Why I Can’t Mourn
Growing up I had extra grandparents. I had my biological grandparents, and their parents. I had step-grandparents. I had an ex-step grandmother and therefore ex-step great grandparents. I had grandmother who was a nice lady my mom worked with. I had a near grandma who was my uncle’s mother-in-law in Holland. I was a lucky girl with a large network of love and family.
I still have an ex-step grandma. Her name is Alice and she’s an incredibly warm and wonderful person. Which makes it all the more angering that life has really been shitty to her. Her first husband left her for another woman. She lost a daughter to cancer. She married the sociopath who was my dad’s father, and was stripped of everything she had left after her first husband abandoned her. She was one of the few bright and kind spots during hard times in my father’s life, and to this day introduces him not as a step son or former step son; he is her son to everyone she meets.
After my dad’s father left her (but not her money), she stayed living here in Utah, and to us it doesn’t matter that she’s no legal relation, she’s still my grandma. But visiting her for the last decade has been frustrating and hard. My grandma Alice remarried, and following her pattern of picking some real winners, married another asshole. This one drank too much and was generally just all about whatever was best for him. Several years ago he confessed that not only did he not actually love her (or was faithful to her), but that he never had loved her. That he married her for “companionship.” But since he was old and mostly-retired, it was easier just to stay married to her. She took it.
We’d offered to help her leave him, and so did her daughter, but she didn’t want to. So we’d visit on holidays or the occasional stop-by and it was always extremely awkward. I felt waves of relief when we’d swing by and her husband wasn’t there (my grandma’s husband was not my grandpa; he never earned that). There was also a horrifying visit my dad and I made once when we came to her door only to find that she wasn’t answering and the dog was going crazy. We were getting terribly worried when finally she was able to come to the door, but she was disoriented and sweating. Being all alone, she’d gotten distracted by some work around the house and missed eating or checking her blood sugar, and was incredibly close to sliding into unconsciousness and death. Dad and I got some juice into her and sat with her while we got her right again, only to find out she didn’t seem to know where her husband was and when he’d be home. But for our visit, my grandma would have died that day. She has had other episodes like this, and I didn’t trust her husband to keep her taken care of or safe.
A couple years ago, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I could feel nothing but relief. I feel guilty that I wanted to visit my grandmother less rather than more, however. Because then he would be there, and social convention and politeness would require me to be at least mildly sympathetic and seem sad that the asshole was not long for this world. Being a married adult with a house and pets and the usual grownup responsibilities gave me an excuse not to stop by, and I feel squishily ashamed about it.
He has died. And I can’t feel bad. Maybe that makes me a bad person.
Alice’s daughter and daughter-in-law are coming in from Connecticut. They’ve asked her (for what is many times now) whether she’d like to come live with them, but Utah is her home. She would rather find some kind of assisted living where she could keep some independence (and her dog) and I understand. I’m happy that we can now settle my grandma down somewhere that she can have someone to check on her to make sure she’s conscious and that her blood sugar stays in safe levels.