by Allyne Ferreira
My grandmother passed away October of this year. I remember the moment when I found out. I was in my scene painting class learning how to paint a square that when painted the right way it appeared as if it were jutting out of the wall, three dimensionally. Sometimes we go through life without ever realizing what we are doing, or sometimes we focus so much on the most menial of things that when something extremely upsetting happens, what was so extremely important before, doesn’t matter so much anymore.
As I was painting I felt my cell phone vibrate through the pocket of my hooded jacket. I took it out of my pocket and glanced at it quickly. I saw my father’s number and immediately I felt very strange. I started asking myself questions, why would my father call me during class? He knew that I was in my class. It must be an emergency. I asked to “go to the washroom” and stepped outside so that I could call my father. When I reached him he asked me if I was sitting down. “What do you mean am I sitting down dad? What happened?” After my father gave me the news about my grandmother, my immediate reaction was to hang up the phone. This had not happened; I had not heard what I originally thought I had. How could this happen? When? I called my father back and I began to cry. Tears were streaming down my face as people walked by with curious looks. My father asked me where I was, to which I replied, “I don’t even know, I’m outside”
I meant that in more ways than one. I felt like I was outside of myself. I remember my father telling me that he would call me back. I recall walking into the classroom and seeing my friend Cassiah. She looked at me and knew something was wrong immediately. I was shaking. My body couldn’t process the information fast enough. I was confused, I was scared, I wanted to just fly on a plane and do something for my grandmother but I knew that it was too late. What the heck was I supposed to do next? Go home? My grandmother had been on her annual vacation to her home land, Portugal. There was no way I would be able to go there. I left class alone and walked home because I didn’t know who to call to walk with me or where I was going. I arrived home and called my best friends and roommates but no one was home. I felt so completely out of it, I felt as if I was a zombie or having some sort of an out of body experience.
My good friend Chantal volunteered to drive me home (to Brampton) so that I could be with my cousins who were driving in from Ottawa and my uncle who had decided to stay and take care of the house while my aunt left for Portugal to be with my mother who was already there. When I arrived home my cousins were not and it was so strange to walk into a house that I was so used to greeting my grandmother in. I told myself “its okay Ally, she’s still on vacation…” I lied to myself a little because I didn’t want to cry. My grandmother passed away October the fifth which was one day before my Cousin Joshua’s birthday. On his birthday we decided to at least buy him a small cake so that his birthday wouldn’t be forgotten. The whole family was in a lot of pain and shock but we tried to maintain as much normalcy as possible.
The next day I felt even worse than I had before so I put on a sweater and ran towards my grandmother’s garden in the backyard. It was starting to really sink in that my grandmother was gone and that she wasn’t coming back. I began to look back on the way I used to lose my patience with her when she would always tell me to eat or ask me if I was hungry. I remembered one moment in the summer when she asked me for the tenth time that day, when my cousin Jacy and I were to leave for our road trip to Ottawa. My grandmother was starting to be very forgetful and my family believes it was the beginning stages of dementia. Anyways, I had had a rough day and became frustrated and angry with her tell her to “Just leave me alone bubba (that’s what we used to call her) I told you already, Jacy and I are leaving on Friday! How many times do I have to tell you!?” I noticed that she did leave the room but I could hear her sniffling. I had made my grandmother cry! How could I have been so cold with the woman who loved me more than anything in the world? I walked into the hall and I apologized to her. She had long forgiven me and I had long forgotten that story had ever happened. For some reason I sat in her garden and I cried, harder than I had cried before. I looked up at the sky and apologized again, telling her I was sorry for taking her for granted, for believing that she would always be there. As soon as this happened I remember the clouds parting and a ray of sun shining through them. This was the sign from my grandmother that she did love and forgive me for all the times I had taken her for granted or lost my patience and yelled at her.
So what have I learned from my grandmother’s passing? Other than the really cliché, don’t take any of your loved ones for granted because you don’t know when they will leave your life forever…
I have learned that life is a series of moments, big and small, joyous and tragic. It is these moments that give our life shape and meaning, that call us to examine the path we’ve taken and what the future holds. In time I will have to let go and forgive myself for being frustrated or taking my grandmother for granted, and I can do this by looking at all of the amazing memories that I shared with her. She was a wonderful woman who taught me a lot about life, about suffering and about never giving up. I know that I will carry her good memories with me forever.
I love you bubba, and I always will. R.I.P. Lisette Ribau 1932-2010.