The Family Has Gotten Smaller

CW: Death

Five years ago now, I wrote about my experiences, the last experiences, I had, with my grandmother as she passed away. Her remembering me. Her seeing through the haze of a stroke, and managing to connect with me, one last time. My beloved grandmother, the one whose history had all sorts of moments, of memories of holiday mornings spent on the floor, or her knitting me a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles jumper, or the little boxed cereals she kept around for us because she didn’t like cereal but she knew we did, or the babybel cheeses where she kept the boxes because she knew I liked making things with them. That was saying goodbye and making some monument to, in a way, my Nanna.

My other grandmother died Friday morning.

I am in a complicated place. Because remembering my Nanna brings all these warm memories of the godless woman who cared about me but remembering my Grandmother is much more about remembering, then pushing aside, hurtful and selfish and meanspirited things said to me, to my girlfriend who became my wife, about the Irish and the Blacks and the Scottish and women and nonsense medical advice and her attitude towards hitting kids and the starkly quiet emptiness of the spaces of her home and the way that visiting her was a chore. My fondest memories of visiting her as I dredge them is of sitting out back of her place with books she owned, while inside she spoke to my mother and father.

I remember trying. I remember feeling guilty. Always guilty.

I feel bad that I don’t feel worse. Because what makes me feel bad right now is not the loss of my grandmother but rather the realisation that my family, the people closer to her, the people she hadn’t successfully shoved away, are hurting right now and I don’t feel it the way they do.

I always try to anchor my experiences in a historical context. And part of that context for me is going to be that my grandmother was born before World War 2, married a man much older than her, who died just as her two identical twin sons were leaving home, and who spent the entirety of my life getting meaner and pettier and sadder. I’m not trying to speak ill of the dead here, I’m not doing this to draw out of the depths some last resentment for my Bad Grandmother or something. It’s just when I think about her, the feelings that rise up are pity for her memory and sadness for those who cared about her.

While trying, so hard, to think of something about this that doesn’t read like stuffing a box of dust under the bed, I remembered that there is something my grandmother connected me to that my Nanna didn’t, and that’s legacy. My family name was something she saw as super important, and… yeah now I’m back at bad thoughts and feelings about how she really wanted me to have kids, to continue that long-lasting family name. But that reaches back through history towards a massive family of important colonial figures who… were colonists, not convicts, and that’s not a good feeling either. Or the connection to a cultural icon, which was made by a dude who was such an immense tit they pretended to not know what he’d done so he wouldn’t be commemorated by those who remembered it.

But.

She was my line back to Lawrence Hargraves.

And Lawrence Hargraves was the man.

(In a period where there was no alternative if you wanted to be a historically interesting scientist, okay, I’m sorry, but still.)

I will miss her, but her memory is marked with an asterisk. I love her, I loved her, but always with the reminder that she and I were not good at loving each other.

But now, my family is a little bit smaller.

And I don’t feel how we’re feeling right now.

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