As a child I lost my grandmother. I wasn’t particularly close to her as she lived a thousand miles away. I do however remember visits. Whether it was us as a family packing up to go visit my grandparents or them coming to visit us. I also don’t remember much about her fight with cancer. Yet I remember snippets of phone calls my mom had with her during that time. The updates on the doctor’s appointments or the progression of her fight.
I don’t remember her final days or when the phone call came that had my mom packing in a haste to leave to go be with her. Yet, I vividly remember the melancholy that seemed to have moved into our house. An unwelcome visitor with no answers as to when it would leave. The one thing I do remember, the thing that stands out in my mind the most is the car ride to attend her funeral.
It was a long drive west and I remember my aunt travelling with my dad, my 2 brothers and myself. I am not entirely sure if we picked her up from the airport or how she got to us, but I do remember she travelled that 1000 or so miles with us.
My Grandmother passed away shortly after Christmas and we packed up the family vehicle to go meet my mom, who had left just a few days earlier. The craziest things stand out in my mind about this trip.
The sounds from the Pacman game one of us kids had gotten for Christmas.
My aunt’s laughter.
The road we got lost on.
The sound could not be turned off from that video game (keeping in mind this was almost 3 decades ago, the game was not very high tech). It was annoying as hell. The bleeping of Pacman eating dots and getting chased by ghosts. While it was annoying as hell, I remember there being a strange comfort from it as well. The same bleeping noise again and again. Over and over.
My aunt’s laughter was strange to me at the time. Shouldn’t she be crying I can remember thinking to myself? I mean she had just lost her mom. But now that I am older, I understand. It wasn’t real to her yet that her mom had passed away. It wasn’t real to her till we arrived and she came face to face with the reality that her mom really was gone. The laughter I thought was so strange at the time in that car was quickly replaced with tears and a broken heart once we arrived. Being older, I know that when you’re not ready to face something, it may look strange to others on the outside looking in.
The last thing that seems the craziest to me in my memory is the road we got lost on. I don’t know why my dad chose to go a different route that particular time. Of all times to go exploring, I wasn’t sure why this was one of those times. It seemed unnatural to me that my sure and steady dad would choose a road he was unfamiliar with. I remember the road as very frightening to me. It was night by the time we arrived to the point he decided to take this detour. The trees seemed ominous to me. The road narrow and bumpy compared to the highway we had just been on. I remember a lake for some reason. I am not sure if this is what eventually made my dad turn around or if it was that we came to a dead-end. Either way, at some point, he decided that this particular road would not lead us to where we needed to be.
My first experience with death, which I can think of, strikes me as odd. I don’t remember much about the funeral or how long we stayed afterward. Nor do I remember much of the conversations or what we did once the funeral was over. But I do, quite clearly remember the bleeping, laughter and darkness.
And a feeling of being scared of the unknown.