Let me be very honest from the beginning: I always felt like my grandma and I didn't get along. I always loved her and I knew she always loved me, but most of the time, our relationship just stressed me out.
My grandparents were a very ying-yan pair: my grandpa was happy and silly while my grandma was serious and responsible. And because of that, I had a special bond with him. With her, I constantly felt defensive. Her critical nature meant that I was perpetually tense for her next back-handed compliment. The person I was and the person she wanted me to be never aligned and she didn't know how to accept that.
Part of the reason I didn't feel as close to grandma was because we were similar in a lot of aspects, but most of them negative. My dad, who never seemed to get along with my grandma, would sometimes call me 'Grandma' if I was planning my day out too much or if I was worrying about something he thought I shouldn't.
Most of her stories had an undercurrent of regret, of longing for a different time, and nostalgia for the past rather than enjoying what was in front of her.
We were very similar in a lot of ways and that scared me, so I pushed her away. Being around her was a mirror for the parts of myself that I didn't like. My tendency to be mean and negative. My need to plan and schedule and the anxiety I experience when there isn't one or when no one will follow it. My depression. She was much more than that, but being around her reflected my own insecurities back at me.
As I got older, it became easier to see that her criticisms and negativity were more about her than me, but the easiest way to deal with it was to avoid her. And I did. I should have tried to have a conversation with her about it, but instead I chose to avoid the issue, and potentially hurting her, like a coward. There was no winning in the game we played so I chose not to play.
One of my favorite memories of her was when she was happy and silly. I'm not sure of the timing, I could have been anywhere between ten and sixteen years old, but she was watching my sister and I on a lazy summer day and she decided we were going to play a board game. She went to the game closet and found a game no one had ever played (I think it was one of those generic ones that everyone has because someone gave it to them) and we spent the afternoon screwing around and making up rules. There was music and dancing and I have no idea if there was a winner or loser, but I can remember her dancing around in the living room.
My grandma went pretty quickly. I found out on a Tuesday that she had fallen and was in the hospital for observations and Wednesday she was suddenly gone. I think the suddenness and lack of closer is one of the things my family is having the hardest time dealing with. We didn't expect our trip to visit her in July to be the last time we would see her. We thought it was just the first time we were going to see her in her new home in Washington.
I'm still working on processing my feelings, but the one I'm having the hardest time with is the guilt. I feel guilty because a small part of me is relieved. Relieved that I don't have to do this dance of avoidance anymore. I love her and I will miss her, but the fact that I am slightly relieved is the emotion that hurts me more than the sadness.
I'm sorry, G-ma. We should have dealt with our differences sooner and I'm sorry we won't get that chance now. I hope you thought I was lazy and inconsiderate, not that I was actively avoiding you. And I know this offers virtually no comfort, but I will try not to make that mistake again.