Life, Death, My Grandparents and Learning to Be Committed (#31writenow, #nablopomo)

by P. Braithwaite

My grandmother raised me. Well, in all fairness, she helped. My parents were both very present, but they worked full-time. My grandmother, a holdover from a different time, was enlisted to become the stay-at-home mom I never had. She taught me to read (the tribulations of The Bernstein Bears were best devoured in her lap). We had philosophical discussions about the virtues of fixing my hair before I answered the door. (What if that’s your husband at the door?) She picked my brother and I up on half-days and treated us to afternoons at the arcade. She was one-of-the volunteer lunch ladies every single week (though she would bring me McDonalds on those days), and she always made me cupcakes with colorful icing when the birthdays and bake sales came around.

She is a cornerstone in my childhood development.

I didn’t know my grandfather as well. He didn’t help raise me the way my grandma did. He always seemed stoic and stand-offish. He loved me and he showed it. I mentioned, on a visit, that I liked tennis balls and every day when he went for a walk he’d pick them up for me. My grandmother, who took care of me at our house, would come daily with bags of tennis balls just for me. He’d make me mix tapes of my favorite 90’s R&B – Toni Braxton, Lauryn Hill, and Anita Baker. “How many cuts do you want,” he’d ask me, and proceed to tape only my favorite songs.

I was too young to be versed in the various language of love. I didn’t speak the love langue involving tennis balls and mix tape.

I didn’t think we had a relationship at all.

When my grandmother died, I wore a green dress in her honor and laughed during most of her funeral. Not because I wasn’t sad, but I was comforted by knowing she wouldn’t have to suffer. I could laugh because I knew that’s what she would’ve wanted. I felt like our trajectory together was complete.

I will never forget the overwhelming grief I felt at my grandfather’s funeral. Even now I struggle to understand the depth of my sadness. Most of my childhood memories do not include my grandfather. I can think of maybe 3 conversations we’ve actually had, but when he died I was distraught and confused.

I discovered an ache I didn’t even know I had.

It’s ironic. We spend so much of our lives afraid to commit. We suspect that failure will destroy us or irrevocably damage us, but what damages our psyche’s most…is regret. That day at my grandpa’s funeral, when I cried into my brother’s arms, I was grieving the relationship we never actually had. I was grieving over the realization that nothing lasts forever and people walk into and out of your life before you get a chance to notice. Opportunities can actually be missed. I cried for all the times I didn’t call to say thank you for every single tennis ball he ever put into a bag. I cried for all the mix tapes thrown carelessly into a drawer without so much as a courtesy listen. I cried for the talks that we’d never get to have and the war stories I’d never get to hear.

There was a version of myself I’d never become because I never committed to the experience of fully knowing and loving my grandfather.

So I grieved for the death of possibility.

So commit, today, I urge you to commit fully to each moment; commit to the people that bring value into your life because when they walk away, you’ll discover what I know as truth: regret is an uncomfortable companion. And you might be left grieving the person who is gone and the person you weren’t able to become.

And so it is.

Psst…I’m away from technology until September 8th, so if you comment I won’t get back to your right away. Sending you love from my retreat. Xoxoxo