Review: Dating-ish by Penny Reid
Changing Course (Or: Why I Quit Graduate School)

I Miss Her {10 Years}

It's the blink of an eye and the stretch of time all in one. Ten years since Grandma died. The memories of her final weeks are crystal clear, could have happened just the other day, in fact.


Mom calling to tell me what Grandma's diagnosis was as I sat sobbing in my car in the office parking lot. The night I spent in Grandma's hospital room and all the stories she told before drifting to sleep. Swinging by the nursing home when I had a moment between patients. Liaising with hospice- the very one I worked for- when Grandma decided to stop treatment a month in. How she anointed everyone who visited with holy water, even when we had to guide her hand the last day or two. Everyone who stopped by the house and the visitor guidelines we had to enact so she could actually get some rest. The way I knew when it all changed, when we went from weeks left to days. Sitting next to her with a book in one hand and her hand in the other, unwilling to go to bed even though I wasn't the night nurse that final night. 

How empty a room sounds when another rasping breath doesn't come.

How we broke apart the night she died. How we had to put ourselves back together in the intervening years.

I'm all too aware of how much has changed since then.

I wrote Grandma a letter in college when she had a minor health issue and hadn't been good about taking her medication, telling her she needed to take care of herself so she could see me walk down the aisle. A few years later it wouldn't matter if she took her medication or not; cancer was a far greater foe to our dreams.

Grandma told me once she prayed to St. Francis, the patron saint of lost causes, for me to find a husband. Here I am, 10 years later, apparently a lost cause. Of course, I don't believe that but it makes me chuckle. It makes me think.

Our family has undergone so many changes since Grandma died. There have been weddings, divorces, diagnoses, births, and even more loss. We've adapted traditions and let go of others. People take turns hosting family gatherings and last year Grandpa even moved out of their house and into a retirement community.

We are not the same.

Loss changes us, this I know, but I could not have foretold the way this loss would irrevocably alter the course of my life.

If Grandma had not died, I might not have moved away from my Illinois hometown. I'd likely still work for hospice. 

Grieving while being a hospice social worker was impossibly hard. Much of that summer is hazed by my mourning. When I came out on the other side, I no longer felt the same about the work I did. I was still good at it, still passionate about end of life issues, but I no longer felt the same enjoyment. Before Grandma died, I could have been a hospice lifer. After, not so much. 

Maybe I'd have ultimately left that job. Maybe wanderlust would have visited and I still would have moved out of state. There's no way of knowing for sure but I can't imagine Grandma being alive all these years and not wanting to be close to her orbit.

We were close. She taught me my first sewing and cooking lessons. She exemplified compassion and grace. She was always, always, always taking care of other people. It is little wonder I ended up in social work.

When I was little, I wanted nothing more than to grow up to be like Grandma and my mom. My life took such a different direction, particularly the last several years, but their examples are still guiding lights. Maybe I'm not a wife or mother like them- maybe I never will be- but I look out for the underdog and cook and bake for friends and try to be there for family, even when I'm miles away.

I still wear the turquoise ring that I found in her jewelry box, the one she probably never wore. It was hers and yet it's my style and there seems to be some symbolism there.

It's been 10 years and my life testifies to the passing of all this time.

I miss her.