the world according to JEN

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Sunday, February 08, 2004
well, it's february and it's still cold. with winter comes snow, hermitude, and sometimes a natural sense of melancholy. this winter has been hard so far, not because of the extreme cold, but more because of my mental state. work has been going well, despite the unprofessional attitudes and actions of some of my colleagues and the immature behavior of many of my students. i feel like i'm learning a lot and doing the best i can while getting some sleep and having a social life, however limited. i know that i will be more prepared next year and hopefully have the chance to improve by teaching the same, if not similar, classes.

i survived history fair and observed the marked difference in the responsibilities of IB and non-IB teachers. quite a ridiculous rift surfaced in the department along with the cliques and even the racial element. it gave me a good chance to really feel out who was concered about me and who was possibly judging me. i stepped up in my role coordinating outside judges (parents) and i proved myself, i think, in front of my department chair, the ex-department chair, the veterans in the department and one of my mentors who said he felt like a "proud father."

every now and then, i'll have moments at school while talking with the kids or even sometimes in teaching when i remember how much fun it can be to work with students and what a great feeling it is to be liked and respected by them or to know that for that moment they really understood something even if it doesn't last. in any case, i'm a little more than halfway through the year, so hopefully i can make it all the way. did a lot of US planning with one of my colleagues, where we set out where we want to be by the end of the year, chapter by chapter.

so work is challenging, tiring, but going well considering. i love spending time with lots of my teacher friends, obviously alicia, who is finally back at LP in her reprisal of a long term english sub position.

on other fronts, things could be going better. still lamenting the lack of dates. i really don't have a lot of time for dating because of my job and all of the work after school hours, but when i do go out, i don't try super hard and i don't really run into people who seem like potentials. had a crush that is fading fast, since i haven't seen him in a month. dunno what to do really about the romance department. i'm tired of things as they are, but i'm not sure what i'm really comfortable doing to make changes.

as for family, this is the beginning of a really hard week. i was hoping to come home to GR this upcoming long weekend, but plans will have to change. my grandma gregory passed away last night. she was nearly 80 years old. she'd been in nursing care at the presbyterian homes in evanston for the past couple of years after moving with my grandpa out of their last house, into apartments at the presby homes and then finally nursing care. she had recently been fighting off pneumonia, a bed sore, and problems swallowing. she quickly deteriorated over a couple of days this past week and my mom got a call this friday morning saying she might not last the day. my mom and my aunts had made the decision together not to send her back to the hospitals or to have a feeding tube if things started to take turns for the worse. my grandma wanted no life preserving measures to be taken. she never wanted to be in a vegetative state, or even incapacitated to the point that she was near the end of her life.

she was always so in control. always. the kinds of things that people expected of her and admired her for stemmed from her ability to take charge, to lead, to teach, to nurture. she was incredibly determined and organized about taking care of the things and people she loved. she worked tirelessly to keep her home clean, her husband happy, and her religious views intellectually explored and taught. i remember her as an amazingly strong woman who people looked to for help and for an informed and trustworthy opinion. she was always a stable and caring part of my life. i grew up in her and grandpa's house in wilmette. it was my second home. even though her quality of life has not been good the past few years, it was natural that she was still alive. even as she was not her true self, because of her strong presence throughout her life, her presence even in dementia and immobility was felt strongly.

it has been so hard for me to watch her and grandpa age. i visited them less and less as they got worse and worse. i used to go by myself in college to see them, but in my senior year i only went a couple of times alone because it was so hard for me to see them losing control, especially my grandma who had always taken care of my grandpa. we thought we would loose him first, but grandma's health problems quickly surpassed those of grandpa in the last two years. i always felt guilty for not going alone any more. i went when my parents visited, but i often didn't talk as much. i always did what i could to help move them, dress them, get anything they needed, help a decision get made. but it was so hard to converse or show affection to my grandparents who just didn't seem like the people i grew up with.

and now grandma's gone for good. she was my last living grandma and the one who had the largest presence in my life. though i had mostly good relationships with three of my grandmas on my dad's side, i spent the most time and was the closest with my mom's mom. i have the most memories of her and her home. i always looked up to her and learned so many amazing values from her and it's strange knowing that she's not alive any more. it was time for the grandma's tired body to be relieved of her pain, her shrouded mind put to rest. but nonetheless, by saying goodbye to that tired body it means i also have to say goodbye to any chance of seeing the vibrant, strong and in control grandma again.

it's so odd. i wished for two years for my grandma to die and struggled to even visit to her as she deteriorated and her personality faded to its barest essentials. but now that she is gone, i feel so sad. when i got to the funeral home, and saw my mom, aunt, and grandpa the feeling of loss rushed over me. as i wheeled my grandpa's wheelchair towards the room holding grandma's body, i felt the inevitable upon me. seeing my grandma's body covered in a white hospital sheet from across the room was enough to break me down. i sat and cried while my aunt and my mom cried and took turns standing near her. touching her shoulder. my mom talking to her. i was wracked with the loss. the gaunt look of her stiff face tore at my heart. i stared at her and felt that at any moment she was going to wake up. though i have been to more than a half dozen funerals in my life of relatives and family friends, it's been a few years since the last one. and seeing grandma in that state was unbelievable. i almost said shocking, but it wasn't shocking. we all knew she was going to go, that she should go, but it was unbelievable to have to face the fact that she is gone.

when grandpa was ready to leave, which was surpringly soon after we arrived (he was ready before any of us to leave), i told my mom and aunt that i wanted to be alone with her for a few minutes and that i would catch up. i took a few minutes. i had been sitting at a couch about 6 feet away the whole time before. for some reason i didn't feel comfortable getting close to her in front of them. i wanted to wait until i was along to touch her and see her whole face. when they were entirely out of the room, i stood next to her, touched her stiff shoulder, stroked her cold face and limp hair. i told her how much i was going to miss her and that i was sorry for not being there for her near the end. i told her i loved her and kissed her cheek, while trying to control my sobs. it was the last moment i'll ever see her and even though it was a moment in the making these past two years, it was a moment that came suddenly, at the end of a stressful work week. suddenly after not seeing her for a couple of months. she's going to be cremated this week and hopefully we'll have the service on president's day. next monday. i have the day off from school and so does dad.

it's a hard, hard truth to swallow that she's gone, as much as i wanted her to be released from her debilitated existence. i have never had to live without her. and it's going to be especially hard to think of her as dead. i don't want to. i'm so lucky to have gotten to know her. i'm the oldest grandchild and it's a luxury my cousins did not have. i wish i had some wise or comforting last words for myself, but i don't right now. my mom and aunt and i were so exhausted emotionally at the end of the day that we were laughing about the idea of an urn and the abitrary ways that we dispose of bodies and the traditions we make up. and they are silly when you think about it. we talked about different memories of grandma throughout the day and smiled. but the bottom line is the sense of loss, a feeling that part of you has been removed. i don't want to say goodbye. i don't want to make grandma past tense. but i'm gonna have to.

i love you grandma. always.
adelaide gregory
march 9, 1924-february 6, 2004