Without the appropriate words. That is the state I’ve been in for the past couple weeks. But an author friend of mine told me that all I had to do was start writing and the right words would just come. I trust that as I type this tonight, that the words I’ve been unable to think of will manifest themselves…so here goes:
Today is my birthday and the only thing on my mind is my grandmother’s death. A month ago (today), she decided to leave this earth and leave her family in emotional turmoil. I can’t believe that I have survived this month without her being in my life, but I have no choice. I have the rest of my life to live without her as well. Why did her death hit me so damn hard? This is the question I’ve asked myself multiple times until I realized the answer. The reason I no longer feel the same is because I lost someone I truly loved. I get it now. It also makes sense to me why my soul feels like it’s been sucked away. It makes sense to me that I feel alone sometimes with no one to talk to. But it also makes sense why at times I feel like I don’t want to do anything. A lot of what I did in my life was to make my mother and my grandmother proud of me. If I were to become successful, I wanted both of them to be present to say “Tom, you made the family name something special.” Now, Nellie May Jones will never be able to say those words to me…and I will grieve forever.
I was rushing to catch the 75 (the bus I normally take to and from school) and trying to dial my mother’s number at the same time. There was some important news I needed to relay to her about my best friend from high school, Whitney. You see, after having been so busy with school this term, I’ve not had much time to talk to any of my friends and I discovered (through the lovely medium of Facebook) that Whitney’s mother had suffered a stroke. Aghast, I hurriedly called my mother to tell her to put her mom in prayer. But as soon as my mother picked up the phone, I never got a chance to tell her the news.
“Ma,” I greeted as I stepped onto the bus fishing for my bus pass. “I just wanted to know if…”
“Tom, I got some bad news.” My mother’s voice sounded serious. (But then again, why wouldn’t she sound that way if she had bad news to tell me?) I thought that she was going to say Sprint had cut off my phone (which actually would’ve been great news) but what she did say taught me to never have expectations: “You’re grandmother is dead.”
There was a slight pause as I put my bus pass away and climbed the steps to the upper level. Keeping my voice to a minimum, I exhaled, not really knowing what to say. As I opened my mouth to ask ‘What?’ (as if I didn’t hear the news the first time), my mother gave me even more disturbing news.
“She died this morning. They found her in her room on the floor.”
“The floor?” I was baffled (and strangely pissed off). “Was anybody there with her?” Deep in my heart, I already knew that the answer would be no, because had someone been home, she would’ve died in a hospital or in her bed, not the fucking floor.
“No,” my mother confirmed. I was fuming. My grandfather (the 2nd husband), who had a history of leaving my grandmother alone, knowing how ill she was, was not there when she died. How could he not be there to help out his wife? The woman who he was married to all these years? I didn’t understand. “For better or worse,” right? That’s what you pledge when you get married. For better or worse….not for better or when-you’re-not-too-much-of-a-burden-to-me.
“Why wasn’t he there?” I asked, still flummoxed that my grandmama was gone, and yet trying to stay as calm as possible.
“I DON’T KNOW, TOM,” my mother screamed. She breathed and then told me that she was on her way to view the body, which was still on the floor. Alone. That’s not how my grandmother deserved to die. Especially not on the floor of her home. I would’ve been more at peace if she’d slipped away in her sleep, but to have died crumpled and in ruins was unfair.
I thought this as I hung up with my mother and called my homegirl, Kia. I informed her of what had happened and told her how surprised I was that I wasn’t crying. The bus stopped, but my mind kept running. I got off the bus, and proceeded to walk home. If memory serves me correctly, I called my mother a second time. She didn’t answer the phone. So I did something crazy: I dialed my grandmother’s number. I guess I figured I call the house one last time. Maybe I half expected to hear her voice. The last time I spoke to her was two days before that and she was so out of breath that I hurried her off the phone just so she wouldn’t expell too much energy.
My grandfather answered the phone. I listened for sadness in his voice, some sort of sorrowful tone. Nothing. He answered the phone as if nothing had happened…as if my grandmother wasn’t lying dead on the floor of her bedroom. Suspicious? Hell yes, I was. (and I’m still waiting on the tears, to be honest.)
He eventually passed the phone to my mother (who, I discovered later, had fainted upon seeing her mother’s body). She informed me that the undertakers (who were close with our family) would be there to pick up her body soon.
“She’s at peace, baby. It’s all over her face.” My mom sounded eerily calm. It almost sounded as if she was smiling through the phone. Either she was smiling or convicing herself that everything would be alright. Whatever it was, it wasn’t working for me. I felt like someone had sucked something away from me and I couldn’t breathe. (It was at this time I thanked God for giving me the skills to act and perform because I was doing a damn good job pretending I had my shit together).
“Alright, Ma.” I could feel my lower lip start quivering, which meant that blurry vision would soon follow. “Give me a call when everything is worked out over there. Or I’ll call you.”
“Alright, baby.” I listened to the noise going on behind her. It seemed like a lot of people were at my grandmother’s house. No one sounded like they were crying. But I knew if I didn’t hang up soon…
“It’s gonna be alright, baby. She’s fine.”
“Ok.” I hung up. I still had another block to go and I didn’t think my tears would wait until I got in the door. So I tried to hurry along the street, but they came and I sniffled and I fought the tears as much as I could. Once I got in the door, and began untying my shoes, I cried every tear I hadn’t cried before. I was crumpled on the floor with one shoe off, my head in my hands and my heart in ruins. I couldn’t believe it…the floor is what my grandmother and I had in common.
The rest of the night, I sat in front of the TV. I didn’t move…I couldn’t. But my stomach began to growl and so I peeled my weary body off the leather couch (it was my first day of choreography project at my school which meant I’d just danced for 4 straight hours), and sulked into the kitchen to make something to eat then it was off to bed.
There was one final call to my mother, but I’m not sure what the conversation was about. I think I asked her if I needed to do anything, to which she told me I’d done enough already. Apparently, I‘d forgotten that when I was 16, I typed my grandmother’s obituary, as well as what she wanted for her funeral (casket color, songs sung, etc.). Once my mother reminded me, I remembered, as plain as day, everything she wanted. My mother hung up and began the process of preparing for her mother’s funeral.
That night, as I said a tear-filled prayer, I began to wonder if my grandmother was sitting next to God. I wondered if she could see her family in their various emotional states. But of most of all I wondered (now that she was with the All-Knowing) if she knew everything that was about to unfold. Would she know my future? Would she be an angel? Would she know how much she affected the lives of others around her?
As I turn 24 today, I still wonder these things. But I wonder if she’s mad at me for not finishing her chronicles. Many would say “no”, but I feel I didn’t follow through. So I have a lot of catching up to do. Stay tuned…a lot of people wanted to know what I’ve been up to this past month…trust me, you’re going to find out!