As I mentioned in my last post, I filed my taxes gleefully this year to receive a decent return due to the medical expenses for our IVF cycle. Taxes, are one of life’s inevitabilities, and unfortunately, as is death.
J’s maternal grandma passed away Monday, and though she was in the hospital for some medical problems she had been having, she seemed to be on the mend. She was in her mid 80’s but up until her recent hospital stay was still living on her own. So although the writing was on the wall, this was still an unexpected death. J’s parents and one of his brothers were, and still are, in Africa, having taken the trip because they had no reason to worry about grandma. J’s mom was planning on going to Ontario, where grandma lived, (as does the rest of his extended family) to help pack up her apartment and get her moved into the seniors lodge. Now we will all be going to attend her funeral.
She was J’s last living grandparent so he is mourning her loss specifically, as well as the collective loss of a generation of his family. He is also heartbroken that none of his grandparents will ever meet our contribution to the newest generation of his family. I had these same fears about my grandma, as she is on what seems like a rapid decline into dementia, but in all likelihood she will meet my daughter, and still know who we are at that point.
This latest death has made me think of my own family, which is a relatively small group of people. On my mom’s side we all fit into one house for holiday gatherings (albeit tight quarters), and live within an hours drive of each other. My dad’s side is even smaller, but I don’t see them at all, that’s a whole other thing. I was an “oopsie baby”, that my mom decided she wanted despite being unexpected. Her and my dad were not serious, and he is from B.C. so at the end of the summer, he went home and my mom prepared for life as a single parent. My dad was mostly uninvolved, as was both his and my mom’s choice. He sent cards, and usually called on my birthday but our relationship was stiff and awkward at best. We went to visit him in Vancouver when I was 4, and then to Victoria to see him and the rest of his (my) family (whom I had never met) when I was 13. That’s the last time I saw him, though we did still keep vaguely in touch up until the past several years. I did inform him I was getting married, though he was not invited to our wedding. That’s about the last time I remember having any contact (so nearly 5 years).
I don’t feel particularly sad about him not being around while I was growing up, I didn’t know what I was missing so I why would I be bothered (I know this isn’t the case with everyone). I grew up close to my mom’s sister (my aunt) and her husband (my uncle) played a key “father figure” role to me. Their kids, my cousins, are like brothers to me. I don’t feel like I missed out, my family just looked different from the average. Having said all that, now that I am about to become a mother, that means my dad will be a grandpa. I sort of feel like I should tell him. Truly he’s not a part of my life anymore, but that blood bond makes me feel some sort of obligation to him.
Then it got me thinking, I don’t know if his mom is still alive, or where either of them would be living. I used to get cards at Christmas and birthday from my grandma but eventually that stopped too. She was quite a spitfire, and I had no real reason to think she wouldn’t still be around. I don’t know her age, so I have no basis there, but none the less I wondered. My wondering took me to Facebook, because at one point my dad’s niece (my cousin) was suggested to me as a friend on Facebook. I don’t know how this connection was even made but I remember looking through her page, and then moving on and not thinking about it much past that.
My cousin is where I started my search again but her first name is common with multiple spellings and I couldn’t remember how she spells it. I know she lives (or did) in Washington state so I tried to use that as a parameter but had no luck. I tried my grandma, as I swear that last time I was on my cousins Facebook page, she had my (our) grandma as a “friend”. No luck. I moved on to my dad, not truly thinking he would have Facebook, from what little I know of him, he’s not really the type. I found someone with his name, in Vancouver, where I presumed he still lived but the photo was one from childhood so it was hard to be sure. I clicked on the link, and opened the profile photo. Well if it was him, it was what I would imagine him to look like as a kid (I look a lot like my dad, so I could see a resemblance even with this photo). I clicked again to see if there were any other photos, and there he was; my dad, present day, and looking rather old.
Once I found him, I was able to find his two sisters (one of whom now lives within a few hours drive of me) and my cousin. He didn’t have much on his page, my cousin had a bit more, my one aunt had her settings pretty locked down but the one closest to me shared a bit more. I found a post on her page from a few weeks back that said it had been 4 years since her mom died. I was surprised to read that my grandma had died less than a year after I got married. All this time, I just pictured her still living her life in Victoria.
So in a way, I lost a grandma this week as well. I am holding tight to my maternal grandma, but it’s like trying to clasp water in your hands, she’s slowly slipping away and there isn’t anything I can do about it.
I still haven’t decided what to do about my dad and the rest of that side of my family. I don’t feel like “friending” them on Facebook is the appropriate move, but it may end up being the only way I have of reaching them.
Why does it seem that family building has gotten more complicated than just having a child?