The Long Goodbye

It’s half past midnight as I start this post and the events of the past four days are not letting my mind nor body find peace tonight. This past Thursday I received a call from my aunt, my Grandma Rose was not expected to live another day. Friday crawled by then Saturday night I received another call, she was gone.

The passing of my grandmother was not unexpected. Ever since I had a rather vivid dream a month or two ago I expected a call from my aunt any day. In my dream, my grandmother and I were sitting at my dining room table talking about everything, anything just like before she got sick. Then towards the end she said, “Well kid, I am going to go now. I just wanted to come say goodbye.” Although it sounds mad, a big part of me believes, feels, knows that by some miracle a part of her being was able to untangle itself from the Alzheimer’s and the laws of science so that we could have one last conversation.

I feel heartbroken. I feel mad. I feel robbed.

Our relationship had a bit of unconventional start. Due to family matters, a true relationship was not able to even begin to form until I was about 15 or 16. We had some pretty big obstacles to overcome, issues to discuss, things that happened to be forgiven, all while navigating simply getting to know one another from a distance of 1,200 miles. It was at times messy, but, other than having more time together I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Despite these challenges we were able to build an incredibly strong relationship based upon second chances, forgiveness, and unconditional love. We did not give up on one another. I am proud of what we built.

The conversations we had to get there dealt with things that I don’t think many in a grandparent-grandchild relationship ever do. I got to know and appreciate her in ways I may have not otherwise. Our relationship may have not ever looked like a typical grandparent-grandchild one from the outside but that never bothered me. In a way, we had something better, something more.

My Grandma Rose's High School Portrait.
My Grandma Rose’s High School Portrait.

Grandma Rose became someone I could always count on for emotional support. Providing emotional support for an INFJ like me is not an easy task but there she was. She always rooted for me, always believed in me. If she didn’t understand or agree with something I was doing, she’d ask me questions but then she’d support me anyway. She just wanted to know that I thought things through and wanted me to make decisions in my best interest. She wanted to know about every part of my life. She was invested completely in my happiness. She wanted to make sure I always felt her love and support.

Then one day during one of our phone calls she didn’t ask me about my dogs- something she did without fail. It happened again on our next call and was accompanied by some red flags I had seen before. I began to fear that the same disease that claimed the life of my grandfather in 2005 was starting to creep in and was going to eventually take her too.  I could hear the heartbreak in her voice several months later when she finally admitted what was wrong. From there, her condition rapidly worsened as the Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s took control of her body and her mind.

Watching a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s is not something I would wish on anyone. It means losing the person you love twice. First, as their memories, personality, and everything that made them who they are is steadily erased before your eyes leaving behind a shell of someone you once knew. Then, when their body finally gives out you have to come face to face with the reality that there will be no miracle. Their suffering is finally at end, but, they are truly gone.

I don’t want to remember Grandma Rose as she was these last few years. That horrible disease doesn’t deserve to steal my memories of her as it stole her memories of me. I want to remember the way she laughed, her brilliant smile, her quirky sense of humor, the calm tone of her voice, and the way she would call me “Kass” or “kid.” I want to remember how much she used to love hearing about my latest genealogy finds.  I want to remember how she was so afraid of birds that with a mere a feather on a hat my aunt cornered her in antique mall where she proceeded to squeal like a little girl. I want to remember how on that same road trip she made us spend probably a good hour rearranging the car to squeeze an old pump in the back. I want to remember her as the woman in her 60s who decided to take up tap and Irish step dancing. Vibrant, loving, and unyielding.

I love you Grandma Rose.

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Save the Date

I am pleased to announce that McGarry’s Pub of Maple Plain, Minnesota (Twin Cities area) will be holding a fundraiser for my research into the life of Captain James McGarry. The fundraiser will be held the weekend of September 17, 2016 as a part of their Half Way to St.Patrick’s Day Celebration.  McGarry’s Pub is owned and operated by Bill McGarry, a descendant of the Captain’s brother Henry.

I will update this post as more details become available. In the meanwhile, please take a moment to check out their website and Facebook page. Their food looks mouthwatering! Words cannot express how grateful I am to have Bill organize this and how much support from the Captain’s living relatives means to me.

Donations can also be made at gofundme.com/KassieNelson.