My grandmother died over the weekend.
She was 85, and she had been sick for a very long time. Steadily declining health had forced the decision to move her into a nursing home a few years ago. Hospice involved a few months ago. After a few days of infection she just couldn't fight anymore, she went peacefully in her sleep.
It was a difficult blessing.
I have a lot of thoughts about her, but I'm not ready to share them publicly yet. I may never be. Regardless, I know the woman loved me very much. She adored my children.
My Amazonian build came from her, my maternal grandmother. The long legs and large frame, the big hands that look so much like hers. My strawberry blond hair and wide open laugh.
But I'm not ready to delve into that yet.
The funeral was low-key and relatively quick, just like she wanted. My brother and cousins carried her pink-rose-laden casket from the hearse. My brother asked my 13-year-old son to help. It was first experience in bearing the pall, which is an honor and duty all Southern men must learn to carry. My dad and stepdad and uncles have all had multiple turns, burdening the final weight of loved ones as a fitting good-bye.
While the men did their duty, I kept Tricky, who is still too young and spindly to be of much use. He wanted to be with his big brother and his uncle, though, so I distracted him with my niece. Glamigail is almost three, and she has a 4-week-old sister, the Glitterbug, who was sleeping soundly, scrunched in a sling on her mother's chest.
The kids were sweet and quiet through the graveside service, through the remarks of the preacher and the final prayers. Head down and eyes open, as respectful as possible, I watched the two of them, making sure no mischief ensued in those few moments when no adults would be looking.
After it was over, Glamigail took off across the green expanse of the cemetery. Just two weeks after Memorial Day, there were flags on graves, waving at her on a hot, Southern breeze. The flags were tucked into vases of brightly-colored flowers everywhere. How could she not go and explore?
Tricky was back and forth between her and Max, still in that time between being outgrowing the child and becoming a man. He wanted to play with the little blond dynamo of a cousin, but he also wanted to stay with his brother, with the burgeoning young man he relies on and idolizes as fiercely as he sometimes punches him in the gut. He wanted to be with his uncle, who is goofy and cool and always has kind words for his nephews, especially when he knows their father is so conspicuously absent.
But it was Max who broke my heart. Gone is my fat, blond little baby boy. He is tall (5'9 already) and lanky, lean and long just like his father. From the neck down, he is DH. They have the same feet. They have two moles on their backs in the same places.
I could see how much he looks like his dad now. How he has the same gait and the same movement of arms, the same determined look on his face that accentuates the gorgeous cheekbones.
On Saturday, to escape the grief and the anxiety, I took the boys to stay with Pandy for the night. A quick visit to PandyLand is always good for me, but the boys adore her and her family. Tank is always so sweet to let us invade his home. It's hard enough when it's just Sassafras and Pandy together, but then add the kids—Max and Tricky, plus 2.0 and Leon and Professor X, then even Huffy made a quick appearance!—it is just goofball chaos.
But Tank talked to my kids like they were just people. Not kids, not condescending, and with the same liberal life views and geeky interests we have. He turned Max onto a couple of new shows, and he showed Tricky manly things from the tool box and the shed. He and I talked music like we always do.
Ultimately, it was Pandy teaching Max how to throw a football that was my favorite moment.
Pandy knew DH long before I did. She knows part of my list of the next great man in my life includes the one who would teach my sons how to throw a football. I waited for years for DH to do it. We waited for years.
I watched her, strong and patient, caring for and attending to my sons just like she does her own. My hoohas are her hoohas, and vice versa. And my boys adore her almost as much as I do.
I'm watching my babies grow into men, slowly and sometimes shakily. They are as unsure of themselves as I am. I know it's impossible for me to be everything to them. Honestly, to fill every gap in their lives with my own brand of Glamazonian crazy seems almost cruel, like I'm setting them up for a lifetime of ridiculous expectations.
But then I have these moments when I am blessed with friends and family who love my children, who love me, and who extend their own open, glitter-dusted palms to our hearts and grab on gently, refusing to let go even when I am stubborn in my attempts to be everything and more than even I can manage. The ones who see my exhaustion and know the truth of its source, who know how I am castigating myself for mistakes and missteps, drowning in a sea of OhGodhowdidIdothistomyself?
In those moments, when I see the past and the future colliding in these children, in the hoohas, I can't breathe. It is beautiful to see a little girl squealing at a half-deflated birthday balloon in the cemetery at her great-grandmother's funeral. It is stunning to see my sons growing into these perfect combinations of their parents, the intensely wonderful result of two fucked-up people who managed to give the best of themselves to another person long enough to make that perfection.
And it breaks my heart to know that I wouldn't see the beauty in this, that I wouldn't appreciate such smallness, in quite the same way had so much not gone horribly awry.
In forty years, it may be my turn. It may be my rose-laden casket and my golden-haired great-granddaughter. It may be my grandsons bearing the final weight of me. I hope beyond hope that my legacy is their being able to appreciate the beauty without having ever had to experience the pain of heartache like this firsthand. Maybe, just maybe, that their fathers will have learned some secret truths that the Inner Circle and I were able to share with them, that they listened better and learned better how to live and love without tearing each other apart.