get to know her -- or her "era" -- a bit better, not that my grandmother was into that.

My grandmother had a hard life. Some of it was caused by her own choices, but some of it by just the fact that she was born into a home where her mother was somewhat harsh and the rest of her family perhaps a bit indulging?

Raising four children by herself in the '40s and '50s -- with a deadbest ex-husband who'd remarried a woman who wanted to pretend he didn't have a previous family -- my dad once told me it wasn't easy for her. The rumors that were spoken behind her back; the stories and gossip that were spread about this young, beautiful woman with her pretty teenage daughters who had to take in boarders to help pay the mortgage......

My mom just told me the other day that my grandmother needed to get a job once the divorce was final -- since she got very little of the court-ordered child support from my grandfather.  But she had never worked before in her life. She'd graduated in 1939, had my aunt in 1940, and then had my mom in 1941. She was a daughter and then a housewife and mom. So getting a job that paid well enough to keep their house and four kids was a feat in and of itself.  Add in the fact that she had no real job skills, and it was nearly impossible.

But she did it, and my mom and aunt worked as well.

I asked my mom if my great-grandmother ever offered monetary assistance. My mom said absolutely not. My great-grandmother would have loaned my grandmother money, but she always felt my grandmother was defiant and disobedient and made bad choices. She didn't ever think it proper for my grandmother to have her own thoughts and ideas and abilities. She was just wrong, in my great-grandmother's eyes. She'd "made her bed and so must lie in it."

It suddenly struck me how hard it must have been for my grandmother. It suddenly made me miss her more....wishing I could give her one more hug to let her know how much we loved her -- and how proud we were of her.

Everyone makes bad choices -- some more than others -- but isn't that what forgiveness and mercy are all about?


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