On Sunday I’ll be celebrating my first birthday without my grandma. I can’t believe it’s been four months since she left us; it still feels really surreal.
This past weekend was particularly hard for me. As part of my new-found minimalist philosophy, I’ve been going through my belongings every so often and weeding out the things I no longer need/want. Some of the things that ended up in the trunk of my car were my grandmas. Three blankets, and while they all had special meaning for me just because they were hers, there was one in particular I just couldn’t bear parting with. A plush blue blanket she had draped over her dining room chair ever since she was diagnosed with the cancer. Even in the summer months she kept it there. It was 90 degrees in the house, but still she was cold. This blanket gave her warmth and the extra padding she needed since losing a lot of weight making her quite bony.
Somehow, even though picturing her in that chair with that blue blanket gave me comfort, it still found its way into the trunk of my car. (The car, by the way, that I had bought one year ago in March, coincidentally on the same day she was diagnosed.) It was stained with cigarette burns and I could still smell the smoke so I knew I would never use it. But the thought of someone else having it made me sick.
Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to drop it off at Goodwill alone, I asked my mom for reinforcements.
(By the way, my mom lives in Corvallis, I live in Eugene. Why do I take all my Goodwill things to Corvallis? My reasoning is that if I change my mind, which I do frequently, about giving something up, I’ll have to drive all the way back to Corvallis to get it. You can laugh but it works.)
Anyway, I knew I needed to just take the plunge and give these things up (because otherwise they’d just be sitting in my trunk for who knows how long), but that didn’t make it any easier to do it. My mom compared it to ripping off a band-aid – “you just do it and get it over with,” she said. It was meant to reassure me that it would, in fact, be easier to deal with once I just got the damn items out of my trunk, but did it work?
When we pulled into the drop off site, I didn’t see the attendant. In my head I cheered, relieved that I wouldn’t have to deal with this whole thing today.
“Oh it looks like he’s not here,” I said to my mom, getting ready to turn the car around. “No, no, there he is,” she said pointing. Shit, I thought, Here we go.
I slowly pulled the car up next to the man. I popped the trunk and grabbed the first bags to go. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the blue blanket. Keep me, it whispered. Before I could talk myself out of it, my hands reached for the blankets and handed them over to the man.
“You want a a receipt?” he asked. “No that’s okay,” came my hurried reply. I already felt my eyes watering. In the car I jokingly said to my mom, “Now I know how hoarders feel.” I tried to laugh it off, but I started crying. “I really didn’t think it would be this hard.” I cried the rest of the way home.
For some of you reading this, you’re probably thinking “oh jeez, it’s just a blanket for heaven’s sake.” But it wasn’t just a blanket. This was the blanket my grandma had used for warmth and comfort during her year of chemo and, well, dying. For my mom, the blanket had only bad memories; she didn’t want to remember her mother with cancer. I wasn’t really associating the blanket with Cancer Grandma. It was just Grandma and I wanted her.
Later that night I finally realized what was bothering me so much: it was that by giving away something of hers, I felt like I was giving a part of her away too. I’m having a really hard time reminding myself that she isn’t an object. Just like I’m struggling coming to terms with the fact that I can’t call her up any time I want to tell her anything and everything. I lost that.
I would’ve liked to end this post by saying I learned some big life lesson, but I didn’t really. However, I do realize I can’t hold onto every single little thing of hers. And my mom was right – it was like ripping off a band-aid. It really fucking hurt the first day knowing that blanket wasn’t in my trunk, free for me to take out if I changed my mind. But it’s two days later and I feel a little better. Not a lot, but a little is better than nothing.