Did you read the article about the elderly Italian couple that were so lonely that the police had to be called to intervene? I did and it absolutely crushed me—so much so that when I was reading the article to my husband, I started crying. This story absolutely made my heart break, primarily because it reminded me that I have a grandparent that I adore yet hardly ever see. My maternal grandmother lives by herself, so far from all of the rest of my family that still lives in the same state and I fear that she is lonely. I’m rather helpless in this situation because I live all the way across the country, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling some weird combination of longing, guilt, and fear, coupled with the understanding that I have no real option to assuage any of these feelings except to move closer, and that isn’t possible. Compounding all of this is the fact that I lost my paternal grandmother at the beginning of the summer. Since then, I have struggled to make sense of this world without her in it, although I struggled to make sense of our relationship while she was living. I was never really sure how she actually felt about me—unfortunately, there is a significant amount of dysfunction present in my family of origin, as there is with most families I know—but she was such a revered presence in our family that her no longer being here on this Earth is a stunning, unfathomable revelation. She was incandescent. It really is the only way to describe her—even with all of the unbelievable heartache she endured, particularly near the end of her life. Also? I still worry that she was lonely at the end, although she was surrounded by people that meant the most to her. Two months out from her funeral and I am still trying to come to terms with this.
It is the strangest thing, living away from your family. I have found that absence doesn’t necessarily make the heart grow fonder, at least for the people that were left behind. Do they care about me? Yes, of course. But I’m not there. I’m not dealing with the day to day issues that arise in everyone’s life. It is also very easy, living in sunny southern California, where the weather every day is the same as the day before, for time to slip away, mostly unnoticed. I remember how stunned I was when I saw that my father’s hair had turned completely white from his normal salt and pepper color. It seemed to have happened in an instant, but, of course, it happened incrementally. I just wasn’t there to see it. I’m missing a lot, and at a high cost. It isn’t all bad, obviously, because I love the life that I have built for myself–and it is one that would not have been available to me otherwise. But believing and trusting that I am doing what is best for me doesn’t make missing my grandmothers and the rest of my family any easier. While I have always been very aware of making each day count because you don’t get this life forever, actually being confronted with the reality of that is quite a bit different than I was expecting. Getting older is hard enough, but watching my grandparents and parents age and change is a heartache that I am not prepared for at all. I find myself suddenly intensely aware of how little time is left and honestly, that is kind of terrifying.
Do you live far away from your family? How have you dealt with all the issues that arise because of where you live? Have you lost a grandparent? How did you finally come to terms with that loss? I’m really interested in hearing what other people do to deal with these kinds of issues.