belles lettres: mari to gayle

It was sudden.

When I say it was sudden, I mean I thought I was in trouble when my dad called me downstairs –“Now,” he said. “I need you right now.” And I grumbled, as I will, about getting untangled from my computer, but I went. Now. I sat down in the chair in front of him and thought, has someone rung him about something I’ve done? What could I have done?

And he told me my grandmother was gone.

“No,” I said, a few times. “No.” Because what else do you say at first? I couldn’t even muster up a good curse.

We were the first phone call my aunt made. (Obviously the first first call came down from The Home, to my aunt, who works there but was probably off-duty for the day. Remember, they’re six hours ahead of us, and my dad told me at 6:30. So she actually died right around midnight, which means I can’t even say what day it was when she went.) Later my mum called my aunt, and now my aunt’s come back from going to see… I can’t call my grandmother “the body”. I really can’t. Not yet. So I should know even more in a bit, but for now, all I know is that I burst into very shocked tears and left lipstick stains on my dad’s sleeve.

She was so old, especially taking the stroke, the diabetes, and all the crap that comes with diabetes into account. She never did look after herself properly, so it’s a bit of a miracle that she made it this long. She’d have been eighty-seven this month. I guess all of her siblings have lived a good long while, except Rosa, who died of cancer because she refused to see a gynecologist, ever. They’re all bloody old. I guess it’s a perk of the lineage. We have to be direly ill before our bodies give up, so direly that lesser mortals would’ve given up way earlier.

My mum was ten minutes out from home, so we didn’t dare call. She’d have swerved into a telephone pole or something and then where would we be? I hung back when she did get here, thinking that my face was best buried in Adalyne’s fur. It gives everything away, this face. Especially when I’ve been crying. Especially to my mother. I let my dad tell her, gently, because he believes in euphemisms like “passed away” and I just say “so-and-so died.” I can just about stomach “so-and-so is gone”, but for some reason, forms of “to die” sit best with me.

Adalyne came when we yelled for her. I swear that cat’s psychic.

My mum’s being her stoic self. She’s not as shocked; she went over in October and saw for herself how things were. I missed all of her hinting. Well, it’s not as if I see someone’s inability to get up a couple of steps as a harbinger of doom. There’s disabled and there’s dying. My grandmother was not actively dying. She was doing it the way we all do, a slow slide into the Reaper’s arms. She ate, she laughed, and then she died. Nowadays, “old age” is a nice catchall for “every consequence of living much longer than our ancestors did”.

That generation is gone for me, now. Oh, there’s great-aunts and great-uncles left, but no more grandparents. All six are dead or have been missing so long that they might as well be dead. (Two adoptive. Four biological.) Three died before I was born, counting Mavis by about twenty minutes. One died before I can remember. I knew and loved the other two. I’m luckier than a lot of people. I’m 25 and just now facing this strange new status. You know I’m the last of the direct line? I’ve been aware since way before Downton Abbey made it fashionable. My grandparents had the house. Now my mother and her siblings do. Three left. Then me. And I’m the very last: no husband, no wife, no children. I’m the only one who’ll inherit. I wonder what will happen when I die?

I feel a little sick to my stomach. I also feel hungry. This is most vexing. I suppose my body is trying to tell me to eat something. I should. Lord, as if I weren’t feeling worn down already with the fucking Lyme and this new cold. Grief sucks. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence. Still true, though.

And my mum’s going to be away, speaking of the Lyme, when I go for my big appointment. February 10. Dad promised he’d take me. We’ve mended our relationship just in time. If Mum’s gone less than two weeks, I’ll wonder why. It’s just that I might go into hospital while she’s away. Certainly there’ll be plenty of poking and prodding. I’ll have to get S—– out here if they try a spinal tap; I swear I’m going to need him to hold me still on the table, or else they’ll have to dope me up with so much Xanax I drool on the unfortunate nurse.

Food. Right. Gayle, quiet as I may be, I’m happy you’re around, and I’m proud of you for all the great things you’re doing. Don’t you dare forget it. ❤

all my love



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