Grieving Grandma

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

September 1, 2013

Grandma's Special Dishrag

This is one of three dishrags I got from my grandmother last summer.

I begged, pleaded, “Can I please have one more?” My grandmother acquiesced, and gave me three, instead of two, hand crocheted dish cloths. I wanted them for a few reasons. Namely, my grandmother had earlier admitted that she was ready to die. She was tired, and she had a full life. She didn’t need anything more.

That was last July, the last time my family was able to visit Michigan.

Having older grandparents, knowing the average life expectancy of humans, it’s a sort of ticking time bomb until their expiration date. Death happens. It happens too early, too late, and sometimes right on time in our human, familial standards. Once my grandmother was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, I wondered, for every call I received from my mother, I wondered if this was the one that would say, “Be on a plane, Grandma passed away.”

It didn’t happen like that, though. It happened while we were supposed to be in Michigan. My husband didn’t want to spend the money and I wasn’t feeling an obligatory family vacation this year. My boys, my husband and my son, and I haven’t been on a fun vacation in months. The last being a long weekend at the coast.

Every family visit is different. Some visits are full of bliss and remembering the good times. Some visits bring out the crabby in everyone, and this has been a crabby year – and I certainly didn’t want to spend over $1,500 (strictly on airfare, not including gas, food, lodging, etc.) to be crabby. The airfare prices never dropped below $440 each, and instead, skyrocketed to $700. So, we talked and decided to go to the redwoods instead. And, we had a fun family vacation. We had a quick adventure up the Northern California and Southern Oregon Coast – two places we’ve longed to visit since being in Portland nearly 10 years.

Really, it was the kind of trip my grandmother would have appreciated.

To adjust the three weeks vacation we were now NOT taking, I decided to work the following two weeks and take the last week of August off. Not only have family been crabby, but so have workmates, and I need a break. I need a break from bad attitudes that I’ve allowed to affect my attitude. I need a refresh, a recharge. And for me, that is best served relatively alone. So, we made our calls, we gave our apologies, and we set forth on our now revised vacation.

Post-redwoods, I see a few updates of family visiting Grandma and Grandpa. Grandpa looks better, but Grandma does not. And, then, on Board Meeting Thursday, I get a call – Grandma is in the ER and she can’t breathe. With this thought ever-present in my day, I keep doing the things that need doing – notes, mail, answer phones, appointments. Until, I finally come home, later in the evening than on a normal day. And, then, I injure my foot. Maybe my posterior tendon rubs the wrong way with my plantar fascia – I’m still not sure – but the prescription is rest. The next day, just before being x-rayed, I have a detailed chat with my cousin, who was preparing for her upcoming wedding. She tells me how Grandma doesn’t want tears, how she can’t breathe, and how she can’t talk. All I really want is a Grandma hug. But, Grandma couldn’t even give me a Grandma hug last year. Tearfully I get my x-rays, and the rest of the day is spent resting.

Late Saturday night, my grandmother passed away. There was nothing I could do then, so I wrote. The next day, I awaited calls on details, and when that finally came – with all the raw emotion of a stressed situation – I made the decision – we will not be going back to Michigan to celebrate, with family, the lovely life of my grandmother.

I mentioned this to a co-worker, and she reminded me that funerals serve many purposes, and if you can’t grieve in the way you need to grieve at the funeral, it’s okay that you’re not there. I am comforted by the restated words of my cousin where Grandma asked for no tears and the reminder that she will be watching us from up above.


  1. Jessy

    I think Grandma would be happy that you took the time for your own little family. Remember her alive SIL. I know we are many miles, and different opinions apart, but you own a piece of my heart Sister In Law. I love you!

    • Michelle Lasley

      Hey, thanks! I sure hope my grandma is happy. She was a neat, neat woman. I realized, the day she died, how much she (and my mother) have affected my views of home and community. Still cogitating over that thought process.

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