This has been a difficult year, and it might just be my Nortriptyline and morning pages that have allowed me to keep it together. I feel like the whole year has been a long, slow splintering of my heart.
At the end of March, my mom found out that one of her brother's was attempting to wrestle all his siblings inheritences away from them. My aunt--and the mother of my goddaughters--was on board with him. The rest of the five children resisted. My uncle and aunt's greed broke the whole family apart, which has been such a long and painful process. It's not just about their greed to gobble up assets when my grandparents pass away -- they also actively made my grandparents' life miserable. They had my grandfather convinced not to spend ANY of his money (so that there would be more in the pot for them to exploit), which led to my grandparents living in substandard conditions because Grandpa wouldn't spend any money to fix up the house. The worst part was that they had to severely limit their water usage, which led to my grandmother having repeated UTIs because there wasn't enough water pressure to flush more than a couple pieces of toilet paper each time she used the bathroom.
I lost my relationship with my goddaughters and went almost an entire year without speaking to them because their mother was the gatekeeper to my interactions with them, and her repeated betrayals of my mother and her family made it increasingly difficult to forgive her as the year went on. I spent months afraid for my mother's life as she tried, unsuccessfully, to somehow stop the evil that was unfolding around her. When she finally decided to let it go in October, I stopped worrying my uncle would mete out violence upon her, but I didn't stop worrying about her broken heart, or the way she's basically lost faith in the world.
This was the backdrop to the entire year, this constantly unfolding drama and betrayal that made me feel as if my family were the cast of A Game of Thrones. Against these concerns, my cat Phoebe died in May. It happened so quickly -- she died one week after I first brought her into the vet because she had stopped eating. Losing her was traumatic enough that it divided my year in half -- everything that happened when I was blissfully unaware that Phoebe was in her last days with me, and everything that happened afterwards. Seven months later, there are still days when my heart aches with a desire to have her back again, where I feel jarred by the "wrongness" of having her gone. Perhaps what's worse is that the further I get from her death, the harder it is for me to conjure her presence in my mind, to remember the details of how she looked and felt and sounded. Sometimes it's hard to believe she was ever real at all, or that I spent 10 1/2 years with her at my side.
Our last night together.
I saw my grandmother for the last time the Sunday before Thanksgiving, when the half of my family that is still speaking to one another had a gathering. She was coherant and happy to be away from hospice, but I kept looking at her and noticing how she always seemed to be staring off into the distance, and I felt in those moments that she was already leaving us. She died on December 9, and the fracturing of her family has made the grieving process a complicated one. My mom has been so angry about how "the two" who screwed everyone else also are trying to dominate the dispersion of my grandma's possessions that she's only recently begun to process the pain of losing her mother. And it is hard to get past the anger to engage with the grief, especially since my uncle and aunt accuse the others in the family of being like "vultures" every time they mention their desire to go into Grandma's house and take some of her belongings to remember her by. I have my grandmother's rosary, and my mom has her devotional book, a few of her plants, and a small urn of her ashes. This may be all that we ever have from her, as "the two" are the only ones who have keys to her house and are pillaging it as we speak, taking anything they don't want to Goodwill rather than offering it to her chidren and grandchildren who might find some comfort in it.
In the midst of these complicating factors, grieving Grandma has been difficult for me. I feel as if it was easier for me to process Phoebe's death than it is to process hers. I held the entirety of Phoebe's life within my own memories, but only ever saw a fraction of my grandmother's. I made the decision to euthanize Phoebe when I saw that her body was destroying her from the inside out; I was in the room with her when she died; and when she came home, I felt her absence in my day-to-day life, my whole house holding memories of all the places I would find her. It's just a lot harder for me to wrap my head around my grandma's being gone -- she stopped traveling in her later years and never even saw the house where I live now. And I'm 100 miles away from everyone else who knew and loved her. I feel like I managed to do my grieving over Phoebe "right," but knowing how to properly grieve my grandmother has been far more difficult.
So I have a remembrance candle on my bookshelf, and her rosary hanging up beside my bed, and the readings and program from her funeral taped into my journal. The rest just feels too big.
We have no plans for New Year's Eve, although I expect Ivan to realize at the last minute that he wants to party with friends, so I'm mentally preparing myself for the possible interaction, even though I'd rather have a quiet evening -- go out to eat, maybe, and come home, and let this year that has brought so much strife just quickly make its exit.
I know that New Year's is an arbitrary line between one part of your life and another, just as a birthday is. But this year, I'm grateful for this arbitrary line that lets me take stock of my heartache, and gives me hope for a new beginning.