Wednesday, February 19, 2014

January's chill

January was a hard month. It was full of stress, worry and death. The first week of January was filled with migraines and the polar vortex.Then, because a selfish man I didn't even know was a control freak, I almost lost a good friend. She, unfortunately, lost her good friend to said asshole. She is recovering slowly and I thank the Gods and pray that they lend her strength as her body heals. He was found dead I later found out. I spent a weekend in Lexington with her but felt pulled to come back home abruptly. We left Lexington that Sunday at 2am, got home at 7am got unpacked and went to bed. I got a call from my mother just after 8am telling me my grandmother had passed away. The rest of the weeks that belonged to January were a blur. We laid my grandmother to rest and that same day my great aunt died and my cat tried to explode (abscess ruptured) I bounced back and forth to Decatur a few times. Made an SCA event and then was massively sick and missed a week of work.  Between migraines, sickness and funeral days I worked maybe a total of 5 days in January. I have used up all my personal and sick time for the year. I didn't get paid for one week because my Human Resources person is an idiot. Yeah, January was not good.

Since her passing I have been struggling with people giving me their condolences on my grandmother. We did not have a good relationship and that's putting it mildly. She lived just down the street from me until I moved out when I was 19. She was verbally abusive and mean to me for most of my childhood and adolescent years. Nothing I ever did was right, I was just like my father (my dad was from the wrong side of the tracks), I was fat (which is funny, I didn't actually get fat until mid 20s), I strange, etc. Once, when I was 8, my mother sent me down to her to see if she would want to donate money for a Jump for Heart fundraiser my school was doing. I had been avoiding doing it and mom couldn't understand why. I went down there and my grandmother wrote out a check laid it on the table and told me "I knew you'd only come down here for money" I looked at her, looked at the check and walked out the door without it. I had tears running down an angry face when I got home. I told my mother what happened and I told her I would never willingly go down there again. My mother was appalled but after that never asked me to go down there unless it was a holiday when all the family gathered there.

As I got older I had tried to avoid her as much as possible. I was polite and thankful to her for any gifts I received from her, I did my best to be respectful because she was my mom's mother and I was taught to respect my elders. But respect is not love and that was something I never felt from her either. The last straw was when I was 17. My best friends had come to help me with my hair and makeup for pictures and we wanted to go show my mom. She and my other aunts were all down having coffee with grandmother so we all went down.  My mom and aunts loved it, without batting an eye she looked at me and told me I looked like a tacky hussy. My friends were shocked, I was hurt. My gloves came off and I asked her why she always had to be a bitch to me. When she turned to my mother to ask what she was going to do about it, my mother had my back and stood up for me. I was done being polite and respectful to a woman who was bitter and hurtful. I would no longer take any crap from her. When I moved out I rarely saw her except for those family holidays.  She mentioned a few times she wanted to visit but I had cats and that aggravated her breathing problems. I never outright invited her.

I understood to a point that part of her was very damaged. She lost my Grandpa to cancer when I was around 3. I have few memories of him but they are good and the feeling of love from those memories is very strong. I remember that one day he wasn't there anymore and the feeling that emptiness that accompanied it. She had lost a grandson a year or so before that. I don't have many memories of her that early other than being fascinated with her rugs in the kitchen and always being in her way. She came from a farming family, which can be rough. But there was stuff before that. For whatever reason my grandmother had chosen Cindy and Scott as her favorites, mom and Aunt Sandy got picked at constantly and had been were defended by Grandpa. The favoritism passed down to the grandchildren it seemed. My brother was spared some of the disdain as he looked "like a Curtis" I also suspect being a boy had helped also.

