Washing Guilt Dry

I’m on book 3 of the #ReadWithRD for 2018 and it’s Rupi Kaur’s The Sun and Her Flowers book of poems. Reading poetry hasn’t been my thing, the last time I read anything that rhymed it was underneath the title, Where The Sidewalk Ends.

Why wasn’t I ever interested in poetry before?

Maybe I strayed away because the word seemed too feminine and had over the top emotions, corny jazz music and far out artists weaved beneath its definition. And there was no way I’d fit in there…

So imagine my surprise when I began to enjoy it, which then lead to an embarrassing amount of Google searches to gain some perspective and history on the art of poetry.

My searches led me to Blogging University’s Intro to Poetry course and on a whim, I signed up. Its follow-up email sealed  the deal by stating, “Sometimes we need a little nudge to get in touch with our creative side.”

I have my own theme I’d like to conquer by using poetry and would like to see if it helps.

This week’s prompt involved water:


Grandma’s death washed me dry
and left me without any layers.
I spoke the truth but it felt twice removed
because she kept secrets like a gypsy.
Guilt crept in and rinsed my skin
clean of any wrongdoings.
Because truth be told, none of us knew
the real J. Ruth in the beginning.


Tell me poem readers, what do you think? RamblinRandol -

copyright @ramblinrandol 2018

Grieving Death Feels Paralyzing

In between random bouts of crying and catching myself staring off into the distance, I haven’t been able to shake the funk Grandma’s death has left on me.

The overpowering need to cry is paralyzing sometimes and the emotions are too raw. This isn’t my first death, but it is the first death that’s affected me this deeply. So deep it’s unlocked a few boxes I’ve had cemented shut for a decade (at least).

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been somewhat angry at my mother and at this moment the details don’t matter. Some of my anger is justified and some of it not.

I haven’t lived near family (or had a true blue friend) for a long time, many miles and time zones separate us and if you would’ve asked me a month ago, I would’ve told you it was better that way — being alone felt like the best option, no family drama or obligation.

Then I flew to Buffalo to put my Grandmother to rest and saw everyone I hadn’t seen for years. It felt comfortable, relatively welcoming and nice to “be home,” but that same outsider feeling slowly crept through my skin, cryptically at first and more loudly a few weeks later.

I had prepared to give Grandma’s eulogy, but not for the emotional aftermath of seeing family I had’t seen in six long years.

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While writing Grandma’s eulogy (which was its own heart-wrenching journey) I came to the conclusion Grandma tried her best. We didn’t have the relationship I wanted and could rattle off a number of instances she handled poorly throughout my childhood, but despite all of her shortcomings and the long distance between us, she still showed up and it took her dying and my responsibility to give the eulogy to reflect on her.

And that bit makes me sick with guilt.

The grieving process is different for everyone, but her death has leaked into family truths I’ve been outrunning for a long time and it’s hard to put Pandora back in her box.

I’m left emotionally raw, confused and uncertain how to heal.

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Grandma is losing her leg

Grandma is losing her leg after 10 weeks in the hospital with a short stint in a rehab center. The bacterial infection has come back with a vengeance (for the fourth time) and this time will take her leg.

The doctor gave her three choices: amputate one leg, both legs (the other foot has started to change color) or get on hospice. My Uncle stood next to her as the doctor spoke and she cried uncontrollably – the first time I’ve ever heard of her being anything else but composed.

doctor's scope from Grandma is losing her leg blog

We’ve never had a hallmark grandmother/grandchild relationship and never will, but despite our differences she has taught me an important lesson nevertheless…

Janet Irene Ruth was born a little after the Great Depression and that’s about all I know of her upbringing. She had a sister and got married relatively young.

Unfortunately Janet married a man who loved the bottle and beating his family. My mother and uncle were a product of their marriage. Janet eventually left her husband when my Mom was in her preteens, but her oblivion and disconnection from reality stayed.

Grandma would call the house phone every week to talk to Mom and if one of her grandkids accidentally answered the phone instead, she’d skip over pleasentries and demand we put our mother on the phone.

A weekend visit from Grandma meant preparation for nonsenseical demands that I could never get right. She liked to bark orders and being the oldest, I got the brunt of it. “Help your mother with the dishes, Shannon. Go check on your sister, Shannon. Did you take the dogs of a walk, Shannon? Get me my drink, Shannon.”  

