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A Different Kind of Grief

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

My maternal grandmother and I were close. When I was born she opened an in-home daycare so she could afford to stay home and care for me while my mother went back to work. One could say I was raised by my grandmother as much, if not more, than I was raised by my parents. Her home became my home, and for a season while my father was in the United States Army, it was the only home I knew.

Built around 1949, my grandmother’s house was nothing special. It had no central heat or air conditioning. The sole source of heat was provided by an in-floor furnace between the living room and the dining room. The kitchen was tiny, and had very little counter or cabinet space as most of the room was taken up by the washer, dryer, and refrigerator. And it only had two bedrooms with no master bath. The only bathroom in the house had a ceiling just over six feet high, with only enough room to step three feet from the toilet to the shower with the lavatory in between.

Despite its shortcomings, the house was home, and a place I identified with love and security. My grandmother lived there with my grandfather until he passed away in 1978. After his passing she continued to live there and was able to maintain its upkeep with the help of a neighbor. Long after I grew up and moved away I considered her home my home away from home. I loved my grandmother, and loved my childhood home.


Then in December 2004 my grandmother passed away. Because she had Alzheimer’s disease she had been moved to a nursing home where she could be properly cared for. Her house, however, remained pretty much as it was before she moved with all the furniture and decorations left in place, as if time had suddenly been stopped. When my mother and I walked into the house for the first time since she moved out, it was like walking back in time.

After my grandmother’s funeral we left the house as we found it until the following year while all the legal matters were settled. Then in July 2005 we returned one final time to clear everything out and sell the only home I associated with my childhood. We held an estate sale and sold what we could. Everything else was given to charity. The only thing left to sell was the house itself which my mother offered at an extremely low price. The house sold the same day it was listed, leaving me with nothing but memories of the only place I ever truly called home.

My mother did not cherish the house that had been her childhood home the way I did. Her memories were different than mine, and with everything now gone she had closure. I, on the other hand, had cherished the old house and all the memories I had made there. I had lost my grandmother, and now I had lost the one place I loved the most.

With everything in the house gone, I walked back in it and took one last look around. I had never seen it empty, and felt a sudden sense of loss and grief. As I surveyed the emptiness I began to cry, and then my tears turned in heaving sobs. I felt a pain that I had never felt before, and in the moment mourned my loss with a deep ache in my heart. My grandmother was gone, the house was now gone, and I would never see my childhood home again.

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