I Always Thought I’d See You Again. Truly, I Did.

Ten years ago, in August, my maternal Grandmother (Grandma) had a stroke. My daughter and I raced up to Michigan to spend some time with her because, according to my mother, this was the end. My paternal grandmother (G.G. – she felt she was too young to be called great-grandma)  also lived in Michigan. When I told her we were coming she said she would change her travel plans so she’d be in town to see us. I told her, no. Go ahead with your plans. We’ll have lunch with you before you go. We have a limited time (just a long weekend) and we’ll be spending most of it with Grandma. But G.G. insisted.

We visited G.G. for lunch when we first arrived and then promised to spend time with her on our last day and go out for dinner with her before we were off to the airport.

The rest of the weekend was spent spending time with Grandma, trying to talk with her, sit with her, eat with her, telling stories. My daughter and her cousins played, picked blueberries, giggled and put on shows for us.

On our last day, I was spent. Emotionally. Physically. My sister and I decided to cut our visit with G.G. short. No dinner. Just visit with her for a little while and then off to the airport. I was exhausted with our whirlwind trip and I just wanted to be home. Besides, we were planning on a much longer visit with G.G. for Thanksgiving, one of her favorite holidays.

This decision was made on our way to G.G.’s house. And we were already running late. She expected us about an hour before. I was anxious about this – I hate being late – but there is no rushing my sister. When we were growing up and shared a room I used to set two alarm clocks just so we could be on time for swim practice in the morning.

G.G. was disappointed that we were late. She had every right. And then, her shoulders slumped when we told her we didn’t have time for dinner. She was so disappointed. I remember visiting with her on her screened in porch. Her eyes were a bit vacant. We were talking about recipes and she went to get her little file. As she was pulling out some favorites she handed one to my sister, a couple to me and said, “Just keep them. It’s not like I’m going to make them again.”

Our visit with her was typical. We laughed. We debated. We shared. She was a bright, strong, engaging, interesting woman. I loved our talks. But this particular visit was a tiny bit strained. A tiny bit awkward. I chalked it up to our disappointing her and promised myself I’d make it up to her when we came in November.

We packed up the kids to go. We kissed and hugged and said our goodbyes. And as we drove down the driveway I saw my G.G. standing there, next to her precious house, arms folded across her chest, looking smaller than I’ve ever seen her. She looked frail. She looked sad. I missed her already.

Without warning, she died a few weeks later. My sister called to tell me and even though she called her “Grandma” I knew exactly who she was talking about.  But this wasn’t the Grandma that was supposed to die. This Grandma was strong, vibrant and healthy. I was supposed to spend a week with her at Thanksgiving and eat her famous turkey and cucumber salad and yummy chocolate chip cookie bars.

And my other grandmother, the one who had the stroke. Lived a few years more. Happily. And with many more visits from us.

We never know how much time we have with each other. We can’t count on the next holiday, the next Thanksgiving, the next weekend. My heart still aches for G.G. and I struggle with the regret I have, disappointing her so, on what was my very last visit with her.

Please know, G.G., if I had to do it all over again, I would have done things so differently that weekend.

So differently.

“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again” – James Taylor


Filed under family, Lessons Learned, Music

24 responses to “I Always Thought I’d See You Again. Truly, I Did.

  1. Oh, Jane…I’m so sorry about both your Grandmas…

    My mom died almost three years ago, after being chronically ill for the last 23 years of her life – ironically, it was a heart attack that killed her, not one of her many other conditions. The day she died (she lived 1000 miles away), I received a package in the mail with her last wishes (she’d told me she was sending it when I’d talked to her on the phone the week before). Somehow, she must have known…


    P.S. Fire and Rain is one of my Top 10 All-Time Favourite Songs…it always makes me cry…

  2. ((you)) You couldn’t have known, but I am sorry.

  3. angelcel

    Oh boy, I knew where this was going as soon as I started reading. I lost so many people between 1998-early 2003 that I know just what you’re saying. Without meaning to be morbid or maudlin we really do need to treasure each day: tell people we love them, make time for them, don’t wait for special occasions – just enjoy the simple pleasures with those we love – Today. Life is precious, and all too short.

    You can’t have known about your great grandma – it’s a mistake we have all been guilty of. x

  4. It sucks. I’m sorry. Speaking from experience, even when you do everything “right” you have regrets and an abundance of wishes for “do overs..”

  5. Made me cry. Made me think about my own Grandma. I didn’t get to say goodbye to her, and it still bothers me. This was a very good reminder, Jane. Thanks.

