My maternal grandmother passed away a little over a year ago. She was 88 years old. She survived her husband and four of her eleven children, and at least two of her thirty-five grandchildren.
I found out about my grandmother's death on Facebook--not even in a status, but in a comment one of my cousins made in a goofy thread on a goofy status she had posted earlier in the day. At first, this way of learning the news struck me as vaguely absurd. I realized fairly quickly thereafter that there was almost no other way I could've heard this news. I am not sure what sort of notification system there was, if there was any sort of system at all. Most likely there was no list, but even if there had been a list, I certainly would not have been on it. If it were not for Facebook, I wouldn't have any contact at all with any of my cousins.
I was never really close to my grandmother--when she died, it had been almost 20 years since the last time I'd seen or spoken to her even though she only lived 20 minutes away. I cannot remember ever being in a room alone with her or having a meaningful conversation with her or even observing her in meaningful conversation with anyone else.
There are reasons for this: my family moved around a lot and sometimes we only saw my mother's family once or twice a year; I was shy to begin with and standoffish later when I grew old enough to pick up on the tensions that often ran high between my mother and her mother, between mom and her siblings.
Then after my mother died, there was a falling out between my siblings and most of the rest of the extended family. It's a long and complicated story that involved property, but only superficially, only symbolically. That was around fifteen years ago now. Some of my siblings have more or less made their peace with the family and are more or less included in things now. I have never even tried finding my way back, largely because I don't feel like I ever belonged.
When my grandmother died, a few friends read about it in the newspaper and offered their condolences. I felt awkward accepting their sympathies, almost false, like an impostor of some kind. I felt as though I lacked the proper credentials for grief in this situation. How do you accept condolences for the loss of someone who hasn't been in your life for 20 years and who, even before that, was always more of an absence than a presence?
For a few days following my grandmother's death, my Facebook feed was full of affectionate recollections of her written by my cousins and even my sister. They remembered stories my grandmother had told them about how she and my grandfather had met. They remembered long car rides with her. They remembered her bacon and eggs. They remembered experiencing all sorts of things with her that I had never experienced.
With each post, I understood more and more the true nature of my own loss where Grandma Grover was concerned. I lost something, for sure, but whatever it was, I had lost it long ago.
L is for Loss
10 hours ago