I am about to confess one of my deepest regrets in life: I did not attend my Grandma Moor’s funeral.
The most natural question is: “why not?”
The answer is very simple: it was easier not to go.
It was easier on me.
Yes, I lived ten hours away in Iowa. I was teaching and taking summer classes. I would’ve had to miss several classes to make the drive, or else chug plenty of black coffee and prepare myself for the long drive on back-to-back days. But, I could’ve done it. And, from where I sit now at 35 years-old, I should’ve done it.
Grief is a tricky thing. Sometimes, I almost think people don’t talk about it enough.
Oh, we do the “words aren’t enough” jive, but we don’t always discuss the real nitty gritty of grief. When my brother died, I had diarrhea for days. Everything I ate went straight through me. It didn’t matter what I ate. I’ve heard other people tell of being constipated.
If these are embarrassing details, then I guess I will embarrass myself. Grief is not always immediately felt in the heart, but you will more than likely feel it in the bowels.
Grief is also the gift that keeps on giving, as I like to say. Once you think you are “over it,” it will rear its head at the most unexpected moments. You will feel the absence of a person at the strangest junctures in life. Maybe you will have finally outlived your older brother, watched a certain team win the World Series, or suddenly realized that you and the person you lost performed a yearly ritual you always took for granted.
I should’ve gone to my grandmother’s funeral. My mother was grieving the loss of her mother and she ached for her only living child to be beside her—her only daughter no less—to be there as support.
I did not go.
I couldn’t ask for permission to leave school without having broken down into uncontrollable sobs. I hate grieving in public. I hate crying in front of people. When my brother died, my father had us troop over to a friend’s house. A bunch of people sat around in the deacon’s living room. My father talked. I cried. The people watched. I despised every tick of the clock. I did not feel supported. I know my father did, and I’m sure my mother did, too, and all of those people were there to lend comfort and love, but I felt suffocated.
For some reason, my Grandmother Moor has been on my mind lately. Hard to say exactly why and how those things happen. Perhaps it is a symptom of aging: an understanding of the moments you should’ve savored as a youth.
It’s too bad that memories cannot be stored on disks and rewatched and memorized. They become so fuzzy over time.
Henrietta Elizabeth Sterling was the name her parents gave her at birth. Her black hair, black eyes, pale skin, and tenacity for her ideals embodied the Irish blood that now courses in my veins as well.
People said we looked alike. Perhaps so. When I see past my mother in my face, I can see a resemblance to Hank.
My grandmother’s father called her Hank. The name suited her—at least the person we could see in those coal black eyes of hers.
My Grandma Moor was spunky, even I could tell that and I did not meet her until she was already into her 60s. Henrietta was a fine enough name, but it was a bit old-fashioned, even if Grandma did always insist on cat-eye frames for her glasses and floral print dresses.
Every time I visited my grandparents’ house, she was in a dress. Her ways were traditional. And, yet, the nickname Hank seemed to capture the spirit of a woman who age and dementia could not dim.
She loved animals. She used to keep parakeets. Before that, years before, on their farm, Hank had cats. My mother claims that she could win over any cat, even the most wild.
Maybe those felines recognized a kindred.
Towards the end of her life, my grandmother’s mind was lost, but she had a constant refrain. She wanted to “go home.” It is hard to say exactly where that was in her mind, though she often hinted that it was her childhood home she craved.
Sometimes, I understand this feeling. There are times I would like to “go home,” too, back to those afternoons of Neapolitan ice cream, oatmeal raisin cookies, and stale Triskets—the treats from Grandma’s kitchen.
I should’ve gone to my grandmother’s funeral. It is one of the many regrets I have, and age has taught me that it will not be last.