The Luckiest Girl In The World

Pam Pollock
November 2022

As I have mentioning in my 33.5 years of writing this column, family is EVERYTHING to me.  It’s a thought shared by my husband and something that we instilled in our children and my daughter, and her husband are now teaching their children.  Last year, on our weekly drive up to my parents’ house, my oldest granddaughter, who was almost 9 years old at the time remarked, “Gaga, I am the luckiest girl in the world!  I have FIVE Gagas (2 Grandmas and 3 Great-Grandmas), and 3 Paps (2 Grandpas and 1 Great-Grandpa.). I smiled and told her that she and her siblings were indeed truly blessed to have so many Gagas and Paps that love them all so very, very much.

It's no secret that I am photo obsessed.  I lug my big camera just about everywhere and if I don’t have it along, I am pulling out my iPhone to capture just about each and every moment.  Much of this obsession is  because I only have 1 Polaroid photo with my maternal Grandma Grace, and 2 fuzzy snapshots with my paternal Great-Grandpa Yard.  I have zero photos with my maternal Grandma Norris, who lived 2 doors up from my parents’ house and I was usually up there about every day until my teenage years when she moved in with my Aunt and ultimately died.

I insist on a yearly family photo and in the past couple of years, I have tried to get one of our 4 generations together.  That was a hard task to accomplish.  Finally, last year (May 2021), I got a photo session scheduled  for Mother’s Day where everyone could meet – and then it poured rain all day long and the photographer had to postpone it for one day.  My son-in-law could not leave work due to planting crops, but everyone else made it.  It was late afternoon and my daughter had to pick up the granddaughters from school and everyone was tired and a little cranky.  But we made it happen.  We got our photo of 4 generations on both sides of the family!  These images are some of my most treasured possessions.  I have a large canvas print hanging in our living room and a tabletop photo book. 

At the time of the photo session, my mother-in-law was dealing with congestive heart failure, but we thought she had at least 2 more years to live.  My Mom had been dealing with Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis for over 23.5 years, but she never complained, and her dying was not even at the back of my mind.

In the early 2000s, I watched America’s Next Top Model on TV.  The beginning of the episode showed all of the models who were in the competition posing for a photo and at the end, after each model was eliminated, it would show their face vanishing right before my eyes in that big group photo.  Week after week, a model would “vanish” from that big picture until the grand finale when only the winner would remain in the photo.

My Mom died on January 3rd of this year, and it was unexpected and gut-wrenching.  I never got to say good-bye.  I never got to hug her again or hold her hand as she took her final breaths.  And it’s messed me up in my head and it’s something I struggle with on a daily basis.  Her last words to us were relayed by a nurse over the telephone to me, “I don’t want them to see me like this.  I know that they love me, and they know that I love them.”

My Mother-in-law died on August 4th, 7 months and 1 day after my Mom died.  My husband and his brothers rallied around her all Spring and Summer.  She entered home hospice care in early July.  My spouse spent the night with her and even though we knew the end could be at any time, her death in the early morning  was still a surprise.

We have different ways of expressing our grief, after almost 10 months, I still weep on almost a daily basis.  I have ugly crying jags and a lot of anger and frustration over the medical system.  My spouse came home after his Mom died and sat in our dark living room with a tumbler of bourbon.  I wear my emotions on my sleeve for the entire world to see.  He tends to keep his buried down in his heart and I suspect that when he is alone in the woods, he talks to his Mom and Dad (who died in August 1995) and sheds his tears then.

The other day I was looking at our 4-generation photo and I realized that what I was feeling was much like that scene from America’s Next Top Model, our loved ones have vanished from our lives, we can’t see them anymore, we can’t touch them.  I had a graphic artist on Etsy remove their images from the photo so I could show all of you how I feel.  It’s like a part of my life is missing now – it’s gray and dreary at times.  But it is important for me to remember that original photo – we are all together.  Sure, we’re kind of a hot mess, more than a little dysfunctional – but we’re together and we love each other, and we will be there for each other in good times and bad.  I can’t wallow in my grief and let it consume me.  I can cry (and trust me, I do a lot of that), but I have to pull myself together and remember the good times and to realize that there are a lot happier times today and tomorrow and so on and so on.

My granddaughter was so right, she is the luckiest girl in the world.  Our family is lucky to have the love of so many people.  My brother Jack, my father-in-law Strick, my niece Jennifer, my unborn grandchild, my Mom, and my mother-in-law Audrey may no longer be here on Earth with us, but they are in our hearts forever and that makes all of us the luckiest people in the world.