Tuesday, September 18, 2007


A golden glow filtered through the trees and rested on the front of the little house. Grandma was making a bed for me in the back of the Fairlane with soft fluffy blankets and my pillow. Grandpa was standing beside the car with his hands tucked in his pant pockets, smiling patiently.

“Let’s go!” Grandma said. I jumped into my perfect little bed. The length of the seat was just perfect for me. If I stretched, I could touch my toes at one end and the top of my head at the other. Grandma and Grandpa got into the front seat, and we were off on our drive.

I closed my eyes, only for a moment it seemed, and when I opened them again, the drive was over.

“Please can we go for a longer drive?” I pleaded.

“No.” My grandma chuckled. “We’ve been driving all afternoon!”

I was disappointed, but I got out of the car and headed into the house. I knew that it wouldn’t be long until my mother arrived to take me home.

I don’t ever remember doubting my grandmother’s love for me when I was young. She was the only person in my life that I felt comfortable to really be myself around. Oh, sure, she often called me a little pill - I often deserved it. But of all the people I had in my life, I knew I could always count on her to be in my corner - No matter what.

I don’t think my grandma was ever truly a happy person. The love of her life was knifed to death in a bar fight. Her mother then proceeded to cajole her into marrying my grandpa. He was a steady honest man who would be able to support her and be a good husband. He loved her, but she never returned that love for him.

It was a couple of years after they marred that she became pregnant. The labor was very long and difficult, and the baby boy died hours after he was born. She never held him. She almost didn’t survive the ordeal.

Several years later, she became pregnant with my father. He was the only child she would be able to have. She doted on him and spoiled him horribly. She lived and breathed for him.

While my dad was still a young boy, grandma and grandpa divorced for a while, and both married other people. My grandpa’s second wife died young (I understand it was because of alcoholic-related disease), and my grandmother finally divorced her alcoholic second-husband.

When my father was a teenager, he got into a car accident that nearly killed him. My grandmother blamed herself. She felt that if she had stayed marred to my grandpa, my dad wouldn’t have been so wild, and wouldn’t have been in that car accident.

When they found out he would live and be ok, they remarried. She stayed married to my grandpa for the rest of her life. He took care of her and they had a safe life.

I asked her once why she never had any other children. Apparently, they had really tried to have more children. She desperately wanted a daughter. I was the closest she came to having one.

She doted on me and spoiled me just like she had my father. There wasn’t anything she had that she wouldn’t give me. But she had plans for me that I didn’t have for myself. When I was 19 she told me that if I didn’t settle down and find a husband, I would be an old maid.

I wanted to go to college, but I was a girl. I think that was the very first time she ever saw me as not perfect. I found a husband and had children. But I wasn’t the kind of mother and housekeeper she thought I should be. Apparently I wasn’t much of a wife either, because my husband was never at home with me.

She loved my daughter, Megan. Everyone loved Megan. You would have had to be a cold hearted monster not to lover her. She was nothing but sweet. Ok, she was sassy too, and sometimes she wore the “little pill” honor! She was a perfect child (still is).

It was at that time that my brother started having kids. He hadn’t graduated from high school yet, but he did stick with it until he had. Grandma was always so proud of him. His wife was a first rate loser in grandma’s eyes, and she and her sister would sit in the mornings and say the most horrible things about her. She was living in the bedroom downstairs, and she heard a lot of what was said.

His first baby was a girl. She died when she was just six months old. Her death crushed my grandma. She gave up on everything and everyone. She started by limiting her diet to broccoli. She wouldn’t eat anything but broccoli. She managed to survive on her diet for over a year. The she started boiling it for one to two hours.

One day, I came home from work and was told she had been taken to the hospital. When I went to see her, she was being really snotty. She kept saying she had to call her sister and have her take her to the hospital because grandpa wouldn’t. I wasn’t there, so I don’t really know what happened, but aunt Toots let on like grandma was blowing the whole thing out of proportion. Toots was there that morning, just like every other morning, smoking and gossiping.

That night grandma took a turn for the worst. Because of her lack of nutrition, she had a serious electrolyte imbalance. The doctors said she wouldn’t survive the night. She did, though. They went through extraordinary measures to keep her alive, or what was left of her.

She had suffered brain damage. She had forgotten most of her life. She didn’t recognize my dad. She had vague recollections of some people. She still doted on Megan. But she hated me. I told myself that she though I was my mother, and that was why she treated me with such contempt. But I have never been sure.

Aunt Tootsie died last Thursday. Her graveside funeral was held on Saturday. It hit me really hard, harder than it should have. I think it was because while Tootsie was alive, the best part of my grandma survived in my heart. With that gone, I really had to take a look at my relationship with her.

I don’t know if my grandma loved me in the end. I don’t know if she was proud of me. I don’t know what happened to change her feelings for me. I always loved her, and I always depended on knowing she loved me too.

She was the one person whose love saved me from my mother. If she didn’t love me in the end, then how can I really believe that I am loveable? I’ll never have a definitive answer to that question. I guess if I’m going to hold onto me, I have to believe that she loved me unconditionally, right up to the end.


  1. Oh, Cheri, I'm sure she did. When people get that sick, sometimes they just go out of their mind and say the wildest things. Honestly, I don't think they even know they're saying them.
    But, I'm sure she loved you still, right up through the end.

  2. Jim, thank you for the kind words.
    On some level I understand that. I know she wasn't in her right mind. It wasn't so much what she did or didn't say, it was the way she looked at me in the end. There was so much contempt in her eyes when she looked at me. It was as if I were the vilest creature she'd ever looked at. I'll never forget it. It's burned into my mind like an ugly brand.