The Things We Don’t Say

Today was my grandmother’s funeral.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer and then it was only a week or two before she could barely lift her head and wasn’t eating or drinking anything. My dad would tell me that when he went down to visit her all she would have would be three half tablespoons of tomato soup and a sip or two of water to keep her going for the entire day. Despite having spent a couple of years on an oxygen tank I didn’t expect her to go so quickly after her diagnosis.

I had never doubted that my grandmother loved me. I never for a moment believed that she thought anything but positive thoughts about me and the rest of my family. She was a woman who would fight staunchly for her family and loved us with all of her heart. This was no secret and we all knew how proud she was of us. She never played favourites and made sure that everybody was always treated equally and fairly. She is actually one of the few people I can say that I felt never judged me. I knew she would accept me regardless of who I turned out to be. If I succeeded she would always be there with a congratulations and if I failed she would always be there with helpful words to try and pick me up out of the funk. To me she didn’t have a mean bone in her body.

But over the majority of my life I have been struggling with unemployment, depression, anxiety, trust and acceptance issues and my motivation to leave the house had slowly been dwindling to almost non-existent quantities. When my parents and I moved away in 2012 it became increasingly difficult for me to spend time with those people I cared for because now they lived so far away. For these reasons I didn’t get back to my old hometown as much as I would have liked. I didn’t get to visit my grandmother as much as I wanted because my brain wouldn’t allow me to make the two and a half hour drive (including motorway driving) down to my old hometown.

Now I bring this to light because of something somebody said to me at the wake. I hadn’t visited my grandmother for a few years and simply remarked that a picture on the front of the Order of Service book didn’t look like the grandmother I knew. She had gained weight from inactivity and I simply remarked that I never saw her like that. This prompted somebody else to comment “You didn’t visit her? That’s awkward. You probably don’t want to be saying that too loud around here.” This simple comment hit me harder than a full-speed truck.

I suddenly felt like I had let her down. This was woman who had shown nothing but unconditional love for me and now I felt like I didn’t deserve to be called her grandson. I felt like a fraud, a failure and a horrible human being. I still do. But that’s why I write this, because I missed my opportunity to tell her how much she meant to me.

This was the third funeral in my lifetime and I have never felt emotion like this before. The other two funerals I had been to – my grandfather and my other grandmother’s – didn’t leave me devastated like this one because I had no doubt that they both knew how much I loved them. Even if we didn’t always agree on things, even if we argued, there was no doubt that they knew I loved them and I knew they loved me too. This one doesn’t feel the same. This funeral felt like I didn’t belong because I felt like she didn’t know I loved her. I feel like she left this world thinking me ungrateful and disrespectful and she won’t ever know how far from the truth that is.

I am currently a mess of tears and tissues because I’m trying to find the words to explain why I didn’t visit her. Some people don’t understand the crippling pain of anxiety or the inability to do anything when faced with depression. It’s paralysing. I didn’t want to visit her because in my mind I thought she didn’t want to see me. On clearer days I could see how stupid this was but in the midst of depression you don’t see or think clearly. I also thought I had more time with her. She wasn’t seriously ill until she was and then she very quickly deteriorated until we got the phone call telling us she had died.

But there’s nothing I can do anymore. I understand the ultimate-ness that is death. I know that however much I cry or pray she isn’t going to come back just so I can tell her all the things I wish I had told her. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting it. It doesn’t stop me from finally understanding all those songs where people wish for just another day or just another hour, or even just a minute. I finally get it. Because now I feel like she won’t ever know.

I don’t often find myself looking for solace in religion. I have never considered myself a man who would turn to religion for anything. But during the service the Reverend would talk about a day when my grandmother would be reunited with everybody once again. I don’t know if I believe it but I know I want to believe it. I want to have another chance to apologise to her. I want to have a chance to tell her all the things I wish I could have told her and how much I respected her both as a person, a woman, a mother and a grandmother.

I also want her to be reunited with my grandfather in whatever afterlife there may be because I know how badly she hurt when he died.

One of the last things I remember my mum telling me my grandmother had said was how she wished she could see the sky and the trees again before she died because from her hospital bed she couldn’t see anything. The bed she died in had a clear view of both the sky and the trees.

Not Until You’re Thirty

So do you ever have those days where you feel like your best years are all gone? I’m 27 and to a lot of people that isn’t that old, but to me it’s getting on past my prime. In fact it seems that with every day that goes past there are younger and younger celebrities. You know how they say fifty is the new forty or whatever? Yeah, I’m starting to feel that 27 is the new 87. I feel old, past it and done with. I’m not even sure if this is a mental health thing or whether it’s just a general thing that most people will feel at some point in their lifetime.

I think it’s because I haven’t reached where I wanted to be when I got close to thirty. I thought I’d already have something published, I thought I’d have already achieved some sort of fame and success. Perhaps these were just the innocent boyish dreams of a teenage boy who hadn’t quite seen adulthood and it’s responsibilities yet.

So here is something that I occasionally like to do to make me feel a little bit better. A brief list of well known people who didn’t achieve their huge success until after certain ages.

30 – 40

Hugh Jackman – Was aged 31 when he starred as Wolverine in the X-Men films.

Jon Hamm – Was 36 when he starred in Mad Men.

Sean Connery – Was aged 32 when he starred as James Bond in the Bond franchise.

Oprah Winfrey – Was 32 when her television show went National.

Alan Rickman – Was 32 when he appeared in Die Hard.

40 – 50

Simon Cowell – Didn’t receive mainstream attention until he was 43 and created American Idol.

Vera Wang – Opened her first design studio at the age of 41.

Steve Carrell – Was 43 when he landed his role on the American version of The Office.

Samuel L. Jackson – Was 41 when he appeared in Do The Right Thing.

Julia Child – Was 49 when she published her first cookbook.

50 – 60

Betty White – Was 51 when she appeared on The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Morgan Freeman – Was 52 when he appeared in Driving Miss Daisy.

Richard Adams – Was 52 when he published Watership Down

Regis Philbin – Was 57 when Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee was syndicated.

Kathryn Joosten – Was 56 when she began her acting career.

60+

Colonel Sanders – Was 62 when the first KFC was franchised.

Frank McCourt – Was 66 when he published Angela’s Ashes.

Laura Ingalls Wilder – In her 60s when the Little House series was first published.

Daniel Defoe – Was 60 when he wrote Robinson Crusoe.

Dame Judi Dench – Appeared in theatre before but not on screen until her 60s.

 

(I am still also searching for any well known people or professionals – of various fields (YouTube, Country Music, Gaming, Mental Health) – who would be interested in conducting an interview with me about their lives. Please share).