This is an enduring time of year for me. I know I am not alone. The holidays are triggering and difficult for mountainous reasons for many people. My personal reasons are grief. Missing those who are no longer with us. Grief is especially haunting for me at this time.
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, marking the five year anniversary of my brother’s death. I sat alone outside on my patio and took a moment. I was perusing my Facebook account when I happened upon a message that struck me as odd. It was from a young lady I didn’t recognize telling me that my Grandma missed and loved me. That she was blind and resided in a nursing home. That this woman who reached out to me was her aide. My first thought was “What the fuck?! Is this a scam?” My curiosity winning out I decided to message back. I requested personal information about my grandmother. Thinking either that there had been some mistake or this woman was trying to BS me. I received a response and did a little googling and found out that no, in fact this was not a scam. This woman actually was reaching out on my grandmother’s behalf. I replied with kind regards and qualified my hesitation. You see I haven’t had contact with my grandmother in over fifteen years. By her choice and doing. The woman again responded that she was aware of the lack of contact but had no back story. She also gave me my grandmother’s cell phone number and told me that she would love to hear from me.
In my mind I grappled with the situation. Do I reach out? Why would I, now? What did she want after all this time? I pondered. I questioned and cursed the universe. Why was this being placed in front of me, now especially. I spoke with my husband and a few of my tribe. I realized that I no longer felt anger or resentment toward my grandmother only sadness for her and the time lost. I acknowledged that my grandmother as a part of my family riddled with dysfunction and chaos just acted as she always knew. I was able to look objectively at the generations of trauma and abuse and depersonalize her decision to cut me out of her life all those years ago. I imagined that perhaps being close to 90 years of age, time and loneliness had given her some insight.
I decided to proceed with contacting her. I had no expectation other than to provide an avenue of closure and forgiveness for her. I decided I could bestow that upon her without sacrificing myself.
My mother and my grandmother had a relationship wrought with strife. My mother hated my grandmother and could never forgive her for the things that happened in my mother’s childhood. My grandmother existing only within the bounds of what she knew could never find a way into my mother’s heart. When I became an adult my mother cut my grandmother out of her life. Even telling people who asked that her mother had died. In the meantime, I navigated a tightrope between the two women. It was very tricky.
For me, growing up my grandparents had been a source of love and stability. More so than my own mother was capable at times. They cared for me often. They did their best to love and protect me. The parents that my mother grew up with did not exist in my grandparents. They were never abusive to me physically, verbally or emotionally. It was hard to reckon with the disparity in identities but I managed.
In my twenties, my grandmother deciding that she couldn’t maintain our relationship after my mom cut her out sent me a box full of my childhood memorabilia, drawings and photos with a note explaining. I was heartbroken and hurt. I felt betrayed and abandoned. Eventually, I moved on and healed, accepting that I didn’t have a grandmother any longer.
Wrangling with her extension revived many of these memories. Memories that were long buried as I have no one to share them with anymore, nor reason to dredge them back up. Until now.
One night last week, alone in my car en route to the grocery store I decided to give her a call. The joy in her voice palpable. I was amazed that after all of these years she was still so familiar to me. Having lost my mom I could hear her in my grandmother. The tone and inflections. She thanked me for contacting her. Saying she didn’t ever imagine that I would. She apologized profusely for the way she handled the situation all those years ago. Wishing that she would have listened to me and given me the choice. Saying she wish she would have done it differently. I accepted and let her know it was ok, that I understood sometimes we make mistakes thinking we are doing the right thing. We spent a few minutes catching up on fifteen years of life when she asked about my mom and brother.
I wasn’t sure if she knew they were dead or not. I had never told her but we still have a network of cousins on Facebook who are aware. I immediately lied. I told her that they were doing well. She pressed on about my brother. “What does he look like? What is he doing?” Tears trickling, I told her that Travis looked just like his dad and he was working and doing well. Then I did my best to reroute the conversation before I broke and gave myself away.
I grappled with that too. IF I contact her DO I tell her? Is it fair of me to with-hold information of such magnitude?
Ultimately, I opted not to tell her. What purpose would it serve, other than to bring her pain.
We talked a bit more. I told her about my daughter and my life. She shared her life with me. We left it there. I felt drained but good after the conversation. Hopeful that I was able to give her whatever she was seeking.
Afterward I decided to send her a little plushy stuffed animal. We spent many of my childhood weekends down at the Jersey shore and she would always win me one. I included a note reminding her of those fond times.
I don’t know what will happen from here. If anything at all. Whatever does transpire I am happy that I felt whole enough to reach out. My actions are evidence of every generation in my family doing just a little bit better than the last. There is healing in that. I am grateful for the opportunity to do a little kindness for someone who needs it.
What is your relationship like with your family?