When my great aunt died, it was a massive shock, as I had said in my last blog. I was not something I was at all prepared for. Not that I didn’t realise that she has been unwell, or that she was old, but that I had managed to convince myself that she was just always going to be there.
I am going to assume that this is a fairly normal reaction – that you just can’t see a time when someone isn’t around. That they are just so, present, that life without them just doesn’t seem right?
I have been grieving for over 2 months. It took almost all that time to stop crying at the drop of a hat. That even thinking about Tante Hilde would mean that I would either expend a lot of energy forcing the tears back, or running and hiding.
The thing, for me, when I reflect on my feelings and consider what I am going though. It is guilt. Like I said in my last blog, I have managed to escape dealing with grief for most of my life so this has hit me hard, I just don’t have the coping skills, or frankly the emotional support network.
Why was I guilty? Was it the fact I couldn’t remember whether I had sent anything at Christmas? Or that I had ignored her phone calls last year – she had left voicemails on my mobile because although I have a landline, I didn’t had an actual phone plugged in. And if I had, no doubt I would have spoken to her. But you know how quickly time passes, you just … forget. days turn into weeks and into months, then you realise that she had last called you to wish you a happy birthday. Last July.
Or was the guilt over not having been to see her? I recall her comments coming up to her 90th Birthday, that she kept saying that she wasn’t going to see my before she died. And boy, if I thought that cut deep at the time? Nothing compared to how I feel writing that. Realising that although she was saying it to get a reaction, her was making a prophecy.
She was supposed to be alive for longer, she was supposed to at least wait until I got to see her in August. Until I had made my prodigal return to the home I had not seen in over 2 decades. The home I loved and selfishly assumed would just continue to be there. Patiently waiting for my return at a time that suits me.
Guilt because times waits for no man. Time doesn’t give us a reprieve, it doesn’t slow because we are juggling too many things and just need an extra moment. Time just marches on and we are left holding the pieces after everything comes crashing down. That is it, isn’t it? Guilt is for the survivors, the ones that were left behind. The ones that are still here, still working through memories. Wondering what they could or should have done differently.
It is more than clear to me, that I shouldn’t have kept putting off getting my passport, that a ticket to Germany isn’t all that expensive and staying with my aunt would have been at minimal cost and would have made both of us happy. And because I could only think of myself, because I expected the world to wait until I was ready, she lost out on seeing me and I lost out on precious memories with my great aunt. My grandmother, my hero.
That is the thing, she isn’t close just because I would spend summers with her, Christmas holidays, evening visiting on my own. It wasn’t a relationship of convenience. I really loved her and looked up to her and understood some of her quirks and shared similarities. She was stubborn, headstrong, independent and fierce. I look over her old photos, and I see her smile, her love for animals, I see her climbing trees and I see some of myself in her. I may just be finding things because I want them to be there, I want a small part of her to be reflected in me.
Because I am guilty that I didn’t spend more time with her. Not that I didn’t have more time with her, I didn’t spend the time I could have had, with her. That was my choice. I could wax lyrical about how obtaining a German passport is a massive ball ache, how the Brits are staunch in their refusal and dragged my heels over an Irish passport.
See? How easy did those excused slip out? Because that is what they are. I am an inherently self absorbed and self centred person. Over the last 3 months I have had reason to reevaluate some of the things I have done, how through laziness (no better word) I had allowed things to happen. And how to build relationships. And while I type this I realise that it has been 2 days since I last spoke to my mother and am going to cut this short to go call her….