Two months ago, my grandmother died.
Tonight I found out about it. On Facebook, from my sister. To be fair, she just found out too. It’s not her fault.
There’s no one to blame, really, except my father. Not that I would’ve expected him to call me. He doesn’t know my phone number or my email address. Judging by the obituary, he doesn’t even know which state I now live in, which I’m glad about. But my sister has our uncle, my father’s brother, as a Facebook friend, and he comments on her statuses sometimes. So you’d think he would’ve told her, and I know she would’ve told me.
I can only imagine our father told his brother not to tell us.
I hadn’t seen my grandmother since I cut off contact with my father, more than eight years ago. She had Alzheimer’s, so he had total control over who she had contact with. By the last time I saw her, she didn’t remember who I was anyway. I’ve been going along as though she were already dead because functionally, she was dead to me, although that wasn’t my choice.
So I didn’t think it would hurt this much. I can’t stop crying. I mean all-out sobbing, and I can’t remember the last time I did that. I’ve sequestered myself in my room so that my roommates (hopefully) won’t hear me. I called BF, and he was sympathetic, but I could tell he wanted to go to bed. So I told him I’d be fine.
I have nothing but good memories of my grandmother. She worked at a John Deere plant for 21 years and loved John Deere, so her house was full of all this kitschy John Deere memorabilia. She grew her own strawberries and made the best strawberry jam known to God or man. She was an incredible baker, too. My favorite was her orange-cinnamon swirl bread. Hot out of the oven with a thick layer of butter…I could eat a whole loaf by myself. She made us heart-shaped chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, and her deviled eggs were amazing. She was a knitter, too, although I never learned from her. She knitted with that cheap, scratchy acrylic crap–afghans and Christmas stockings and sweaters. For Christmas my eight-grade year, she knitted me a bright red sweater with a cow on the front, which never got worn. (To be fair, she was probably in the early stages of Alzheimer’s then.) She watched soap operas obsessively, and we had to go outside and play for those several hours a day so she could hear them without our interruptions.
It’s complicated, though, because most of my memories of her are tied up with bad memories of my father. We spent summers with our father, but for some reason it was always at our grandmother’s house, not his. I don’t know if that’s because she wanted to spend time with us or because my mother didn’t trust him to take care of us by himself and stipulated that in the custody arrangements or what. But those summers were when we were subjected to the worst of his abuse. I’m trying not to remember that now, though. I’m trying to just remember the good things.
The whole thing is just really fucked up and I still can’t stop crying.
This is the only photo I have of her, but it’s perfect–her teaching me to bake. I must be about two years old. I think this must be at my parents’ house–I remember the phone with the obnoxiously large buttons.
These two pictures are me as a baby on the back porch of my grandmother’s house.
And that’s all I have left of her now.