I was 23 and pregnant with my eldest daughter, now almost fourteen, when my grandma died. She had lived with us since I was nine years old, with my grandpa (prior to his death, when I was sixteen years old), parents and older sister. Even before my grandparents moved over to join us in Sheffield from their Lincolnshire bungalow, we were very close. My sister and I were thrilled when they, along with our parents, made the decision to buy a house in Sheffield and for us all to live together.
My grandma suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in her last years, and when she finally passed away, she no longer knew who I was. I visited her in the nursing home where she saw out her final months when I was several months pregnant, and although she demonstrated happiness at the news of the impending baby, she had no idea that my soon-to-be-born daughter was her great grandchild. She died soon after that visit.
Life moves on; my baby was born and I married my (now ex) husband a few months later. Although I was extremely sad that I had lost my beloved grandma, I was so caught up with the hectic schedule that accompanies being a new mum and wife that I buried my grief to a degree in order to concentrate on the here and now.
As the years went by, the memories became increasingly distant, pushed to the back of my mind. I began to drink heavily in my late twenties, attempting to anaesthetise myself against the pain of my divorce and the sadness I felt at being left to raise my daughter without her dad around. All the negative events that I had experienced during my life prior to then, including the death of my grandma, gradually whittled away to minor grievances, diluted by wine, numbed by my drunkenness. Somewhere along the way, I stopped feeling.
When I gave up drinking alcohol, and the weeks of sobriety turned in to months, I began to think a lot about stuff that I had interred, long ago, in the depths of my consciousness. I became aware that most of the sad or painful life experiences which had occurred earlier on in my life, had never been ‘dealt with’ – instead of feeling emotional pain, living it, working through it and then moving forward, I had just drunk those emotions away, blotting them out like an eclipsed sun. I had, effectively, never known true pain.
I had lived through things as though I were an automaton, forbidding myself to feel emotions like a human being should, boxing painful memories away like disused ornaments in a dusty attic. Drinking took away my ability to hurt.
But slowly, emotions have returned. Over the last few months, particularly after the birth of my second daughter, I have thought of my grandma frequently (our baby is the namesake of my grandma and of my partner’s mother). Silly things remind me of her; an M&S nighty hanging on an old lady’s washing line; re-reading ‘Anne of Green Gables’; whipping cream to peaks with an electric whisk, mine being a modern version of the 1970’s one I used to borrow from her as a child who was a keen baker; the new series of Dallas; attempting to sew my other half’s trouser hems, minus the wonderfully equipped sewing box she kept so well stocked; Pond’s face cream, the reason behind her lovely pink complexion; my baby’s little chin, round like a button, and which so reminds me of her great-grandma’s.
Although it has been fourteen years since her death, I still miss my grandma. I wish she could have known my two lovely girls, and seen my sister and me as mothers, with our own families to look after. She gave us such constant and unconditional love, and I wish that I had been given the chance to visit her and look after her at an older age than that at which she passed away.
Although I still cry sometimes when I see the seemingly inane things that remind me of her, I am so glad that I feel those emotions and think of her, so fondly, as often as I do. I wouldn’t have ever grieved properly for her had I still been drinking wine every night, and even though it hurts, I am happy to finally be dealing with my feelings, good and bad, like a fully functioning human being.