{Life Lessons} Irene, She Died Today

While grocery shopping I received a Facebook Message from my cousin telling me that Grandma had passed away. I know I should be sad, that I should be having all sots of feels about losing my Grandma. Truth is: “I have no feels, cause the woman that died today was never my Grandma.”

She is and will always be nothing more than Irene to me. She is the Mother of my father and that is where our connection ends. A few weeks before I was born my parents totaled their truck in a rollover accident and they were waiting for the new one to be delivered. I came before the new truck did. On the day I was discharged from the hospital my Dad called Irene and asked for a ride home. Irene told him to call a cab. What kind of Grandma tells her son to call a cab? I grew up less than 15 miles from the farm yet I only saw Irene and my Grandfather a handful of times. She never came to town to visit us and on the few times my Dad brought us out to the farm she was never happy to see us. I never got a hug let alone a hello. Irene drew the line long ago that she was not going to be apart of my life.

Where Irene failed others stepped in. Dorothy Simonson stepped up and was the Grandma we never asked her to be. Ms. Dorothy lived in the yellow house next door and from the moment my sister and I were born, we were her grand daughters.. This woman loved my sister and I more than life its self. We were Dorothy’s world and she was ours. Dorothy taught me how to bake, to can, and garden. Dorothy stepped up where Irene failed, as a child I was sick and Dorothy often looked after my sister while my parents were at the hospital. To this day I remember coming home after my surgery Dorothy, my sister and my Dad were standing on the curb waiving as hard as they could to welcome me home. Dorothy was so very glad to see me and to have me back in her kitchen eating raspberries and discussing little girl fantasies.

Dorothy was not the only little lady that looked after me. When I was about six years old Cora came to live with Dorothy and I had a new best friend. Cora was in her early 90’s and we bridged the age gap with games of dominos and lemonade. I thought I was the coolest little girl on the planet, I had my Grandma and Cora living next door to me. Cora taught me so much in our short time together, I learned how to be frugal, to be a lady, plus she gave me coffee (shhhh don’t tell my mom), and because of her I can play a pretty mean game of dominos. Cora and Dorothy always came to my school programs, looked on at field days, and kept me entertained during summer breaks.

My heart broke on the day Cora died, I was 11 and she was 97, I cried for days. I was so mad at God, Cora’s goal was to live to be 100, she died just 3 years shy of her goal. Every year I write Cora a letter and bring it to her grave. I make sure that her stone is cleared of debris and that the flowers are watered. One day I will name a daughter after her and tell her about this amazing woman that changed her mama’s life forever.

With each year Dorothy was growing older and it was getting harder and harder for her to care for her home. A for sale sign went up and She moved away. I didn’t get to see her every day but Dorothy always had a way of popping up around town. She sent me a graduation card and wished me all of the best in life. On July 10, 2004 my heart it broke again. The little lady that never had to be my Grandma had died. I cried so hard at her funeral, I honestly thought she would live forever. I placed a dozen roses in her casket, she is holding them and a penny in her hand. Her family was so glad that we came to see her off. In her eulogy the pastor mentioned just how much two little girls meant to her and that she would always tell everyone around town about her grand daughters.

Irene could never hold a candle to Dorothy and Cora. Where Irene failed they stepped up and gave me a childhood that dreams are made of. My Dad he ended the cycle of abuse, my sister and I grew up in a loving home. My Dad saw my sister and I as children and not labor. I have 12 aunts and uncles, because of Irene and the distance she forged I don’t know any of them. Only one has an excuse for not knowing me and that’s because cancer took her from us. All I have of Cherie is the blanket that she hand stitched for me and the knowledge that Irene denied her, her last request on earth. Cherie wanted to die on the farm, Instead she died in a cold hospital room. Irene didn’t even have the courtesy to look after her daughter in death.

Irene is nothing more than a tormented soul that had children, in which she abused and then sent them out into the world. My father describes his childhood as “I survived.” She was never a mother to my father so it was only natural for her to never be a grandmother to her son’s children. I can only pray that in death Irene’s mind found the peace she so desperately longed for on earth. Irene was never there for me in life, so I will not be there for her in death. One curly haired girl who looks like her Auntie Cherie Leigh will not be present at the funeral.

In the end the only person Irene cheated was herself, she cheated herself out of getting to know two little girls who grew up into amazing women.

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