A few weeks ago, local talk show hosts Rocky and Sue from 98.5 KRZ had posted a Facebook status asking their viewers to share their biggest Prom Regrets. Talk about striking a nerve…
Most people wouldn't believe that I fell asleep at my senior high school prom, but it's true. I did. Why did I fall asleep at my senior prom, you may ask. I can tell you that I was most certainly NOT under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. I was in fact, under the influence of grief.
My grandmother died 12 years ago, this month.
She died, in fact, a few days before I was set to go to the prom. She was sick before that, but no one seemed to know what was going to happen. The following is what I was able to piece together from what I overheard on phone conversations between my Mom, Aunt and Dad: My Aunt usually called my Grandmother every morning to check on her and to chat (she lived alone as my Grandfather died 4 years earlier). I can't remember around what time this call would happen, but it was early in the day, maybe around 8 or 9 in the morning. One morning my Aunt tried to call and my Grandmother did not answer…(or maybe the phone was busy). My Aunt didn't think anything of it at first, as she may have been out shopping or taking a walk, etc. After a few hours, my Aunt became concerned and went over to the house where she found my Grandmother laying there and called for an ambulance. Something like that. Again, most of these details were not discussed with me, I learned about them second or third hand. Anyway, by the time that she was found the stroke to took a severe impact on the functions of her brain.
She was in a nursing home in Nanticoke for a bit after that, but things were not going well. I think at some point her kidneys failed. Since my Grandmother had a living will and did not wish to be kept alive by machines, it was only a matter of time until she went.
I expected that she was going to go. I did not, however, expect that she would be gone and the funeral would be on the same day of my prom.
When I learned of her passing, I felt completely empty of emotion. I'm not sure why. It was unlike me to not have a reaction. I guess looking back at the whole chain of events leading up to her death, maybe a part of me was expecting her to pass on. At the time though, I assumed it was because I was reading "The Stranger" by Albert Camus and felt that it had an existential impact on my emotions.
My first gut reaction was to not go to the prom. Me and "my date" already had our clothes, transportation and tickets and were all set to go. I told my Mom that I was considering this and she told me that Gram would not have wanted that. She would not have wanted to see me upset. She told me that I should still go and continue on with my plans because that is what she would have wanted. I am starting to tear up just thinking about it. That IS what she would have wanted…I can almost hear the words coming out of her mouth. Deep at heart, I didn't feel right about not attending the funeral.
My "date", Frog, was actually a good guy friend of mine. His real name is "Mike"…we all called him "Frog" because, well, his face had frog-like features. I could have gone with a few different people, but I picked him because we hung out a lot and he was hilarious. I knew I would have a good time. At the time, I was most recently dating George, but we were not together in the weeks before the prom.
Frog and I (in my skeleton-thin like days) Circa May 1999
The professional photo that we had taken at prom was horrible. I had a look on my face that seemed to say "Yeah, I'm here going through the motions. I guess I'll fake a smile." My smile in the above picture looks somewhat believable I think. All in all, I'd say we had an OK time. The evening had it's good parts. Mostly, I felt incredibly guilty for not going to the funeral. I didn't dance at all. I probably would have danced more if I didn't feel so depressed and guilty. At some point, I put my head down on the table to sob after hearing a sad song and then dozed off. I'm not exactly sure how long I was asleep, but it probably wasn't long. We left early and went to a Perkins in Dickson City to eat (btw, our prom was at Genetti's in Dickson City) and then he drove me home and I went to bed. There was no afterparty or wild shennanigans to report afterward. I was tired and just needed to sleep.
Back to the original question. I guess my biggest prom regret was simply going to it. I should have been able to give a proper final goodbye to my Grandmother. I don't know that I'll ever be able to forgive myself for that. There isn't a day that goes by that I do not think about it, and whenever I hear "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton it instantly takes me back to that moment in time….when I selfishly put my life ahead of what was happening to my family.