Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The end of the beginning .....

The days immediately following my grandmother's death are rather hazy now.  My uncle's wife soon arrived, having made arrangements for the care of her children and then driven 800+ miles to reach my grandfather's house.  Of course, my mother (my grandmother's daughter) was notified and, as with her relinquishment of my brother and I a decade prior, there are conflicting stories about her response.
She was never financially well-off, and she simply didn't have the money to fly from the West Coast.  When we talked later in life, she said she told her brother and father that she wanted to attend the funeral, but just couldn't unless they paid the airfare.  My uncle's version was that she said she'd ONLY attend the funeral if one of them paid the airfare.  He never hesitated to remind me how "selfish" and "unsuccessful" she was. 

A side note:  When someone makes disparaging comments about an adoptee's first parent(s), it's like making a disparaging comment about the adoptee him/herself.  After all, we are the biological offspring of our first parents.  They are part of us and we are part of them, whether or not we have a relationship with them or even know them.  Please be respectful of that.

A ticket was somehow purchased, and my mother arrived for the funeral.  This led to lengthy discussions about sleeping arrangements.  My grandfather had a double bed, as did I, but those were the only beds in the house and there were now four adults and one child who needed a place to sleep.  My uncle bunked with my grandfather, and I was told I would be sharing a bed with my uncle's wife.
"NO!" I said, firmly.  "I'll sleep on the couch!"
I was informed that my mother was sleeping on the couch (it was fine, apparently, for two [related] grown men to sleep in the same bed, but not for two [related only by marriage] grown women to do so).  Or perhaps, due to her insignificance in the family, the couch was deemed appropriate for my mother.  I really don't know.  I do know that I was forced to share my bed with my uncle's wife for the duration of our time there.  I was already upset and not sleeping well, and this certainly didn't help.
While my grandfather and uncle finalized funeral arrangements, my uncle's wife started to pack up my belongings for the move.  My books, my clothes, my toys, my accordion -- everything was securely boxed up and stacked in a corner.  Each newly-sealed box was a cold reminder that I'd soon be sent away from my "real family."
During the funeral, the casket was closed, so I didn't have the chance to see my grandmother's face that one last time.  I begged my best friend, V., to come to the funeral so I could see HER one last time, but funerals upset her mother too much and so she wasn't allowed to attend.  We would later have to say our goodbyes via telephone -- better than not saying goodbye at all, but not much.
At the funeral, my grandfather wept for the woman he'd been married to for more than 40 years and whom he loved deeply, but I refused to cry.  For some reason, I believed that it was shameful to cry in public; that it somehow made a person look weak. 
I saved my tears for when I was alone, and in those times they were plentiful.