Monday, May 31, 2010

More Sadness

My first words were "Shut up, Gramma," said when left with her for the afternoon and she chattered away at me in a playpen. At least that is family legend. My grandmother was sort of notoriously difficult, stubborn, controlling.

Notice I say was.

She died Sunday morning. Early. And, against all of our hopes, alone. She lasted a little over ten months after my grandfather, her husband of sixty-four years, died. This is what she wanted so badly. She hasn't been well, well ever, at least not as long as I have been alive. She was a childhood survivor of polio, morbidly obese and had all those attending illnesses.

I loved her. Love her. She was one of the most frustrating people I ever met. She forced herself into a life much smaller than she had to have. She spent many years shut into her own home. But she was also generous--took care of all of her in-laws' children, loved all of us so much. Her life was small but it was the one she chose.

She was a terrible cook but a gifted baker. I regret never learning to make a dozen or so types of cookies. But she lost the use of her hands again to the polio symptoms before we were all ready. And was stuck in a wheelchair before we knew it.

Their house had this smell and this unchanging look to it. Everything stayed the same. When they cleaned out the house after my grandfather died my sister put some linens into a plastic bag for me. I took a hit off the smell yesterday and cried. There is no trace of that smell with a person in the world anymore.

She loved my daughter. So much. Much more than I could really imagine since she only got to see her a couple of times. But I would write her letters about what she was doing (she liked letters more than calls because she could re-read them and then read them to her visitors) and send her pictures. She told me her great grandchildren were her only reason to live. She held on to see my cousin's daughter. I had hoped she would hold on to see my sister's son--the one named for my grandpa--but I just don't think she could.

I am honestly surprised how devastated I feel. Just sad and lonely in a way that doesn't make sense. I hope that she has peace now, whatever that is. I hope that she was right, and that she will be with my grandfather. And I hope we all make it through.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Deal

When J and I moved in together we got a dog. To us that was what would help us be a family. And I have never really felt at home unless there was something to fart in my face and wake me up in the middle of the night to pee. Plus I really really don't like to throw table scraps away. We got Darla six months before we got married. She was a lap dog, so loving, went to work with me every day. She was also so lonely, since she was rehomed from a place with twenty other dachshunds. We got Buster for her, and for us, as a wedding gift. We've been a family for more than nine years.

When you have a dog, or any animal, you are making a deal. It is a deal that doesn't seem like a big deal AT ALL when you have a tiny squirming puppy, or even an older dog of about three. Everyone is all healthy and young and running up and down the stairs. You know this deal is happening but you are in denial.

You are in denial about the deal later, when maybe no one runs up and down the stairs anymore. Maybe everyone is just REALLY tired now. It suits your lazy lifestyle anyway.

Then one of your dogs is seriously ill. Then two. One is covered in tumors. The other gets a shot in the ass twice a day.

Then the pug starts bumping into things. He gets lost in your tiny house. He knocks over the baby because he can't see her. He drops a lot of weight, fast, even though you are watching his diet carefully. He can't get up and down the stairs to go outside and you have to carry him. Then he cries when you take him out in the front yard thinking it will be easier for him. He doesn't know where he is.

Then the deal is real. The deal is that when you bring a dog into your family you are promising to take care of that dog until the end. And you are promising that you will be brave enough to decide when that end is. You are promising to love him all weekend and maybe sneak him Doritos like he likes. You are going to let him sleep in the bed tonight even though you know he will pee in it. And then you will hold him and try not to sob and scare him when he leaves you.

Which is happening Tuesday.

That is the deal you made. You just didn't realize it would all go so damn fast.

Friday, May 14, 2010

We Will Always Have

I cannot count how many times I have thought that if I could give every woman in the world the relationship I have with my mother with their mothers that we could solve all kinds of problems in one fell swoop. It isn't like it is perfect and sometimes she makes me as crazy as can be--but my mother never criticizes my weight, my eating, my parenting or my hair. We are legitimately friends. She listens to my advice and I listen to hers. She thinks that I am smart and capable and perfect in every way. I am all too aware of how rare this is.

Sadly, I cannot give everyone this gift. In fact, my sister and mother don't have this sort of relationship. I can say with certainty that my mother loves my sister just as much as she loves me. And I don't think that she is critical of her (though I guess I don't really know). But for reasons of circumstance and personality and whatever drives family dynamics they have never got on that well. My sister has a much easier time getting along with my father--something that feels just short of mystical to me, like spoon bending. I feel like I got the lucky end of that deal but maybe she feels that way too.

I thought about this a lot last week. I was in Florida visiting my sister. She had a baby less than two months ago and I was going to see him. And to check on my sister. Take care of her a little if she would let me.

My relationship with my sister is complicated. She is a sometimes reader here so no one worry that I am shocking her with this. We have been very close at times and barely spoken at others. Our political, religious and philosophical beliefs probably could not be more different. We have very different view points of our parents. I still love her more than I can say but I do not pretend that it is always easy. Well, always easy to love, not so easy to get along.

My sister is going to be a great mother, is already a great mother. And watching her with her son all I could hope for is what I want for myself. I hope that our children grow up healthy and happy. That they always know how much we love them and give us the benefit of the doubt for our mistakes. That they always call--when they need something or just to chat. That they feel at home with us. I hope that both my daughter and my nephew will be able to look at their mothers and call us friends. Some day. After that nasty teenage period.

I also hope that my daughter never votes Republican (I hope my nephew doesn't either but I probably shouldn't admit it).

I love my sister and I know we will always have our differences. Our relationship will probably always be complicated. I wish that it wouldn't be but well as we get older we only become more of who we are. But I will always love her. And always be thankful that I got to help (even a little bit) during this time. To help her welcome her son. We will always have that.