I’m not really sure how you start a story like this one. There isn’t a great defining moment that kicked off the year, no New Year’s Eve finale that ended with all my hopes and dreams coming true. In fact, I spent it watching someone I had loved for a very long time look upon me with indifference and insincerity. But that was only a few moments at the beginning of a very long year in which a lot of things were questioned, a lot of people were lost and a lot of myself was chipped away into someone different.
Soon after my anti-climatic New Year’s Eve that ended one delusional idea but brought on a host of others, I decided that I was going to focus on becoming a new woman. A woman who had come out of a damaging relationship stronger and would use what she had learned to never make that mistake again. That idea soon waivered, only to find that being alone was not in fact as easy as I had imagined and not having the support of someone close to you, even someone that was insecure and possessive, was difficult and not something I was sure I wanted to do. The silence of coming back to an empty house felt so much louder than coming back to an unhappy home.
And then my small, ordinary world got the news that not only was my grandmother sick, but her husband, my paternal grandfather, was as well. My grandmother had been fighting respiratory illness for a few weeks at this point and my family was evaluating my grandfather’s living situation when he went to the doctor and was diagnosed with advanced melanoma that had spread to his brain. Skin cancer that had crept its way into his head and was taking over, causing him to lose certain functions and inevitably, lose everything. The doctors said he had about a month to live so we hopped on a plane to Texas and proceeded to say goodbye to someone who had no idea they were dying. My past experiences with death had been fairly easy compared to this. Alzheimer’s, AIDS, car accidents. All situations where saying goodbye was long and drawn out or simply not even an option. But here I was, sitting with a man that I had known my entire life as someone who loved me unconditionally, and suddenly I had to find a way to tell him how much I loved and cherished him without letting him know that he could go at any day. What was harder was that the family had decided not to tell my ailing grandmother with hope that she would still fight if she thought all was how it should be. But knowing my grandmother, I think she knew something was wrong. All of a sudden, three grandchildren show up out of the blue and my grandfather is nowhere to be found, much less mentioned. Soon after we left town, my grandfather passed away, quickly and hopefully without pain. It took another six months for my grandmother to go, drifting between getting better and going back to the immobilized version of what was a long and vibrant life. We buried her in the summer heat and after the funeral, as I sat in her favorite rocking chair, I noticed that her trusty Rolodex, the keeper of all her beloveds’ numbers and addresses, was turned to me.
In six short months I had gone from being consumed over the crushing failures of an adolescent heart to the realization that the cornerstones of which my life had been built were suddenly missing. There were no longer ready answers to questions of my ancestry or memories that were missing a critical part but were stuck on the tip of my tongue. Suddenly we were divvying up jewelry and tools and looking for that one size of canning jar that made exactly the right version of vanilla milkshake. It was if I was taking each of my childhood memories and slicing them up into pieces, evenly distributing them out as if I couldn’t keep them all to myself anymore.
After the whirlwind of the funeral, my life became a whirlwind of its own. My boyfriend at the time moved away for graduate school, I quit my job in a haste that could only be explained as trepidation and at twenty-three, with two dogs in tow, I moved back home with my parents.