I missed her funeral because it was 48 hours before the Bar Exam, which is just as lame and short-sighted as it sounds. I didn’t know it then, though, because I was frazzled from weeks of studying. I just couldn’t get my head out of my ass long enough to consider the regret I would feel if I missed her funeral.
It was weeks before I understood what it would mean to choose not to celebrate her life with my other family members because I wanted to take another practice exam. My parents let me off the hook when they called to tell me she had died. Don’t worry, we understand about the Bar Exam. She wouldn’t want you to miss that.
The morning of her funeral, I checked flights one last time from the library. I replayed my last conversation I had with her. I had visited her in the assisted living home, where her freedom and stature both kept shrinking. Her eyeglasses looked huge against her emaciated face, and her energy for criticizing the staff’s dedication to Jesus Christ was less vigorous than normal.
Something made me mention marriage that afternoon. As in, “Grandma, I may never have one.” Then, I cried and started to apologize to her through gasping sobs. “I am so sorry that I will never get married. I am sorry I am sort of a fuck up.” She studied me as if I suddenly started speaking Sanskrit. She had never said a word to me about getting married; she never shamed me for being terminally single. I guess that was my issue. She listened with a perplexed look on her face, and she patted my hand as I steadied my ragged breath.
We both knew she would not live to see me in a union blessed by the State.
The dreams started right after I passed the Bar Exam. In them, I was always crying and she was always sitting beside me, listening without looking directly at me. She didn’t offer me comfort, but I woke from the dreams feeling consoled. I dreamed of her once a month.
I assumed the dreams proved theories about why funerals are important for closure. I was walking around with an unhealed heart yearning for closure.
Then, one morning in the queasy first trimester of pregnancy, I found myself on public transportation reeling from the heat and stench. I was going to be sick or faint, but I was trapped on a slow-moving train with Chicago’s unwashed masses. I crouched down to catch my breath, hoping that someone would know what to do if I passed out. A tiny, old woman reading a religious book saw me faltering. She didn’t speak English, but she convinced the man sitting next to her to give me his seat through pantomime.
I slid next to her. “Thank you,” I said, as I rubbed my stomach to indicate I was pregnant. She patted my hand, just like my Grandma did in every single dream. Choked up from hormones, I fought the tears as we rode the train together the rest of the way without looking at one another. I imagined telling her, “You look like my Grandma who passed away several years ago. I dream of her every month. I missed her funeral because I was busy preparing for a career I probably won’t want in a few more years.”
We rode in silence.
And I haven’t dreamed of my Grandma since.
Hooking up with the fine folks at Yeah Write. Grandma would approve.