My grandmother, Leona Faye Falker, passed away on April 10, 2012. She was the only grandparent I really had. I met my grandfather on my dad's side but he passed away when I was young and I didn't really know him when he was on this earth. But my grandma has been a big part of my life. I shared a bedroom with her for a couple of years growing up. She taught me about my people. And now she's gone. Although, not really gone. I believe she is right here with me whenever I want her to be. It's not what my people believe, but it's what makes me feel better about not having her.
So losing a grandparent might not equate to life being crazy for some. But that's not all. Last year I found out my sister was really sick. I'm not going to go into details but she is fighting for her life. On top of that she is a single mom. I went home a few months ago to visit her and help out where I could and I ended up taking her to the ER. No one knew how sick she was and I feel like we almost lost her that night. She's doing a lot better now, but she's still fighting.
My professional life was starting to make me sick too. Literally. I'm a new lawyer. May 2011, I ended up taking a job for the (meager) paycheck as so many young lawyers in Chicago are doing. The ink on my license was barely dry. I knew I didn't want to stay in that firm for very long simply because it was an area of law that I was not interested in. But the job market has struggled to improve and I stayed in that job for about a year, 9 months longer than I originally planned for. I invested myself in the work and actually started to care a lot about some of my clients. But my boss was uninspiring. In fact, he's the kind of person that makes most people hate lawyers. I was so stressed out about my job and everything else going on, that I lost a lot of weight. I'm thin to begin with, but when I went to the doctor he said I was depressed. No shit, Sherlock.
So back on April 3, I decided to take charge of my life and quit my job. I had nothing else lined up. I had a prospect of a temporary job, doing document review. Other than that I would be back on the job hunt. Here is where the climactic turn of events takes place in my 33 years on this earth.
What makes me sick, and the regret that everyone tells me I shouldn't have, is that Grandma wanted me to stay and have dinner with her. My sister had been picked up by her oldest daughter to go grocery shopping for Easter dinner. My mom works nights so she had already left for work. I didn't stay. I went and picked up some dinner for her but I left to go back and have dinner with my hubby. This is the regret that I will always have. I could have had dinner with her. It would have been no big deal. But I took for granted how short life is. I thought she was going to be with us for another 10, 15 years. It could've been just me and Gram for dinner and I said no. I'll never forgive myself. She ate alone that night. I'll never forgive myself.
But that wasn't the last time I saw her, or the only thing I'll never forgive myself for. My sister got dropped back off at mom's. That wasn't the plan. The plan was for her to go back to her house so she could start cooking for Easter dinner. So early Saturday morning I go to mom's house to pick her up. She's having breakfast, so I sit and wait and help Grandma pick up the blankets and what not. We head out the door, but I forgot something or my sister did, I don't remember. I head back in to pick it up. Grandma's on the phone talking to someone so I just whisper to her I love her and I'm leaving to take sis home. She holds up her finger like "wait a sec" but she's just listening to the phone. I do wait, but for just a second. I'm impatient. I give her a kiss and say good-bye. She nods her head and says something to the person on the phone like "why would they say that? I'm fine." When I heard that I should have known. But I didn't know. I didn't know that would be the last time I saw my Grandma, like Grandma.
I took sis home and hung out. Hung out with the kids, goofed off a little. Then we head out to the grocery store. She forgot some stuff for tomorrow's dinner. So all of us, kids too, hop in the car and head over to the grocery store. Now let me go off on a tangent here.
I grew up in Chattanooga, TN. It's beautiful. It's right on the border of NW Georgia. I grew up driving. We moved to Chicago 4 years ago to go to law school and promptly sold our car and became totally reliant on public transportation. I love it. It's one of the reasons I love Chicago. Don't get me wrong, the CTA has it's faults and "COULD USE MORE FUNDING" (inside joke, I'll tell you later) but it's awesome to get where you wanna go and not have to deal with driving. But we recently bought a car to drive back in forth to TN to help out my sister and the fam. I've been spoiled. I hate driving now. And driving in Chattanooga is a joke. To get anywhere is to drive 20-30 miles. You can't get anywhere fast. One day I drove from my father-in-law's house out to my sister's down to the hospital back to my mom's or sister's and then back out to my FIL's house, and put over 120 miles on my car!!! Ridiculous.
Anyway, so I'm at the grocery store and I'm in the parking lot while sis is inside shopping, because one of the girls has a broken leg. We wait in the car. But I get a call from Mom and she's hysterical. Grandma is in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. Suddenly there is a pit in the bottom of my stomach. Grandma has had her bouts with being ill and in and out of the hospital. But this was different. I heard it in Mom's voice. I beg Mom not to drive. She's too upset, it's dangerous for her to drive that way. So now I've gotta rush sis back home and drive to mom's to pick her up. This is where my frustration with driving in Chattanooga/NW Georgia comes into play. A full 40 minutes goes by and Mom is calling me wondering when I'll be there, begging me to just let her drive and I beg her please no. Winding curves, little hills galore. I finally pick her up and drive to the hospital. The lawyer in me (obey all traffic laws) is out the window. I'm speeding and running stop signs and red lights where I can.
Grandma is at one hospital for just a short bit. They transfer her to another because they have a stroke center. We head over there. Mom is still pretty bad. Gram's in the ER for a couple of hours. We meet her doctors and that's when we find out that Grandma most likely will not be getting better. The pit in my stomach grew. That's when I realized I should've never left her. I should've waited like she wanted me to. Who knows what happened between the time I left and the time Mom woke up and found Grandma. Maybe I could've done something, anything.
Grandma passed away on a Tuesday morning. I held her hands throughout the night and promised her I'd take care of Mom and thanked her for teaching me about our people. I watched her take her last breath. I will never forget that feeling I had early that morning.
Needless to say, I didn't make it back to start that job. I came back to Chicago unemployed and broke. Broke in the bank and brokenhearted.
So that's what happened. I've been stripped down. I feared losing everything. I still fear it. Hell, I've only worked one day since quitting my job. We've borrowed money and robbed Peter to pay Paul. But I've learned my lesson. Love the ones you are with every single day. There is no guarantee to tomorrow.