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Friday, November 18, 2011

The Empty Chair

In all my thirty-one years, I have never walked up the front steps, entered the porch, and opened the door to the house my grandfather built and expected to find her missing.  When she wasn't cooking or tidying up, she watched The Andy Griffith Show, peeled potatoes, ate her meals, read the paper, crocheted, and waited for me to arrive.  Right there.  In the front den.

Now there is only an empty chair.
Maw-Maw is not there.

I will never insist again, "You didn't have to wait up for me!"  And she will never again reply, "Well, what else am I gonna do?"

There's something to be said for following your intuition- that tug on your heart, the random thought seemingly out of the blue, telling you to make a call, make a visit, make amends.  I decided weeks ago that I'd try to visit my grandma before Christmas, if I could squeeze it in.  But right up until I packed the kids in my mini-van, I doubted the plan.  So many inconveniences tried to persuade me to stay.  I went anyways, and for two days I sat with her.  Made small talk.  Helped her.   And then she left.  There would not be another Christmas.

We didn't say goodbye.  It would've been unbearably hard.  I cried every day that I was with her.  I dreaded her going.  Even that very morning.  Minutes before, I kept a brave face and forced brighter conversation topics, but the tears were exploding from the depths of me. Quickly, I'd wipe my face and watch her get sicker.

My strong, tough, uncomplaining Maw-Maw.  Sick.  It was difficult to see.
She wouldn't admit it.  Hated us to fuss over her.  Hated being waited on.  Loathed lying around past early morning hours.

So she went away.  Where she would be better.  Be herself.  Be free of all this nonsense.  The absurdity of your body rebelling against your spirit.  The craziness of your mind forgetting small things and knowing that you should've remembered that.  Not letting anyone think she was weak.

What a fighter.
She finished well.

And now it's just me here- a product of her care and example.  My heart must heal, and I will learn to do life without her.  Without that constant.  The white-haired woman in the chair, waiting for the door to open.  Another temporary life.

I learned that being there is enough
Making time for someone matters. 
What you don't say is just as important as what you do. 
Important people leave a space in the air that doesn't shrink for ages.

I still look through the curtained window and expect to find Maw-Maw sitting in that chair.
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