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Dear Grandma: A birthday blog letter

Dear Grandma Chris,

I know it seems odd that I would be writing to you, seeing as your ashes are sitting in my storage locker and, well, you’re not alive anymore. In fact, I am certain that there will be a group of people who will question my mental health by writing to a ghost. But, fuck ’em.

I had the idea to write to you, because I enjoy writing the kids’ letter birthday posts… and you were always the one I could call up and talk to when things were difficult or I needed to process thoughts or go round and round in circles with a problem. Now, I am on my own and, truthfully, I am struggling without you. So, maybe writing to you as if I am talking to you can help.

I am also doing this because now my birthday is forever going to be associated with THAT phone call. The phone call where you were slurring, speaking nonsense, and I had to call the Ambulance because I thought you’d had a stroke. That happened 2 days after my birthday, after I thought it was odd you hadn’t called me to wish me Happy Birthday. Because you always did.

I can’t believe it’s been a year since that night. Jason says that I changed forever after that call, and he’s right. The pit of my stomach, ongoing pain at missing you is something I battle with daily. Your palloured face in its final days forever burned in my memory. Your mouth goobers, the gummy grin, your singing of Danny Boy in the hospice. The fleeting moments of lucidity where you would look me in the eye, shed a tear and tell me you were afraid. And you were never, ever afraid and I can never, ever forget that.

Jason said I’ve changed forever. He says it like it is a bad thing. I don’t see it that way. Sure, my grief makes it hard to cope sometimes. But your death made me take stock of my life. It made me decide to not die lonely. It made me decide to live a fierce, truthful life. And it made me commit to honouring the legacy that you left. And, on some level, it also made me unafraid to piss people off.

I’ll be honest. I feel in a state of flux at the moment. I honestly don’t know how, after you and Grandad divorced, how you could choose to live alone for the rest of your life. But at the same time, on some level, I get it. Because men… it’s just so easy to be jaded about them. You always said that you just couldn’t be bothered with them and boy, do I get that. Why anyone would put themselves out there, repeatedly, just to get hurt… it’s exhausting. And it’s taking its toll on me and how I see myself.

I can’t help but wonder if, like me, at some point you were an idealist or a romantic. But your life, the convent, your marriage, your sons, over time beat it out of you. You told me about you as a girl — you had a carelessless and a naive, gentle spirit that was like mine. But at some point, you got broken. And jaded. And as I have said to my friends recently… it’s one thing to always be skeptical… but there is nothing worse than an idealist who has been disappointed.

I keep being disappointed. Not just in relationships (because I know that is early days), but in friendships, with people, with the world. It all just feels… so… hard. Since your death I have had to remove my rose coloured glasses more times than I can count… and it’s been confronting. But, I am trying.

I am trying to get to Dublin for a pilgrimage to see where you grew up. I feel I need to do it. I want to see everything… the place of the stories. But naturally, money is a problem so I still haven’t been able to go. But I will go.

What I thought was safe, secure and known when you were here a year ago, is not anymore. And I am struggling sometimes. I am finding myself. And I am studying Psychology so I can hopefully help counsel family members who go through what we went through. And try to help them understand that it will be OK. At some point. It never goes away.

So yeah, it’s my birthday today. I’m 32. Which feels old. But despite me feeling like an epic fuck up most of the time, I think you’d be proud… or at least I hope so. I do wonder, often, how you would have reacted to Jason and I separating. I honestly don’t know how you would have reacted to the news. I can’t be sure.

But, I hope you’re proud.

I’m floating a bit. Struggling a lot. Figuring things out. And I miss you every single day.

But as the first year passes since THAT call, I put one foot in front of the other. Like both of us always have, and will continue to do. And for that, you live on in me.

Hope you’re well,

Téa

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