Age 17 – My First Real Loss
I had never lost someone close to me. I knew my grandmother was sick, but I wasn’t prepared to lose her. My grandmother was funny, stubborn, had a strong faith and was full of life. Unfortunately, she was also a chain smoker. I mean that in every sense of the word. I remember visiting my grandparents and she would literally have a cigarette in her mouth from the moment she woke at 5am while saying her Rosary to the moment she went to bed at night. If I didn’t actually witness her lighting her cigarette with the previous one, I would not have believed it.
Unfortunately, it eventually caught up with her. Ironically, when she was diagnosed, she had already quit. Years before that, she had stopped cold turkey. It’s funny how someone who smoked the way she did could just wake up one morning and decide not to ever pick up another cigarette again. And she never did.
The cancer engulfed one of her lungs and she had to have it removed. It took a couple of years for it to hit her second lung. It was soon after the second diagnosis that she succumbed to the disease. It’s almost as if she just gave up, I remember how she didn’t fight.
I very vividly remember the day I got the news of her death. I had just exited the shower and was standing in the bathroom with a towel around myself when the phone rang. My father called from the hospital to say she had passed away. I remember sinking to the floor upon hearing the news and sobbing. I had never lost anyone before and I didn’t know what to do or how to handle it. I was absolutely terrified of attending the services. I remember feeling so vulnerable and helpless.
My aunt, who is only 11 years older than me, was engaged to be married. My grandmother used to joke that they would have to push her in a wheelchair down the aisle because my aunt and her fiancée were waiting so long to marry. After all, she was the last out of 7 children to receive the sacrament. Ironically, they were wed one week after grandma’s burial. As sad as we were, the wedding went on because that’s what she would have wanted. Her presence was very much felt that day.
I think of my grandmother quite often. I pray to her. Sometimes I see her in my daughter. Sometimes I feel like she is my daughter’s guardian angel. Just a hunch.
As Recording My Youth comes to a close, I reflect on my childhood and what memories have come forth.
For years, when I thought back to my childhood, I always thought everyone grew up like me. I thought everyone’s dad was in the Army and moved all over. I thought everyone went garbage picking. I thought everyone had a nutty mom.
We struggled financially, but my parents always managed to keep a clean and sturdy roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs. My brothers and I never thought for a second that my parents didn’t have much money. We were supplied a wonderful upbringing with great memories to last a lifetime.
I tell my daughter all the time how different my upbringing was from hers. She thinks I had a sad childhood when I recount my stories to her, but she couldn’t be more wrong. It was wonderful, every bit of it. I’m so happy to have had this opportunity. Thank you, Janna!