A few weeks before my grandma (Babcia) passed away, we were driving to my mom’s house. She was pretty disoriented and was complaining about the same thing over and over again, worrying because she needed money to bribe the guards, ahem, I mean caretakers, at the rehabilitation center she was at. She hated nursing homes, and one of her biggest fears was being in one, so she was pretty distressed at her deteriorating health. She was also a grade A worrier. As we were driving on a beautiful Spring day, I reminded her sweetly “Babcia don’t worry so much, look at the beautiful trees and the greenness of everything around us!” I am glad I had patience that day, not always something that’s easily accessible after months, maybe years of dementia.
She quieted down, and we went on to my mother’s where we sat in the backyard for the last time (I didn’t know it then of course). We ate lunch, mom made a salad, and we enjoyed the sunshine. Later I left, and Babcia became agitated because she wanted to get Tylenol and Melatonin, which for some reason they weren’t giving her regularly at the rehab, but she couldn’t get up the stairs and mom couldn’t let her because she would fall and hurt herself. It was a really mixed up day, and upsetting, but I still remember that moment of the warm air and blue skies as we drove with the sunroof open looking at the fresh leaves. I think I knew on some level that would be the last Spring we would have together.
Now that she is gone, I am left with more time. I feel like a weight has been lifted in one way, while knowing, underneath the numbness, as I adjust to a life without her, that I lost my closest person in my life. Babcia was not always easy, but everyone knows that she loved me with all her heart. Everything she did was about me and the family. She didn’t always hit the target, but her goal was always well intentioned and created to help those around her.
I was sitting with my mom a couple days after she passed and I looked at photos of her from when she was young. It was weird seeing pictures of her even in her 40s and 50s when I was a baby, but seeing what a stunning beauty she was in her youth, I felt like I didn’t know her. For years she threatened to die whenever I didn’t do what she wants, so I was somewhat prepared and terrified of the prospect of her leaving me. As part of my pre-emptive strategy, I had been asking her about her past, knowing that one day she wouldn’t be there with answers to my questions. I thought I did a thorough job, I loved listening to old people since I was a small child, but looking at the photographs, there was this new version of her I had never known.
She was beautiful, and I understood why looks in my family were so important to it’s women. My mother was also gorgeous, but that I had known already. Feeling slightly intimidated, I decided perhaps there was something to Babcia’s advice that I should dress nicer lol. That wasn’t her only skill in getting things done, as she was smart and clever. However, she said her looks gave her an advantage and I should take good care of mysef. While looking further through the pictures, my mom told me Babcia was the advocate for many people. It’s funny how despite the flaws of my mother and grandma, they both had this fighting spirit that I am grateful was imbued with.
I am still trying to process everything. I know that grief has just begun, but I am surprised at how good I feel. I guess with all of Babcia’s worrying, that brought some stress and pressure. I was also terrified of the end, for many years, so now that I realize in a real way that life truly must end for us all, it brings a sense of understanding. It’s a sad lesson, but it’s non-negotiable. I guess that allows me to accept it, as that’s the only sensible (and possible) thing to do.
Ironically, I now have a bit of financial security, something that she was concerned about for as long as I can remember. I understand why, as being a musician isn’t lucrative in most cases. However, I have found a niche and finally have some reward for my years of working hard. Because of those years put in, I’m doing things I have a great love for, that I believe are genuine solutions and ways of connecting with people. I credit her support (even while she was begging me to get a sensible career as a nurse or something) for where I am today.
Also there’s this. She was always the most important person I had to consider in everything I did. “What about Babia? I have to do this because of Babcia.” Now, I am the most important person in my life, and I feel like I can care for myself more. It feels weird, but I think that’s what she would want.
I do wish that I had had a boyfriend before she passed away. She wanted me to have people who could take care of me, and told me male friends (even platonic) were very important to have for help in this world. I always thought it a bit old school, but I would have liked to have brought her some peace with a nice young man to marry. I wish I could share more of my life with her as I move forward.
She was not too annoying like some other people in my family about the husband thing, and I got why she wanted that for me. She wanted me to be safe and secure is all. She didn’t seem to value passionate love as much as partnership and utility (in a good way- sort of like a garden created with proper tools and labor). She worked hard, and brought a lot to her marriage. Dziadzusz loved her very much, though I don’t know how Babcia felt about him. She must have loved him I think. Funny how I don’t know.
I miss Dziadzusz. He was always joking around, and was happy, easy-going, kind, generous, and would do anything for me. He played piano, and helped instill a love of music and life in general. Babcia was always more complicated, and her moods were to be feared! But she was the backbone and Dziadzusz, while good natured and competent, deferred to her in most things. Whenever she and I would fight, he would work to get me to apologize and keep the peace. After he was gone, despite her argumentative disposition, she would try to placate all family drama (while inserting her strong opinions as Gospel whether we wanted to hear it or not).
All families are messed up, I hear that a lot. That seems like an understatement with my own relatives. Divorce is hard, everyone has a big mouth, strong opinions, and fierce fighting styles in my family. As a sensitive kid, I always seem to feel myself feeling the aftershocks and the earthquakes acutely. Now that Babcia is gone though, I try to think of the good things. I want to help with the peace.
I love how we have a new baby in the family, Stella, who is Babcia’s namesake. Babcia LOVED her, I mean, whenever she was ill or down, especially toward the end, I would play her videos I had taken of the baby, or show her photos. It would light up her face without fail, and even in her last days, when she saw Stella, she would reach out her arms toward her and joy would flood the room.
God I miss her, I can’t believe it in some ways that she is gone. I think that’s to be expected. I read some stuff about loss, but this is a part of life so I better just feel it and get accustomed. I don’t like getting older, and I don’t like that I haven’t been taking as good care of myself as I should. Babcia used to tell me not to be so high strung and agitated, though acknowledging the traumatic things I was going through which I appreciated. It was also annoying at the time because I knew I was stressed, I just didn’t know how to process it and balance everything so she was inadvertently making me more worried. :/
Now that she’s gone, I feel like I can take care of myself though. I feel like I can move forward happy and healthy in the soul. Everything is not lost, and I feel very alive. I am scared of the weight and importance of living, but since it’s something that’s unchangeable, that death is coming and we are undoubtedly still here, it makes my time here more urgent and valuable.
I want to do good in the world. I am scared of the consequences. I cannot be anyone but myself. I thank Babcia for helping me become the woman I am today, and I will miss her till hopefully one day we are reunited. I don’t know if there’s a heaven, but if we don’t know for sure either way, I am going with yes so I can hope to hold her hand again and hug her for a long time. As long as we are alive, there is reason to hope (this last line I credit to Ross Ulbricht, who my grandma also wished to be free).
Rest in peace Babcia, I love you with all my heart, and will always remember you.