Day 4: In Chapter Two, a phone call one Monday morning changed the course of my entire life and my family’s lives. Share a time that you received life altering news, good or bad, and how it impacted your life.
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the first semester of my freshman year in college. It was a Monday. I was forcing my reluctant boyfriend at the time to finally watch The Notebook with me. We weren’t even halfway through the movie when my phone rang. It was my mom, and I could hear the sadness in her voice. Through tears she asked me “have you heard from your Dad yet today?” (It’s important to note here that my parents are divorced, so when they talk on the phone, it’s a big deal. It usually means something has happened, and from my experience, it usually isn’t something good.) Instantly, I thought something was wrong with him, and I became a little panic-stricken. “No, I haven’t,” I replied. “Why, what’s wrong?” My mom started crying again and simply told me “your grandmother died. Your dad went back up to Canada to see her. You need to call him.”
At that point, I was trying not to get too distraught. I listened to my mom and immediately called my dad. Like I’ve mentioned previously, I don’t cry often. When it does happen, it means something big has happened to make me react that way. This was a big thing. Next thing I knew, I heard my dad break down crying on the phone, and that did me in. I was curled up in a ball on the couch with my phone to my ear in one hand, and my other hand trying to cover the tears from my face and hide the absolute mess that I was becoming. After I got off the phone, I was pretty inconsolable. My boyfriend at the time had kept asking me what he could do to help, but I could barely think straight to even respond. He eventually got me out of the house, and we went for a drive, finally landing at Sonic to get some ice cream. You know, since ice cream solves all emotional breakdowns.
I’ve always been a person that shuts people out when I’m dealing with some pretty intense emotional stuff. I never want to be a burden to anyone, and that’s exactly how I felt after hearing the news that my grandmother died. You see, she and my dad had a complicated relationship. She was his biological mother, but she never raised him. There’s more to that story, but at the time of her death, she was literally the only living grandparent I had left. I was eighteen and hadn’t seen her in about five years. Again, it was complicated. The heartbreak of losing her was only intensified by a surge of grief and regret, and I didn’t feel that I could talk to many people about how I was feeling because they wouldn’t understand.
A few days later, my sister and I flew up to Buffalo to meet our dad, then we drove about two hours to my aunt and uncle’s house in Canada. It was my first time being back up there since I was four, and the entire trip was extremely bittersweet. I saw family that I hadn’t seen in years, and I learned more about the place where my dad grew up. This was the first trip that he, my sister, and myself had gone on just the three of us. Although it was extremely difficult for all of us emotionally, it was also a great bonding experience. We experienced real snow and saw the beauty of Niagara Falls. My dad has always had a way of making the best out of any situation and always cheering us up when we’re down. He definitely made sure to follow through with that on that trip.
The loss of my grandmother is something that I’ll never forget. November 17th will make ten years since she’s been gone, but it feels like it just happened. Losing her made me see my dad in a different light. When you see your own father break down emotionally for the first time ever in your entire life, it sticks with you. It made me realize that I had been holding onto anger towards him for too long, and it wasn’t okay. Although it took some time, my relationships with both of my parents improved tremendously in the years that followed. I didn’t know it then, but it was one of the first steps for me towards letting things go.
Death has a funny way of making us realize what’s really important, and grief has a way of reminding us of our strengths, even on the days that we’re feeling our weakest.