No one teaches you how to grieve an estranged family member. Hell, no one ever even talks about the possibility that you might have an estranged family member. It is taboo in polite society to say you haven’t talked to your grandmother, aka Nanew, in a decade. It is really very uncomfortable when the subject of relatives is broached, there is always an awkward and uncomfortable pause when you might say, “well, I don’t know if she is alive”. That is harsh, I know but it has been the reality of my life. Now I can say she is not.
I thought that would be a relief. I actually believed that I would feel nothing. Yet, I am sad. So very sad today. I am in tears, but for who exactly?
I am sad that she was dealt the cards she got in this life. Losing her mother when she was a baby and being taken away from her alcoholic father and placed in a house of relatives that did not want her. We will never know the hell that was her youth. She would never tell us much more than being shut in a dark room and being hungry. She always fed me well, encouraged us to root around in the fridge for a snack. She never wanted us to be hungry.
I am sad that her demons overtook her in my mom’s youth. I am sad that my mom suffered because polite society in the 1950′s didn’t talk about the demons we face, but rather medicated the problems. Where did that leave the little girl that would be my mom?
I often preach that there is nothing wrong with being an only child. But I am sad today because my Nanew was an only child, who had one child, who again had one child. I can only assume things would be easier if we could share our grief with another. To not feel so alone. Would life have been easier for Nanew if she had a sibling? In her situation though they probably would have been separated. If my mother had a sibling might she have had an ally after her father passed. Her father who was her rock and the peacekeeper. My mom might have not felt so alone.
I have yet to mention that my mom lost her dad on the very same day 40 some years ago. The same day, which happens to be the day before her birthday. That makes me sad too. Very sad.
I was very numb yesterday at receiving the news of her passing. I thought that numb was all I could muster. Then the tears came. Now I can’t seem to stop them.
I tried to love her. I went for a long time and didn’t speak with her. Then I tried to mend the bridge. But I could not handle it. She wasn’t very nice behind closed doors. I tried to understand that she was a product of those people who raised her. That she never received the help that she really needed and instead dealt with it the only way she knew how with medications and alcohol. Unfortunately I have my own monkey’s in my head and was coming to terms with my own issues at that time and the things she said to me deeply wounded me. I can still hear them repeated over and over in my head, like a broken record. I doubt I will ever forget them. I attempted to communicate my feelings to her in writing but she responded that I had hurt hers and that’s where her anger came from. Yet, she would never tell me exactly what it was that I did that hurt her, besides being born. I could never figure out what I was supposed to do to make things right. After the last insulting tirade of a phone call with her which led me to smoke a pack of cigs and drink an entire bottle of champagne on Christmas day, in my pjs, alone on my porch, I decided enough was enough. That was the last time we spoke. I am not trying to justify anything, right or wrong I think of my actions as self preservation.
But now as I sit here in tears, I am criticizing myself for not trying harder. For not being strong enough to help her. For being selfish.
In 2013 we found out she was in a nursing home. Yet, I still did nothing. I was afraid. I was afraid for many reasons and one of which was I was in the process of mending my relationship between my mom and myself. I was afraid of damaging my relationship with her by overstepping my bounds and driving to Lovingston. I was afraid that even if I did drive up there that it was my mom that she would have wanted to see and not me. I was afraid she would hurt me again. So I never went. I am sad because I was so afraid.
I am sad because she died alone and I was selfish and unforgiving.
So I cry, I cry for the loss of her life, I cry that she never conquered her demons. I cry for my mom, who all she has left in this world is me. I cry for myself because of my actions.
Rest in peace Nanew you deserve it.