Gasping for air, I tried to quiet myself. The sobs were ripping through me uncontrollably and echoing through the church. I knew everyone could hear me. I knew what they were all thinking, “That poor thing.” I didn’t understand why I was expressing my heartbreak the most out of everyone who was gathered around me. Migmom’s five kids had wet, controlled faces. My brother and sister were somber, but did not shed a tear. I was the youngest in my family. They had all known her for much longer than I did. They were all closer to her.
Going to visit my grandmother, Migmom, was a monthly ritual. Her nursing home was called Fair Acres. There was nothing fair about it. It was not a happy place filled with sunshine as the name signified. The left onto the long road with the ominous guard house made my stomach turn. Making the next right revealed what seemed to be the acres of cement and buildings. The weather was always eerily overcast. Our car slid into a parking spot.
With another flip of my stomach, I jumped out of the car and reached for my mom’s hand. The walk to Migmom’s building showed bare bushes and flowers that were yearning for water. We walked through the door and the sterile lights hurt my eyes. The smell was an unpleasant mix of cleaning products and human waste. The walls were a faded pea green, and the floor seemed to be tinted with the same hue. We signed in at the reception desk. The nurses knew us very well.
We passed by some residents of Fair Acres, who would always stop and ask my mom questions about my siblings and I. Sometimes they would even pinch my cheek too hard and say how much of a cute little girl I was. I tried to hide behind my mom as much as possible, because this terrified me. When I was young, I was extremely shy and rarely talked to anyone outside of my immediate family. Even my aunts and uncles could barely get two words out of me.
Next stop was Migmom’s room. Her TV could be heard blaring as we got closer. The only things in her room were a dresser, covered in tissues, an empty chair, and her bed. Only a few times I had seen her move from her bed to her chair, but not much more than that. She was short and heavy, and diabetes took her toes. Her hair was short, white, and fluffy. Even after everything she had been through, she managed to always have a smile.
“What grade are you in?” She would ask me monthly. I was uncaring for her fading memory and mumbled whatever grade I was in at the time. My mom would do most of the talking. With each visit my mom would have to shout louder and repeat herself for Migmom to understand. Then Migmom started repeating questions.
As I got older, I would make up excuses not to visit her or just tell my mom I didn’t feel like going. I thought nothing of it. When I did go back, she had trouble remembering my name. I was frustrated with her. I was afraid of her. My adolescent mind had not grasped the concept of dying quite yet. I wanted her to be able to function as well as the rest of the adults in my life.
My mom took her out of the nursing home one night for our family’s Christmas party. She was wheeled in with that enduring smile and stayed at the dining room table for hours. Now all of my relatives had to shout when they talked to her. I tried to stay in the other room as much as possible, but at the end of the night my mom told me to give her a kiss goodbye. After that night, I started to realize how selfish I was being. I promised myself I would go back to see her, but I kept breaking that promise.
She didn’t make it to the next Christmas party.
Three days after Christmas day, I found myself sobbing in the church. My sister, brother, and I were to present the gifts at her funeral mass. The guilt of not going to see Migmom before she passed was consuming me, and was the reason I could not control my emotions. I remember this realization so clearly, even years later. I still feel guilty.
Ever since her death, I have not taken one person for granted. I know to never leave someone you care about on bad terms. I was just a silly kid who didn’t understand what was going on, but I realize that I’m human. Humans are meant to be imperfect and make mistakes. I regret not saying goodbye to her, but life has a way of teaching you lessons.