It was a week and a half before Christmas and I arrived home from a work meeting just after 10 p.m. to find my husband loading the dishwasher and sobbing.
He had worked late too. My mother-in-law had been watching Graham when he arrived home a half hour before I did and relieved her. And what he saw made him cry.
"She didn't give Graham his bath, Kel," he told me. "And the place was a mess."
"Her stomach was bothering her again?"
"She probably just had an off night..."
"She raced out of here without even visiting with me. There were dishes everywhere. "
I remember murmuring that it had been a long day, that he was over-reacting. But my stomach sank because I knew without a shadow of a doubt then - just as I always knew despite my desperate attempt at bravado - why he was crying.
"Something's wrong Kel," he said. "I have a really bad feeling. Something is very, very wrong."
Friday, the day after the funeral, Rob and I sat deflated after an endless whirl of activity.
"Remember that day when you came home and I was crying?"
"It was because I knew Kel. I just knew."
I burst into tears as his sobs started anew.
"I knew that night that nothing was ever going to be the same again."
My mother-in-law died exactly three months to the day from that night and nothing is ever going to be the same again.
I received an e-mail today from a reporter for Grandparents magazine asking for a quote about what role grandparents play in the lives of parents and their children. She probably didn't expect a novel in reply, but timing is everything and that is exactly what she got.
Among other things I wrote:
"My mother-in-law died 9 days ago and I am still trying to imagine how I will parent without her. She truly was my son's second mother and I didn't resent it because it allowed me so much free time with my husband and so much comfort knowing I could meet work obligations and he would be in safe hands.
"You simply can't expect grandparents to be there for you when you need them without giving away a little bit of autonomy as far as parental influence goes: it's a trade off and for me it was an excellent one.
"The way she loved my son was a revelation to my husband and I. When he was about six months old I remember saying to him: 'She loves him as much as we do! I didn't think it was possible but she does, she loves him as much as we do!'"
She did love Graham as much as we do. And he loved her back. And he doesn't understand where she has gone.
And my heart breaks every day because I don't know how to make him understand that nothing will ever be the same again.