I would vent to my mom about how unfair she was being and my mom would say, “She’s just confused, her mother raised me so she thinks it’s her job to raise you. I’ll remind her once more it’s not her job.”

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Grandma never failed to comment on my weight each time she visited and was a firm believer that gum before dinner meant a spoiled appetite. She was not the grammy who kissed boo-boos or hid York peppermint patties in her cubbards for you to find.

But that’s not how I’ll only remember her.

On nights me and my siblings slept over, Grandma and I would cuddle up on her armchair to read a story. She’d grab whichever suitable kid book lying around and have me read it out-loud.

She also had a closet full of shoes and clothes she’d let me play dress-up in.

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I’d clunk down the hallway in heels two sizes too big for my feet wearing her dress slip like a summer wrap. She’d clap, tell me I looked gorgeous and instruct I go find another outfit to dazzle in.

She’d also let me sit at her desk and play on the typewriter. “Write me a story,” she’d say. I’d clack away, pushing the keys down as hard as I could to write her a short story. I’d shout, “Ok, Grandma I’m done!” and she’d turn her attention back to me and say, “Alright, read it to me!”

It didn’t matter how many times I scuffed her shoes down the wooden hallway or how long I clacked away at the typewriter. If I had more gas in the tank for another story or fashion show, she’d clap or listen for as long as necessary.

In those moments she got it right. She was the Hallmark grandparent and for those moments of “grandparent clarity,” I  look past her shortcomings and can truly say I really do love and adore my Grandma, because at the end of the day no-one else can be her.

It’s been six years since I’ve seen her and a lot has changed. Our last conversation proved her mind is on a loop and her sense of time has warped, but our relationship has recently made a gray area in my world seem a little brighter and easier to understand.

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I suffer from my own type of disconnection. Instead of being oblivious to life truths and reality like Grandma, I’m terrible at understanding the value in relationship connections outside of my small circle. I’ve written about my disconnection in another blog, you can catch up here.

It’s incredibly difficult for me to tolerate people who I deem as unworthy of my time. I’ve learned my [friendship] test is a tough one to pass (I’m working on it, don’t worry ;)) and this makes me sound like an ass, but this test of who I let in and out is how I’ve kept myself safe for so many years.

But this strict test doesn’t have bend for people you’re forced to have contact with on an every day basis that you don’t want to have contact with, and this is where ol’ Grandma gave me some perspective.

I accepted my Grandma for who she was a long time ago and stopped holding her to the standard of grandparents I had in my head, instead I appreciated her for who she was in my life and loving her came easier.

Letting go takes on a whole new meeting when you understand its content.

 

A few weeks ago I was able to finally get Grams on FaceTime while she was trying to recuperate at the hospital. Nothing like seeing reality for it to hit you.

Grandma is very sick.

As of yet, Grams has opted to amputate (above the knee) her right leg and will go into surgery within the next 24-48 hours. I worry she won’t wake up from the procedure and if she does, I’m not certain she’ll survive the post-op.

Thousands of miles separate us so I won’t be able to give her an encouraging hug before she goes under, but I can hope she’ll sense these next pile of words and feel me with her.

I love you Grandma.

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Farewell Joni

There’s a scary reality that all living things face – death and its finality.

At night, when you nestle your head into that pillow or each morning when you pull out of the driveway, it never feels like it may be the last time you do it. You expect to see your home again, wake up from your slumber and return to doing the same routine things you do every day, the same way you have for years.

It’s never intended to be the very last time you grab your keys, slip underneath the covers or check the rearview mirror while leaving.

I got a frantic phone call this morning, in the wee hours before the sun was up. I usually go into work at 7 a.m. so I was shocked to see “Worrrrrrrrkkkkkkk” popping up on my phone. My immediate thought is “Sheet, I’m late!”

“Hey – it’s Wayne, there’s an emergency. I don’t have any openers and I’ve tried calling the other 7o’clock servers but have gotten no answer. I need you to come in early, I’ll explain then, please, I’m sorry for waking you up, but I need you.”

While I was still not sure if I was dreaming or not, I mumbled “of course.” I rolled out of bed and stumbled through the dark halls trying to find the back door. My dogs knew I was up and expected me to let them out and then feed them. I cursed whoever it was that caused me to be woken early.

