I have a secret.
Personally, I think that there are many people walking around with the same secret, but it doesn’t get shared all that often.
I don’t feel like a grown up.
I mean, I DO in the sense that yes, I can do big girl things like pay bills, take care of children, buy a car and shop for my own food. (Which still weirdly tickles me with excitement sometimes. I can buy whatever the hell I want to eat with the money I have! Sweet! Well, unless Jonathan is shopping with me. In that case he takes things out of my cart he deems “bad for me” [ie-pretty much everything I like] and sticks it back on the shelf when I’m not looking.)
Even though I’m 34, there are so many times that I still feel like a kid: unsure, vulnerable, and scared.
Sometimes I look around and think that as adults we’re really just repeating scenarios that we started in the sand pile;only the scenery has changed and the toys we’re all fighting, competing for, and playing with have gotten bigger and more expensive.
I didn’t think being an adult would feel this way when I was a child. I thought grown ups had all the answers, knew everything and never got scared.
(Yeah. I know.)
I remember some really specific moments when adult behavior just baffled me when I saw it through the filter of a child’s mind.
The day my maternal grandma died was one of them.
My mom was the youngest of eight children and I am the youngest of six siblings. In fact, I was the second to last of like, eleventy-hundred grandchildren from Paul and Susie Wade. My grandmother was born in 1891. She was nine years older than my grandpa and she met him in a one room, dirt floor school house in the deep south when he was 16 and she was his teacher. She said she saw a handsome redhead coming up the dirt road and knew she was in love. Today, this would most likely cause a jail sentence and an entire outraged radio segment by Dr. Laura, but I can’t help but say, “GO, GRANDMA!!! WOOT!”
My grandfather LOOOOOVED her.
Both of them loved me.
Even though they had dozens and dozens of grandkids.
Even though most of the time I was alive my grandmother was very sick and wheelchair bound and couldn’t interact with me very much.
I knew she and grandpa loved me.
Better than that?
They LIKED me.
KIDS KNOW THESE THINGS.
Sometimes when I go to the store I buy Jergen’s lotion because it’s one of the few memories I have of her. It was her signature scent and I never smell it without feeling like I’m wrapped up in a blankie of being loved. I wish that I had better memories of my her, but I was only 8-years-old when she died.
It was Sunday morning.
The phone rang and my mom came into the room where my twin sister and brother and I were sitting in our pajamas and she started crying when she told us that the hospital called to say that Grandma had died in the night.
My first thought was, “This means I can stay home and watch cartoons instead of going to church!”
(YEAH. I KNOW.)
My second thought was that I was totally confused at why my mom was so sad. I mean, it wasn’t like if she was little when her mom died. THAT would have been SO sad. Like when Chris A’s mom died right before the last day of school of cancer. THAT was sad because he was little and kids aren’t supposed to have their mom’s die. My mom was OLD and her mom was even OLDER.
Aren’t old people supposed to die??
It wasn’t that I wasn’t sad, I was. I was just confused at how hard my mom was taking it because she was a GROWN UP and GROWN UPS aren’t supposed to get as sad and cry like us little kids…right? They are supposed to handle things like death like…well…GROWN UPS!
Now that I AM a grown up, I know what a total load of crap this is.
My uncle passed away this week.
I probably should have started with this information, but to be honest-it doesn’t deeply touch or hurt me and I didn’t want people to rush with condolances or to think that I’m falling apart in pain.
My uncle wasn’t a bad man, he was just very solitary and extremely difficult to know. He did not talk a lot and I remember him always being around, but in a very quiet way. Kind of like a lone tree in the background of a painting. He was also an inlaw that was married to my aunt, so I guess you could say SHE was “the primary” if that makes sense. Because I didn’t know him that well I don’t feel a personal sense of grief with his passing but I absolutely have loss.
Remember how I told you that my mother is the youngest of eight?
Well, I have always thought of the aunts and uncles as a collective. A singular unit. I always knew that no matter what kind of chaos my childhood was in, the aunts and uncles were solid and stable. They were constant.
I also always think of them in pairs: Neil and Leotha, Ewell (Gene) and Joy, Zola (Pauline) and Plaz, Eva Nell and Alden, Alfred (AB) and Donna, Rowan and Verdeena, Bob and (Katherine) LaRee. The only singular was Aunt Regina and that is only because her husband died before I was born.
I always thought that our family was incredibly lucky to have so little death in it.
Before I buried my son, I had only been to the funerals of two family members-my grandparents.
When I did lose Matthew? Every single one of my aunts and uncles were there for me. Matthew got to meet ALL of them before he died and that was something that gave me great comfort. Even though they have dozens of nieces and nephews and extended family coming out their ears they were ALL there for me and shared my grief and pain.
Especially my Aunt Leotha.
We’re not supposed to have favorites and I love ALL my aunts and uncles but my Aunt Leotha is one of my favorite people on the planet. She reminds me of my grandpa and I adore her. I want to name my son after her and will keep trying to talk Jonathan into letting me use “Lee” as a middle name (Lee is her nickname. I loved my grandparents but DUDE they had weird taste in names. You can tell from that little list I just spewed out at you.)
And now Leotha is in really bad health, without her husband of decades and I hurt for her and my cousins.
I always knew that when my aunts and uncles did finally start to pass away it would come fast. We lost the first two last year within 2 weeks of each other and it was horrible. My mom is the baby of 8 and she’s 71, so it really is amazing that all of them have been around as long as we’ve been blessed with them.
I’ve found I don’t feel old enough for them to go, though.
I’m not ready.
I don’t know that I’ll ever feel old enough or ready enough.
Even with an uncle-in-law that I was not terribly close to it effects me.
This death comes at a time where there is very little in my life that feels secure and sure and safe and this? Is a really big…CHANGE.
Neil is supposed to be with Leotha.
He just IS.
The fact that he’s not is throwing me off kilter.
There is security in the familiar. You take for granted that what is will always be. When that changes it can be unsettling and make the most grown up of people feel like an 8-year-old who lays in bed not wanting to get up to get a drink of water because it’s dark and the dark is scary.
Right now, in my head, the aunts and uncles are still the grown ups and I am the little kid with scabs on my knees and tangles in my hair.
I don’t want to lose anyone else.
I don’t want anything else to change.
I’m not a kid anymore.
I know everything changes.
It has to.
Kids may not know about that fact of life, but grown ups DO.
That is the difference.
Knowing that nothing can stay the same forever. For the good or the bad, change is necessary and inevitable.
It just IS.
Can really suck sometimes.