In a lot of ways the past few years have felt like a blur. A mostly happy blur, or at least limited to a level of sadness that I could handle without falling apart. I don’t know whether to attribute that to age or wisdom, or perhaps an uninvited combination of both.
It might be a testament to my own narcissism that I seemed more distraught over losing my university boyfriends than I was about losing my grandmother, or hearing about the death of our family dog. It felt like a different sort of sadness, a dull ache, not a shattering. Or perhaps the defining difference was that I had the chance to say goodbye this time, with a full heart.
I was too young to be concerned about her mutterings when she lived at home with us, but thinking back, it pains me to remember how deeply unhappy she was. She would constantly tell me how she wished she was dead, and was annoyed with her body for not obeying. Even being surrounded by her children and grandchildren couldn’t ground her enough to make up for the loss of her husband. She was from a different era, and the idea of seeking new happiness never even crossed her mind. As far as she was concerned, her life was over when he so selfishly passed away so soon, and she was merely waiting to follow.
As the dementia set in, we became a blur too. But there were a few moments of clarity towards the end, or maybe just my wishful thinking convincing myself that she was happy to see me.
I remember feeling an uncharitable degree of anger towards members of my extended family for being true to themselves. Aunts who refused to let her live with her sons despite it being custom. People who balked at the idea of spending money on someone with one foot in the grave, now trying to alleviate that guilt by contributing to an expensive coffin. Their giant crocodile tears and banshee screeches at the funeral almost making me laugh out loud. Her favourite son who decided he didn’t need to be there in her final moments, but rather stayed in China to guarantee his inheritance and avoid inviting squabbles. A cousin who cited young children being difficult to travel with, and a demanding work schedule as reasons for his absence. I’ll concede that funerals don’t have quite the same appeal as an island getaway.
I know that I am being unfair, yet felt that anger magnify whilst scrolling past cleverly worded social media tributes to a woman who could barely turn on the television without assistance and had never owned a mobile phone. It filled my mouth with a bitter taste I was unaccustomed to. I was never close to them but had always felt a fitting level of camaraderie, which vanished as quickly as their feigned trauma. I grew up being told that family was more important than anything, and blood was thicker than water. It took years to unlearn those little white lies, and let go of the associated disappointments.
I might not ever become one of those people who wake up in the mornings feeling a sense of purpose, but I no longer wake up with dread. It’s taken years to drag myself away from depressive and suicidal thoughts but they no longer take up the majority of my day. Most days they’re not even an afterthought. I still feel anxious and I worry too much despite knowing better, but I’m comfortably optimistic about the future. I want to build a family, the one I’d always wanted, filled with joy and laughter, and bursting with love. For the first time ever, that doesn’t seem impossible.