My grandmother died on December 6, 1987. Big whoop, I hear you say, everybody loses grandparents. I mean, Rick’s grandmother died on December 21, 2000 and he has no issues of this type, so what’s the deal? I’ll tell you what the deal is. First of all, Nana’s death was the first major loss I suffered in my life. Other elderly relatives had passed away, of course – great aunts and great uncles, but at age 12 this was my first brush with death taking somebody close to me. And I was close to my maternal grandparents. It wasn’t the “see you a few times a year and at the holidays” grandparents. They lived next door to us. My brother and I had no babysitter because we stayed with them if we weren’t at a friend’s house. We were close to Nana and Granddaddy and this was the first time I experienced the
death of somebody that was a regular part of my life.
Those are things you deal with over time. Of course I still miss her (and Granddaddy, who died less than 2 years later), but by and large I have moved on from that. I realize the world has changed a lot and they’d be miserable in it now. I realize they’d want everybody to go on living, to be happy, and to have the best life we can until we meet again (but hopefully not too soon). I thought I had this covered and was good, until 5 years ago, when Rick and I moved in the home we built and he asked me to get some red poinsettias for the house. We finally have a nice house, he said, so let’s fix it up right. So off I went to dutifully get them and once I was at the store, I panicked. There they were, blood red and mocking me. I got a bit short winded. My heart raced. I couldn’t do it. I bought a white one instead. Rick looked at me funny.
“It’s pretty,” he said, “but I thought you liked red. Didn’t they have any?”
“Yes they did, but I didn’t want it.”
I found myself face to face with an issue I thought was deal with. See, when Nana died, people sent red poinsettias. Lots of red poinsettias. Our house was full of them. Granddaddy’s house was full of them. And frankly, for years I couldn’t recall much about her funeral until I saw that huge rack of red poinsettias in my face
and all of a sudden, it came back to me. Obviously, I had blocked a lot of the painful memories of that bad Christmas and it all came back to me – and continued to, every time I saw red poinsettias.
But wait, that’s not all …
For three years, I let it go. Time, I decided, would heal, and it was just one thing. But two years ago, I went through some major life transitions and decided that while I was doing some life and spiritual “housecleaning, then it was time for me to do something about this too. My life was being rewritten, and I determined that if
I was going to change my life, then I was going to do it right and make the best of all things, and this was definitely a chink in my armor that I allowed for far too long. It was silly, really. I grew up. I have a good life. But it seemed there was a 12 year old inside me that was still hurting, and that had to be dealt with. I refused to be held captive to my past. That’s just stupid. So I had a brilliant idea. I hadn’t been to the cemetery where my grandparents were buried since their funerals. I needed to go out there, I thought, and pay my final respects. It was time to face their loss as an adult. I was driving by while running some work related errands, so I decided I’d make a quick stop and get this done. So one cold day two years ago, I made my first stop to the church cemetery in a very, very long time. I found their burial plots, took a deep breath, and …
I had nothing. I mean, not one thing to say. I was looking around that cemetery and it hit me: These people are done with life and this world. They don’t belong here. Their labors are over and now they rest and are in glory. They don’t care. It’s not their problem and there’s no wisdom or help here (as it seems our church members
aren’t ones for epitaphs, and the ones they had weren’t *ahem* brilliant parting words). The world belongs to the living and it’s up to us to make things right and keep on going the best we can.
So I dealt with it the best I could, and left feeling much better. The problem is, there were some side effects. I was no longer plagued with grief and bad memories. They were soon replaced with something more … bizarre.
I left my grief at the cemetery, but the problem is that I picked up something that I didn’t realize followed me. Since that time, I’ve been plagued with recurring dreams of walking in a cemetery. I’m looking for my grandparent’s burial site, but I can’t find it because there aren’t any names on the tombstones. After wandering around for a while, I get pissed off, say “to hell with this, I’m leaving!” and wake up. It’s not often – maybe every few months, but it most recently happened night before last. I always wake up from that dream pissed off and frustrated. Seriously? Again? And after 2 years of searching for meaning, I finally decided its sole purpose is to mock me and make me mad. I mean, geeze. If paying my respects causes my mind to do wacky stuff like that, I might as well skip the trip to the cemetery, get a cheeseburger basket at the Fat Boys down the road, and do a drive-by wave at the graveyard! It’s easier, less trouble, and I get a good meal out of it, right?
Then I visualize myself driving by the cemetery with a French fry in my mouth waving and saying “hi guys, it’s all good!” as I zoom along Highway 1 with other people gawking at whatever-the-hell-I’m-doing and I laugh at my own insanity. So now, every time I see red poinsettias, I think of cheeseburgers, French fries and seeing how fast I can drive up Highway 1, and I shake my head at … myself.
Well, my own crazy ideas are better than sad memories and anxiety attacks, I suppose. At least my distaste for red poinsettias has settled into a more dissociated issue, but I still buy poinsettias in other colors. I have an awesome blue one in our entry way with silver bows and glitter and a white one for the office. And since Rick
and I did want a red Christmas plant for the house, I got an amaryllis. And when a red poinsettia did show up in my home, I put it on the front porch. I only have to look at it when I come home from work now. Maybe raccoons will take it. No luck there yet but hey, they may want to decorate for Christmas. Maybe? Probably not. Even the wildlife knows better than to touch that one with a 10 foot pole, it seems.
So yea, I’ve got issues but at least I’ve tried to deal with them – even if it led to more madness that I bargained for. Cheeseburgers and a drive by wave. Hrmph. That’s a heck of a way to solve a problem but if it works …
And by the way, the reason Rick doesn’t have an issue with poinsettias is because his grandmother that died at Christmas liked carnations, so the people that sent flowers sent carnations to her funeral (they also accepted donations to the church in lieu of flowers). No poinsettias there, even though her funeral was on December 23. Well played, I say.
That’s all today. I hope you’ve enjoyed my bizarre yet true tale of dealing with grief, myself, and the madness of life during the holiday season.