  6. Yes we really don’t know how long we have left on this earth, so we should cherish the ones we love. Now!

    But don’t be hard on yourself, you did see her even if the time with your grandma was shorter, you were there for her, even if the plans were changed.

  7. Nobody knows. And you can’t let yourself feel guilt…but I know you will. I lost my Mom like that, suddenly and unexpectedly and later the same year my Dad, also suddenly. You think about the “last time” you saw them, and try to believe you should have known, but you can’t know.

    Hugs to you as you remember GG and your Grandma.

  8. Oh, Jane, your word are so true. We just never know what turns life is going to take. I’m learning that myself with everything that’s been happening to me lately. Life is just so uncertain..tell the people you love that you love them.. never a bad thing to do.

  9. At least you did go see her – you did spend time with her. You didn’t just brush her off.

    We can make ourselves crazy regretting things we’ve done or didn’t do, but that changes nothing.

  10. Regret — one of the most uncomfortable feelings in the range of human emotion. Of course you didn’t want to disappoint G.G. I’m sorry this happened to you — I hope writing about it helps in some way.

  11. Don’t beat yourself up over it. I know it hurts. But you did what you could at the moment and even though she may have been disappointed I’m sure she was delighted to see you and knew you were doing the best you could. We don’t know how much time we have so we all just do what we can. It does seems weird though that she gave you the recipes saying she wasn’t going to need them. Maybe she knew?

  12. I had a similar experience with my own grandfather. I stopped by quick on my way home from college and when I said ‘Good-bye Grandda”..he said “please don’t say good-bye say see you later.” Which I ammended and said. But I didn’t get the chance as he died a few weeks after…

    You are SOOOOO right that you never, ever know. So take a moment today to say the things that you want to the people you love. Just in case.

  13. Definitely a reminder that we all need.

  14. This made me so sad. It is very true though, we never know how long is left. I am so sorry that you never got to see her again. She sounds like a great woman.

  15. You couldn’t have known, Jane. We can’t know. But it doesn’t change the wish that you’d done things differently. She knew how much you loved her. Both your grandmothers did.

    Those I’ve loved have all died without warning – both my parents, my grandparents. I don’t know what’s worse – watching someone grow ill and die, but you may have the time to make peace or say your goodbyes. Or someone who is there, and then seemingly disappears. I don’t know what is worse for them, or for us.

    Most of the time we don’t have a choice anyway. All we can do, I suppose, is try to let those we love know it. Often.

  16. Oh, goodness, honey, what an introduction to your blog! It’s beautiful, of course, but it sends me far into my own head–and that makes it excellent writing.
    My grandchildren call me G.G., so now my kids do, too. I never want to tell them what I heard growing up, “Don’t neglect your elders; you never know when it will be the last time.” That always sounded so manipulative to me then.

    Now? I think it, but it would be wrong to say it. Besides, I’ve got plenty of time left with them.

  17. My favorite grandpa died two years ago. He was on vacation, and he had a stomach aneurysm. I was so upset because he was the healthiest of my grandpas. He was suppose to be there when we finally moved to AZ to teach me how to be a handy man. Then he was gone. I’m so glad I was able to talk to him two weeks before when he called me for my birthday, but I can’t help but be bitter that he was taken before I was ready to let him go.

  18. ck

    That song gets me every time.

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Jane, and for the weight of the guilt you carry, but you should feel full as well. Full that you have had such wonderful people in your life that you feel loss now that they’re gone. I would give anything to feel some kind of loss when I think of my deceased grandparents. Or anything at all.

  19. Sobering and true words. I rushed through the last Thanksgiving I had with my dad thinking we had all the time in the world. I would have done it so differently if I had known he wouldn’t be around for Christmas. It was sudden and I didn’t know he was gone until I got to the hospital.

  20. What a beautiful piece. Really makes me think. And very beautifully written.

  21. So sorry for your loss Jane. I’ve always done 20/20 on what I could have done differently, especially when I think of my father. I was late by 20 minutes and wasn’t able to say goodbye. There are regrets, but there is nothing I can do about them now. What you wrote in this post is a beautiful reminder of how you should cherish every moment because you never know what is waiting around the next corner.

  22. secretlifeofjane

    This literally brought tears to my eyes. I am very close to my grandparents and I always worry about this. When we drive away I stare at them waving goodbye until their tiny forms dissappear in the distance. And I try to brand what they looked like in that moment on my brain in case it is the last time I ever see them. I can almost see your GG as you have described her here. Thanks for always getting to the heart of the matter.

  23. Pingback: I Grieve. Or I Am A Rock. Take Your Pick. « Theycallmejane's Blog

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