My shoes were the last thing I needed to find and as I searched I began to register the voice of my frantic, breathless and somewhat desperate tone of voice my manager had so early in the morning. I tend to go straight to worse case scenario, a trait I swore I wouldn’t receive from my mother, and I hardly will say them out-loud.

Although I wouldn’t say it or let myself to think it, I had a horrible feeling and knew something bad had happened. The thought sat in the back of my mind, hiding somewhere behind my eyes, holding its breath waiting for someone to confirm its truth.

Finally, I made it to the front door of my workplace. As I stumbled into into the building, I realized I looked like I had indeed just rolled out of bed. My apron was untied and hanging from my neck, my shirt was buttoned but I missed one, in one hand my belt and the other a grapefruit.

My fear got the best of me as I headed towards the back of the restaurant and into the kitchen. Who wasn’t here? What’s going on?

“Oh, thank God,” I said. ” I thought something happened to you. Where’s Joni?”

“She called in, she went out last night with some friends to celebrate it being Friday. I think she had a little too much fun.”

Well, damn. I got a breathless manager calling me in early to cover, sounding frantic and encouraging my worrisome-self to imagine the worst. I had began to thought they had gotten into an accident that morning. They drive together some mornings and in Texas the highways aren’t lit through the long patches between cities, anything can jump out and derail you.

As I knocked on the office door to get my manager to swipe me in for duty, I looked into his eyes to see if they would deceive his calm demeanor. “Help me set up the store,” he said. “I’ll tell you later, just please help me.”

I stumbled down the server isle, into the refrigerator walk-in and around and back through dry storage. I gathered containers for ice and lemons, sugar to sweeten the tea and labels for the perishable items. All awhile imagining the conversation I would have with Joni the next day at work.

“Joni bologna, you know you got me in here two hours early because of your old partying bee-hind.”

I imagined what she would say also.

“I know that’s not you talkin’ to me like that! I know you know you can kiss my A double S!”

We’d laugh and she’d probably reach out to smack my butt. I’d respond with my usual, “harder” and the normal banter between us would ensue the rest of the day.

Before I knew it, my fellow opener, friend and co-worker was being called into the office. “I’ll speak to you next.”

I made myself busy for a few minutes, pouring myself a cup of coffee and stirring the right amount of sugars so It would make the color a nice caramel shade. I starred at the office window wondering if I should peek in, knowing I would know what was occurring the second I saw her face.

I peered into the window and saw tears streaming down her face and still I didn’t believe it.

It’s my turn now and as I walk into the office I crack a joke about how hot it is. “Yes Wayne, it’s hotter than Hades in here, can’t you just enjoy the cooler winter months temperatures?” With his back to me, he replies with a smart mouth joke. In the same second, he turns and looks at me with a look that can only described as regret. What ever he had to tell me, he didn’t want to.

“Joni’s sister called me this morning, there was an accident last night-early this morning and we’re not entirely sure what happened.”  He paused for a bit and then said, “she didn’t make it.”

I sat there bewildered with the truth finally showing its ugly face. I picked at the laminated calendar on the desk and fidgeted in the wheeled chair for what seemed like forever before I could simply say, “okay.”

I got up, headed towards the door and said I’d watch out for my fellow co-worker. They were close friends. I opened the door and went straight for my friend, gave her a hug and told her it wasn’t her fault and she couldn’t of prevented it.

I was a shoulder for each co-worker today, for anybody who wanted it. My shoulder was soaked with tears as they shuddered in my arms while bellowing out their sorrow and sadness. All I could do was stand there, they needed a shoulder and I wanted to be that rock for them.

I can’t remember a time in the long 8-years of serving that the back of house was silent. There was no obscenities being thrown around, or jokes being told. The grill cooks weren’t screaming for servers or vise versa. Nobody knew what to say to each other. They came into work that morning to do a job, and there were plenty of guests that needed our attention.

I came home and went to my rock, my husband. While I laid on the couch voiceless, he let me. After a substantial amount of time, he reached for my hand and asked if I would go outside with him. When I couldn’t find the words, he just nodded and said, “I know.”

Life is such a beautiful thing and it’s a shame when somebody has to die to remind you. There won’t be anymore tomorrows for my friend Joni, so make the best out of yours while you still can. Life is beautiful and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

I will miss your cackles every weekend that accompanied your crude banter. You always talked about how much you missed your mom, at least we can all find comfort in knowing you’re finally with her again. Rest in peace.