‘We have to stop meeting like this.’
The thought crossed my mind any number of times when I was back in Nova Scotia a couple of weeks ago with my family, for my grandmother’s funeral. It came up because the last few times I’ve been back there, it had been for funerals- for sad remembrances of life, twinned with an attempt to celebrate the good of it. One could be forgiven for feeling a little morbid.
But there was so much good, for my grandmother; both past and present. She had lived a long, full life, had the chance to see all six (SIX, which is a crazy number to comprehend) of her sons before passing on, and her enthusiasm and strength would live on in her family. Her sons remembered the fortitude, the discipline, her will in raising them all; I remembered the smiles, the hugs, and an infectious laugh and energy.
I remember a time she’d come out to Calgary several years ago, waiting for her flight to go back home. She had come to visit, and as with visits, it was time to go, and Dad and I were driving her to the airport. We went to the airport, and she had to go through in a wheelchair- Dad was going to go through with her, and spend a little more time with her before she left. I was… well, I wasn’t sure why I was there, honestly. But I was.
The situation changed, and my presence became fortunate. Dad couldn’t accompany her through security, though I can’t specifically remember why (perhaps he’d left his ID in the car). I went with Grandma through security, remembering what he’d discussed: that he was going to spend some time with her before seeing her off, not leave her alone to wait. That mantle was now mine.
Grandma and I spoke, for a short while. The shortness of the time we had left then (though it was almost two hours until her flight boarded) didn’t shrink the gap of age, of perception, of communicating in different ways. Even then, I was still finding my voice. She laughed and smiled, people watching as we arrived at the gate, and I sat down near her. The silences made me a little jumpy, and my mind raced with how to fill them in the short time we sat together. She spoke, I nodded, I spoke, she nodded. Even then, in her diminishing state, her smile and laugh still carried the hint of mischief, was infectious, made you want to do it too. I couldn’t help but be warmed.
During one of those silences, she spoke. It was as if she could read my mind, my intention- what had been Dad’s intention. “You don’t have to stay here,” she said, assuring me. “I’ll be fine.”
I turned to face her, and my mouth opened to speak. My planned response of protest died well before it hit my lips as I looked at her. In a moment, the conflict came and went in my head- her realization warring against my father’s intention. There was some time until the flight, and she probably would be fine. But I didn’t know when I would see her. A pang of guilt, for abandoning family in pursuit of my selfish want to amuse myself elsewhere? That was probably there, too.
I hugged her, and walked away, conflicted, wondering how I would explain this to Dad.
In the end, he understood. Heck, he probably knew better than anyone. Would he have said no to his own mother?