My grandmother was severely Catholic. In church every Sunday, wanted all of us confirmed... Catholic. She was openly and loudly disappointed when I quit CCD classes after my first communion. She was convinced that I was in a cult when I came out as a Pagan when I was 21.  I point blank asked her if anyone had ever been able to get me to do something I didn't want to do. She didn't question my faith after that. As Catholic as she was, as most as my family was, they had a weird penchant for going to have their cards or tea leaves read and the entire family has seen ghosts and had premonitions. (maybe the Irish/Scots/Welsh poking through) When she found out I was starting to learn tarot she and my aunts had me do readings. I did her cards last. When I read her cards and it left her in tears. Nothing I had said was mean or hurtful but I had hit too close for comfort. It was the last time I ever read cards. While I felt she hated me most days I never wanted to harm or hurt her in any way. Seeing her cry made me sick to my stomach. I didn't want to ever do it again.

When I divorced Ryan she was stoic, if she disapproved she didn't mention it. I wasn't around much either to hear anything. I had just started dating Bill when my Uncle Scott was killed. He came up for a week to take care of me while I took care of them. It was a mess. I told him before even going in that if grandmother got pissy and out of line with him for no reason he could dish it right back, and he did. She looked at and treated him differently after that. I think she liked him because of it.  In my early 30s she started treating me differently. To tell you the truth it drove me insane. She asked more questions about my life in general and would hug me and tell me how much she loved me. I didn't believe a word of it, I couldn't stand her to touch me. I kept my answers PC. I did not tell her I was bisexual, and I most certainly did not tell her I was in a triad relationship with my husband and our girlfriend, though my mom knew. When Bill and I split she said she was sorry to see him go, she had hoped he would have changed his mind about having children with me since he had kids with his previous wives. Aloof was all I could muster. I knew her health had been declining, I knew she would suffer and I hated the thought of what that would do to my mom and Aunt Sandy who still lived in town. Cindy and her kids had long ago moved to Virginia, Scott's girls were off living their own lives far away with children who needed them, my brother was bouncing around in different states and I was living in southern Illinois,. I saw her as a bitter woman and pitiful.  I swore I would never be like her, she was the perfect example to me of how not to be.

Now she is gone and I still deal with her. I deal with people and family giving me condolences and telling me "your grandmother loved you".  It makes me angry. It makes me want to yell back at them all the cruel and hurtful things she ever said to me. That is not love. You do not take out your bitterness and resentment on how your life has turned out on a child. That is not love. Hearing it is a constant slap in the face. My mother has never tried to force that lie upon me, not once. She bears her own burden. She loved her mother but hated her also and as the oldest was the one who helped take care of her and was there with her when she died. I am lucky to have a wonderful mother, and while Josh and I were treated differently we were equally loved.  Going through her stuff  my mom and aunts have allowed me to have her old canning and homesteading utensils. I had often asked my grandmother when I was younger to teach me how to do it but she refused. I gave up in my early teens. They decided that I should be given her wedding dress to make into something else. I opened the box and it smells like her, I had to put it in the craft room. My friends will help me deal with dismantling a dress that was made originally in 1950.

I shouldnt complain. My family has more to cause to complain than I do.  My Aunt Sandy is giving up her home to move into the home she grew up in as a kid so that it won't be sold to someone who may sell it to a developer, the fields I grew up in are now urbanized, they are the last neighborhood in between all of it. There is so much history the family cannot let it go. They are planning to put in gardens and fruit trees like my grandpa had when he was still alive. Things she had no use for after he passed and did away with. Things I had been so interested in, part of me is angry that there is so much information lost now. She came from a farming family and seemed bound and determined to leave it all behind. When I told her my plans for urban homesteading and dreams of a smallholding she told me I was being stupid. Now I'm going to be re-establishing what she had let go.

I realize the fine line I am walking. This anger is not something I want hanging around my heart. I need to be vigilant that it doesn't make me bitter also, it's ok to be angry and upset but I cannot allow myself to become bitter. While there is no love there is grief at loss of an opportunity. The opportunity of her getting to know someone who is a good person, someone who she could have bonded with and shared history with, someone who could have loved her so much if she had not thoroughly poisoned it with her words and deed.