what we couldn't say

Thursday, January 07, 2010


A little tough to try to write after the last post.

I would be lying if I said we were close. We rarely spoke the same language. In fact, we rarely spoke at all. At family parties, there was always the polite kiss on the cheek, the customary pay-your-respects. But there was never anything deeper -- she was not one to sit babies on her lap or go out for high tea or attend the high school dance concert, and to be honest, I am not the type of person to offer. When it comes to family, I often think I fail -- like I'm missing pieces or perhaps more accurately, emotions.

All I know is this: There were handwritten prayers that she had made up herself tucked in the pages of her Bible. Her top drawer always smelled like roses. She sang, and when she didn't know the words, she hummed. And there were stories -- I heard them from my mother, from my aunts -- about my grandfather and a great love and a house with chickens and dogs and plenty of children. And she went back there often in her mind because my mother said she would call for him, talk to him like he was still here.

Toward the end, when I said, "How are you?" the answer was always "I'm in pain." And I never knew what to say afterward.

I suppose we communicated best through food. This is what she offered when my brother and I were kids and needed someone to watch us. There were no board games or cartoons or toys. But there was always food: Rice, pork, potato chips, mango juice, diet soda, ice cream. Everything we could want, everything we didn't want, everything we weren't supposed to have. This was her way of nurturing. And we ate until we were full, and then took more home with us for later.

I fly south on Saturday to say good-bye.

1 comment:

Kate said...

I have a similar relationship with both of my grandmothers, complicated by culture and distance and the generation gap. My goal is to keep Nico close to his grandparents.

 
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