Her 95th birthday party was supposed to be tomorrow. We had been planning it for months. My grandmother’s major desire was that we all be there. That’s why the party was to be 10 days after her actual birthday – because that was the first time everyone could be there. And it totally sucks that she’s not here.
We were going to have the party anyway, but then 1/3 of the family ended up invited to a wedding that day (from their other side of the family) and so then the party was canceled. And that sucks.
There are two major reasons this sucks.
1) She’s gone, and it sucks that she’s gone, and I want to celebrate with her.
2) A big fear of hers, one that she expressed to me often, was that the family would not get together after she was gone.
I always thought she was being a bit overdramatic when she said this – of course we will all still get together. We are family, after all. One (very important, nonetheless) person doesn’t make or break an entire group’s habits.
But then, as I left her house the day of the funeral, and I said goodbye to one of my cousins who lives on the West Coast, I found myself wondering, “Will I ever see her again?”
Of course I will, I said to myself, but in the weeks since I’ve had that thought, it’s popped into my head many times.
We were always close growing up. Mia has 9 grandchildren, and we gathered often at her house for fun times at the lake, Christmases, etc. But as I think about it more and more, I realize the togetherness faded as people grew up and started their own families. Much of my time at her house was spent just me and her, or me and her and my siblings and my parents, aunt and uncle. Of course, I still saw some of my cousins – sometimes. But I had not seen many of them in years – since her 90th birthday party (and some even before that.)
That’s not to say things weren’t good. A cousin on the west coast called Mia often – and she was always sending her letters and gifts, which Mia would happily show me. She went to the beach every year with other cousins. And I still felt super close to all of them even if I hadn’t seen them – one of my cousins even officiated my wedding. A cousin in Seattle and I emailed frequently for a long time. We have a good family.
But Mia always worried. She was sad that the Christmases together were from years past. She feared we’d never gather once we didn’t have her to gather around.
And so, as her 95th approached, we wanted to give her that togetherness. That time at the lake. And it sucks she didn’t make it long enough for us to have that.
But a week after she died, my siblings and I hosted my parents’ anniversary party. And something really odd happened: My uncle, who never goes anywhere, came. He’s never even been to my house before. And yesterday, as Kevin and I left Jenny’s house in Greenville, we stopped to see my aunt Josie (which really isn’t that unusual, we have spent a lot of time at her house. But she made a point to make sure we knew she wanted to see us, and Kevin and I spoke about how much we wanted to see her, if only for a few minutes.) And I realized something yesterday – we are all trying.
The family will never be the same without her, that much I know. But I wish to give her this for her birthday – to prove her wrong. To show her that she raised us all right, that the strength of the family will continue and that we will all make the effort, even if we don’t have her to gather us anymore.
I miss you, Mia.