Monday, May 19, 2008

Not in Mourning

My mother's father died today.

He was old. I'm not sure how old, in his 90's I'm certain, but I don't know his exact age. My mother called and told, she sounded distressed, distracted and angry. I could neither relate to her feelings nor provide the kind of empathy she needed, so I did not hold her on the phone when she ended the call after a few brief moments.

After she hung up I sat there. I waited to feel something. I felt nothing. No sadness, no regrets, no unfinished business, no feeling that my time with him was too short. No sense of loss. Nothing. I felt bad for my mother because I know this is devastating to her. But had no sad feelings of my own.

It seems that I should. He was my grandfather, after all. But we were never close. Well, maybe a little, tiny bit once when I was a toddler. Apparently I gave him the nickname that everyone in the family, and even most people outside the family, called him by - Tiger. So there must have been some connection between us at some point - but nothing in the years I can remember.

I think I've mentioned on this blog before that my mother's family wasn't much involved in my childhood. And that my mother has encouraged me to be involved with them as an adult - which I've resisted. In the last few months she has encouraged me, again and again to spend time with my grandfather as he lie in the hospital, mostly unconscious and always incoherent. I visited him twice - once bringing my oldest daughter. The second time I encountered one of my cousins who eyed me suspiciously and acted as though it was offensive for me to show my face when my grandfather was sick after having been gone so long. I decided then that I would not be back.

I felt vaguely hypocritical and completely out of place, visiting my mother's father in his death as I had never visited him (or he me) during life. I am many things, but not a hypocrite. So I chose to let him end his life as he had lived it - without my involvement.

I wondered if I would feel something more for him when he was gone. If some unresolved and hidden emotion would surface itself. I'm only a little surprised to discover that, no, there is nothing hiding in the deep recesses of my emotions. I worked through my feelings about him long ago and I've acted in a way that is true to those feelings. I am at peace and hope he is too.

My mother, on the other hand, is still to be reckoned with. She has always held these images in her head of how things SHOULD be. And she will twist everything around her into a knot to meet that image. The only other people she has lost have been her sister and her mother. And she mourned them big - with long sad faces, many tears and sighs and sobs. I know she will do no less for her father - and that she will be frustrated and annoyed at anyone else who does not subscribe to this view of mourning.

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