Tomorrow will mark the one year anniversary of my beloved grandmother’s death. I had been holding it together fairly well, right up until dinner last night when my father asked if I’d spoken to my sister. It seems that my younger sibling has planned a graveside memorial that I’d not been invited to. Rather than point out that I had no knowledge of the event planned I shrugged it off, refusing to draw attention to the fact that my sister and I have not spoken in over eight months.
In our family, my sister and I not speaking is more the norm than not. We’ve gone years without communicating so these eight months haven’t fazed me at all. Our not speaking has bothered others more than it has ever bothered either one of us. I readily admit that I have resented my sister’s presence since I was four years old and the old people brought her home from the hospital. Despite my insistence that they take her back to where they found her, they refused and my life, as it should have been, has never the same. As family goes I often think that I would have been better served had I been an only child. But since I’m not, my sister and I do not talk and that seems to work for both of us.
The silence between us has insured much peace for the entire family. The old people have managed to parent us individually, avoiding situations that inevitably end in harsh words and hurt feelings. And then my father, in his old age, will forget and ask if we’ve spoken to each other; because in his old age, my father cannot fathom any reason for me and my sister not to be speaking. Which brings me back to my grandmother.
As a little girl I spent much time with my grandmother. By the time I was five years old she and I were old running buddies. Sanctuary, far from the crying, whining mass that was my baby sister was found with my granny. Between our jaunts to pro-wrestling matches, local dance halls, and a few unlikely places that a little girl had no business being, I learned many of my grandmother’s ways and not all of them good. Granny harbored many grudges and she never shied from dismissing people out of her life for some perceived infraction that could not be forgiven. Like my grandmother I’m not inclined to let anyone who weighs down my spirit to stay in my life.
I was six-years-old when I really understood that my grandmother wasn’t like other grandmothers. My granny rode on the back of motorcycles and had a steel plate in her head to prove it. My granny could deal a hand of poker like a Vegas card shark. My granny didn’t give a second thought to tossing her valued fur coats onto the floor so that I could play in them. And in the kitchen my grandmother could run circles around anyone’s Iron Chef. My granny could also be hell on wheels and many discovered the hard way that her bark was easily as vicious as her bite. Just ask my father.
Overnights with my granny were the best and always involved my favorite foods. We’d watch horror movies until the wee hours of the morning and granny’s only rule was that there were no rules. My grandmother lived by rules of her own making and at the age of six that discovery opened my eyes to a world of complete and total wonder. Hands down, my granny was a loving, nurturing soul. She was also spirited, adventurous, daring, and devilish. But there’s also no denying that my grandmother could be a force to be reckoned with if you rubbed her the wrong way. There are many who can attest to the fact that she could put the mean in mean when she wanted to.
I am very much my grandmother’s child. I inherited much that was good about her and a few traits that might be considered less desirable. But like my grandmother I am unapologetic for the woman I’ve become. I own my mistakes and learn from them even when it might seem like the lesson has been lost. And much like my grandmother often showed me, I’ve discovered that dismissing drama and embracing the silence is sometimes necessary for my own peace of mind.
My grandmother had little if anything at all to say about my sister and I not speaking, and until old age, neither did my father. It just was what it was. Granny and my sister had their own relationship and I’m sure my sister’s graveside memorial will befit the memories she has of the old woman.
My grandmother lived a full and vibrant life. Years ago, granny told me that there were three things a woman should always know. One, that she should always have a secret, something that kept her a mystery to everyone else. Two, that life needed to be lived on your own terms and no one else’s. And three, if you’re going to bother to love at all, make sure you love as hard as you can.
I have my own memories and so I’ll lift a glass or two or three to honor the time my granny and I shared together. Granny wasn’t big on gravesites so I'll pass on the memorial. She also had absolutely no use for tears so I will continue to hold it together because that’s just how hard I loved the old woman. And knowing just how hard she loved me back, I know she would expect nothing less from me.