adulthood · family · honesty · love · self-care


I found out yesterday that my grandmother died in the middle
of the night before. My dad texted me after I’d gotten out of work to call him,
and I knew, or expected that to be the information he’d give me. It was. And
he’s alright. He’s, well, he’s not an emotional guy, but in the last few months
of his mother’s sharp decline, he’s been pretty roller-coaster about it – which
has been a little ungrounding for me – to see stone cry is a little … weird.
It’s been coming. She’s been in decline for a while, and has
spent the last month or so in a nursing home/hospital. Which has been like a
blessing. As some of you may recall from previous blogs, she and her husband
and other son are sort of (no, not sort of, badly) hoarders, who live in chaos and
desperate filth. So, it was a blessing that she got to spend her last month
having her basic needs of food and cleanliness taken care of. She was losing
her marbles, and sort of didn’t know where she was, but, I was glad for it.
Two things are sticking in my craw about yesterday, though.
I called a few people after I talked to my dad – got several voicemails, and
one lovely friend. And after wandering around the commercial street near where
I live, sort of meandering aimlessly, I called my brother. To find out how he
was, and just to tell him I was thinking about him. He feels similarly, that it
was a blessing, and I told him that I wonder what will happen to the other two
(her husband and son), and Ben said angrily, “I don’t really care.”
When she went into the hospital/nursing home, it was around
the corner from where they lived in Queens. And yet, the reports I heard were
that the other two were not visiting her at all. The reality is that they have been
shut-ins for a long time (getting groceries delivered to the house), and I imagine that having the linch-pin of their family
trio dying in the hospital was more than these fragile, broken people could
handle. I have a shit-load of compassion for them. They are sad, doing the best
they can people. And the best they could do was not to go to visit her.
This pissed my brother off, who seemed completely happy
enough to write them both off. There will not be a service, my dad said, and he
and his fiancé are having a shiva (sort of like a wake, without the body) at
his fiance’s house on Sunday, and he’s invited his and her various social
communities. But, for Ed and Randell, my grandfather and uncle, there’s
nothing. A cremation, I heard.
The reality is that Ed (my dad’s step-father) and Ran (my
dad’s half brother) have been in my life since I was born. We spent Christmases
there; Ran set up all the small little lighted up villages; Ed wrote all the
cards for the presents as riddles, giving clues to what was inside, sometimes a
series of gifts with strange rhyming clues to get to the final “answer”
present. For all their descent into disturbia, they loved my brother and I. And
my dad, and my mom.
And that’s the other craw-sticker. After talking with my
brother last night, I bought a few needed groceries, and came home. I’d spent a
long time in the used bookstore before I called him, looking at titles from
authors like Thich Nat Hahn, and Chodron, and Cameron, looking for comfort, I
suppose. But I didn’t buy anything. In fact, I didn’t buy my way out of my
feelings, climb into the movie theater, go to blockbuster, the ice cream shop,
or over eat. I felt sad. That feels like a normal reaction. The “both/and”:
relief for her release from suffering (one hopes), and sadness for losing the
last blood related grandparent.
In any case, I bought some apples, eggs, and oatmeal, and
came home. I made some of my new favorite tea, and sat down, and cried a bit.
Then I called my mom. She and I haven’t spoken on the phone
for over 6 months, for reasons which again made themselves evident last night,
but for which I had better tools to handle them. I left her a voicemail, as it
was close to 11pm on the east coast. My dad had asked that I tell her, and I
agreed before saying that actually she and I weren’t in the best of touch at
the moment, and he said okay, he’d ask Ben.
My parents do not speak since their divorce over 10 years ago.
At all. It’s not like they’ve erased, ignored their portion of life together;
no, rather they each feel indignant and rageful and affronted toward the other.
It’s awful. And I have had to spend a lot of time working up the boundaries to
say, “That’s not my business,” when they each separately want to talk about the
My mom called me back last night. And we spoke for a little
bit, and I told her about Ben’s reaction. I mean, she is my mom. It was finally
who I wanted to talk to. Not to tell her, as Ben could have and would have done
it (as inappropriate, perhaps, as that may have been), but because sometimes we
just want our mom. My mom is not the mom I want, but she is the mom I have. And I am coming to grips with trying
to not change her. (And, I won’t enumerate her assets here, but she is also one
of the brightest, funniest women I know, and has shown me a great deal of love
in my life to the best of her ability to do so.)
That said. When she began to say that if it weren’t for me
and ben, she wouldn’t know anything that’s happening, and Dad’s stopped talking
to her, that he’s been—
I cut her off. I said that I didn’t want to talk about that.
And she paused, and said, well the point is that thank you for telling me.
(Perhaps you can gather what a less-able-to-put-up-boundaries Molly was subject
to in last year’s conversation. Narcissism is not just a river in Africa.)
So. Yeah. I’m going to call my grandfather today and offer
my condolences, as that’s really all that I can do from here, and it’s what I
want to do. It doesn’t matter how the other members of my immediate family are
reacting to this passing, or the remaining alive members of my grandmother’s
immediate family. I am able to show up with love. And so I will.
Too, I can accept that the same compassion I am able to show
them, I could extend to my immediate family – because anger, indignation,
narcissism – these are actually the best they are able to do. This, right here,
is my family’s best, and I won’t try to ask them to be or do more than that.
What I will do is allow myself to show up at my best, and leave the rest alone. 

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