It was the spring of 2006; Ben must have been eight or nine months old. I had just spent the majority of my afternoon trying to get him down for a nap. With him finally asleep, I took a deep breath and sat down in my kitchen. A few moments later the doorbell rang. When I opened it, my grandmother was standing there. She grabbed my face as she always would and said something resembling, “Carin! How wonderful! I am here to see Benjamin.” Surprised, I said, “Oh Grandmommie, I’m sorry, you just missed him – he is taking a nap.” “Oh that’s okay”, she said, as she proceeded to walk right past me down the hallway towards Ben’s room. It took me a moment in my sleep-deprived state to realize what was happening. But finally I snapped to it and then I sprinted like an Olympian down the hallway – throwing myself between my grandmother and the door to Ben’s room. I said, “Grandmommie, you cannot go in there, he is sleeping!” She paused and then looked at me puzzled. “Okay,” she said, “I will wait.”
And so we sat together, waiting for Ben to wake up. Usually his naps were painfully short – but on that day for some reason he slept longer than usual. My Grandmother ended up leaving, and for that I will always be regretful. You see she knew something that it took the ultimate loss for me to understand – that you cannot wait to love. You cannot wait to hold your children, or in this case your great-grandchildren. The only time we have is literally now. My grandmother knew that innately – and she was always ready to love you, or in this case Ben.
Mary Jean Bushnell, mother of six, grandmother of eighteen and great-grandmother to fourteen and counting, died on April 5th. These past months as she was slowly deteriorating, I found myself imagining a reversal of roles – that Ben has been waiting for her, saying, “Grandmommie! Come on! You won’t believe what is here. I can’t wait to show you. There is a zoo and pink flamingos. And a beach more beautiful than the one at the cabin. Hurry up! I am waiting.”
Or something like that. Clearly my own grief and loss mixing all together.
As our big, unique and extraordinary extended family gathered to remember her last week, I couldn’t help but feel grateful that I got to spend almost forty years of my life with my amazing grandmother – one who knew and loved both my boys deeply. And because of that, selfishly, there is some comfort for me – for she gets to go where I cannot right now. I know she will take care of Ben until I get there.
Then someday, when this life is finally over here for me too – I hope I will find them on the other side together, hand in hand – waiting for me.