Thursday, December 11, 2008

Take Two More From the List

I was making my Christmas Card list and going through my list from last year to ensure I didn’t miss anyone the other day.

As I did, I had to pause a few times as my heart sank.

Every year I have to remove someone from the list because they have passed away.  Over the years, it has been my mom’s friends’ parents or siblings, my own grandma, distant cousins, etc.  I always feel for their loved ones in missing them during the holidays. 

When my grandma passed away 6 years ago, I was sad because she was my grandma, but I wasn’t heartbroken.  I didn’t really know her well.  I saw her a handful of times in my life.  She was my dad’s mother and she lived in New Jersey; the distance made it difficult.  The last 10 years of her life, she had suffered from 3 strokes and was unable to communicate.  In the end, she couldn’t eat because she couldn’t swallow.  For many, including my grandpa, it was a blessing to no longer see her suffering.

Two years ago, I had to remove someone I miss very much. 

My parents moved into our family home when my mom was pregnant with me.  The neighbors she had then are still her neighbors.  We have all been very close my entire life.  Shirley, however, my mom and I were very close to.  For my mom, she was one of her best friends.  For me, she was like a second mother. 

She was a chocoholic like I am, so when I was a toddler, I would escape out the back door and knock on her door calling her name looking for candy.  She came over for coffee several times a week.  She knew my mom’s secrets and my mom knew all of hers.  When my parents divorced, she was always there for my mom.  We were like family to each other.

Three years ago, my mom took my step-dad to the hospital for an emergency surgery.  We found out later, that Shirley had been there as well.  She had been in her kitchen doing something mundane, like changing a light bulb, when she fell.  Her husband had come home to find her in a pool of her own blood.

The doctors fixed her up and she was ok.  They felt something wasn’t right, though, and kept doing tests.  They found she had bone cancer.  Shirley had just turned 70 and was very upset about it.  She kept saying she wouldn’t make it beyond 70, maybe she knew somehow that she wouldn’t.  We all thought she was being dramatic.

We never saw Shirley again.  They sent her home and she did not want chemo or any treatment.  She also did not want to see anyone other than her immediate family.  Shirley was always vain and we knew she wouldn’t want anyone to see her without her hair done and makeup on, but we were hurt because we loved her and wanted to say goodbye.

She died in the spring.  Months after her diagnosis and we never got to see or talk to her.  It was closed casket as well, so we never really got the closure that we needed.  My mom and I still are crushed by her loss.  I forget sometimes that she is gone because I can hear her voice in my head.  The other day, I was shopping and an older woman walked by.  She had Shirley’s perfume on and it made me stop and look as if it could be Shirley.

I had to cross her name off of my mailing list.  I still send a card to her husband, but I couldn’t see her name there without getting emotional.

This year, I had to remove my mom’s best friend’s husband from the list.  He died in April from liver cancer.  He was only 59.  (Shirley’s son also died of liver cancer this year.)  It breaks my heart to know that this is a very difficult time of the year for her.  She was the type that never drove far alone or did anything like shovel or take out garbage, her husband took care of it for her.  I know she is at a loss.  They had been married for over 30 years.

I had to take my grandma’s best friend of the list too.  (My mom’s mom, that is.)  Grandma will be 90 in April.  She and her best friend had planned to live to 125 together.  She was a spunky, crude, delightfully country old gal.  Annie fished, baked, canned, quilted and swore up a storm.  She had all the ”isms” of the south.  Her expressions always made me smile.  She called me her girlfriend; I’d known her since I was 7 or 8 years old. 

I’m sad for her family and I will miss her voice on the answering machine terribly.  She always left the cutest messages.  I am sad for my grandma more than anyone else though.  If grandma was down, Annie could cheer her up with her funny expressions and straight-shooter ways.  I feel for grandma because she has no one left.  She has no more friends her age, no one else to call and “shoot the shit” with.  She is lonely as it is, but now that Annie is gone, it is worse.  She has some friends, but they are younger people and none that know or understand what my grandma has gone and will go through.

I had to take her off the Christmas list as well.

I’ve always enjoyed sending Christmas cards to people.  Of course, there are some that I send out of obligation.  Family members I never see or talk to, but still have to send a card to as that’s the only communication with some people throughout the year. 

As I remove more and more people from the list each year, especially those that I love so much, it is becoming more of a disheartening task. 

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