The Bean Blog (currently on hiatus)

Monday, July 26, 2004

Regrets, I've Had a Few

My grandmother died at 4:05am, Saturday morning. At 8:00am on Friday morning, the doctor told my grandfather that she would died within four hours. That doctor didn’t know my grandmother. Many, many times in her life, my grandmother had been told that she couldn’t do something, and many, many times, she proved them wrong. She did so this time, too, living 16 hours longer than the doctor had said she could. If my grandmother had died on Friday, she would have died on her son and daughter-in-law’s wedding anniversary. I’m sure that she held off death, just to try to give them their day without the added burden of being the anniversary of her death. If she had died by noontime on Friday, neither me nor my mother would have made it there to hold her hand and kiss her. Her other daughter, my aunt, who was flying in from California, would not have made it either. But we were all there. All of us. Holding onto her hands, kissing her cheeks, surrounding her bed with love as she finally took her last breath just after four in the morning.

I try not to beat myself up about all the things I wish I had done differently, but there’s a few things that I just can’t help. For instance, on Thursday, my grandmother could hear people and respond by squeezing their hand with her left hand. The stroke, a massive stroke that denied blood to the entirety of the left side of her brain, had left her without her sight, without any movement of the right side of her body, and without the ability to speak. But she could hear people. I know that I couldn’t have gotten to her before she lost all of that, but if I had thought of it, while on the road and in the airport in Florida, I could have asked to have someone put the phone up to her ear. I could have told her that I loved her one last time. But I didn’t think of it. I wish I had. By the time I got to her, the swelling of her brain, caused by the dead brain cells on the left side, were putting so much pressure on the right side of her brain, that she could no longer respond or, most likely, hear us talking to her.

The last time I saw my grandma was May 12th. I could have gone down in June when my mother went down. I could have gone down in July when my mother went down. But I didn’t. I can’t remember why. I was tired or wanted to do something else. Why didn’t I go? My grandmother was diagnosed with congestive heart failure two or three years ago. I knew that she could go at any time, but since she’d been going since then, doing well, I lost that sense of urgency. I should have gone. I remember when I made the decisions not to go, in the back of my mind I wondered if I would regret it. Now I do.

About a year ago, I started videotaping my grandmother, sitting with her and asking her questions about her life. I wanted to do it linearly, so we started with her earliest memories, and we were making our way to the present. My grandmother was 87 when she died. We only made it to the time she was about 25. We talked in depth. I have seven hours of tape of her talking about the first quarter century of her life. But there was so much more. And I was learning so much about her through this project. I had so much left to learn. If I had gone down the last couple of times, or if I had tried to tape her for two hours each visit instead of just one, maybe I would have managed to get most of her life on tape. Now I’ll never have the opportunity to ask all the questions—both those that have occurred to me and those that would have come to me as I learned things I’d never expected.

There are countless other ways that I could have been a better granddaughter, but those listed above are the three regrets that I can’t forgive myself for.


  • Sounds like you were a damn good granddaughter, Oz. Try not to beat yourself up over something that was ultimately out of your control. The same stuff went through my head when my dad died. I'm truly sorry for your loss.

    By Blogger Tim, at 4:38 PM, July 26, 2004  

  • So sorry to hear about your grandmother. More important than completing your tape project was starting it. Her knowing that you cared enough to sit with her and discuss her life must have meant so much to her.

    By Blogger Rita, at 4:55 PM, July 26, 2004  

  • I'm really sorry about your grandmother. Mine's been gone ten years, and I still think about her daily. I know you feel guilty for all the things you DIDN'T do, but, please balance that with all the things you DID do. Most important of all, she was not alone when her time came; you were holding her hand- I think that says everything.

    By Blogger Tsarina, at 10:43 AM, July 27, 2004  

  • Oz, I'm sorry to hear about your loss. You shouldn't beat yourself up over these regrets... your grandmother doesn't think less of you for it, and neither should you. We're all human.

    By Blogger Dan, at 10:57 AM, July 28, 2004  

  • I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother. I'm sure blogging is the last thing on your mind, but you're in our thoughts all the same.

    By Blogger Janet, at 7:06 PM, July 28, 2004  

  • very sorry to hear :( Just lost my grandmother a month ago.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:20 AM, July 29, 2004  

  • Thanks so much for all of your nice comments and support....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:10 AM, July 30, 2004  

  • Please accept my most sincere condolences on your loss. I think it's natural to beat ourselves up over what we could have, should have, would have done if we had the chance to do it all over again.

    But the reality of life is that we don't. Based on how you speak so reverentially of her, it's clear you had a rich relationship. Your video project sounds wonderful. I wish I had done the same thing with my own grandparents. But, I didn't. I regret not doing a lot of things with them, but I'm so glad we had what we had.

    Years after they passed on, I feel like they have grown into my very fabric. I am a professional writer in real life. I know in my heart my gift of writing comes from my late grandfather. Every word I write is a tribute to him. It always makes me smile when I think of it, and I know that you, too, take with you much of what made your grandmother such a special person in your life.

    By Blogger Carmi, at 5:12 PM, July 31, 2004  

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