The other day Sarah of Feministe wrote Grandmothers. A bit of a tribute to Elizabeth Taylor and the meaning grandmothers in her life. At the end of the post, Sarah asked, “What do you wish you could ask your grandmothers (whether they’re blood grandmothers or otherwise)?”
I replied with this.
My grandmother & I were never close. In fact, most of the time I didn’t like being around her, especially if I was alone. My first memory of her is her yelling over my protestations, forcing me to drink some V8 b/c she didn’t want to see it go waste.
See, my parents are peaceful people who NEVER yelled at me out of anger–not to themselves, not me. Yelling was the one of the surest ways to make me burst into tears.
When my grandmother’s cancer returned in 2008 (She’d been w/o cancer for 40+ years. It disappeared when my mom was a child) she moved in with us. Which was fine, the house is big enough for everyone. This meant more interaction. I was always nervous about, but she would say things like, “You have to be strong. The world hates fat, black women” or she would ask why I didn’t have a boyfriend and then brag about all the times she had been asked for her hand.
She was demanding, “always right”, and could talk for 15 minutes non-stop. We were not close. Although, she’d ask for “sugar” she wasn’t affectionate. I never went to her with a problem, ever.
Having to help take care of her was really, very hard for me. Not only because of our relationship, but b/c it took GREAT patience which I hadn’t cultivated having never had to care for anyone but myself. And she was having an extremely hard time adjusting to a life of increased dependence (the end of which was certain death) on other people and would try to take it out on us to the point where my sister had to threaten to have her put in a nursing home in order in an effort to make her cooperate. It wasn’t coercion, she was fighting against us and the paramedics we’d been forced to call.
One day, before the days she lost her ability to talk, she asked me, “Have I been horrible to you?” I was so shocked! I just yelled “no!” and hurried up whatever I was doing and got out of there. If I could tell her, I would say that she wasn’t horrible. But our relationship had not been easy at all for me, but that I loved her and admired her so very much. That she had given me the gift the priceless gift incredibly, nurturing, supportive loving mother who always sought to comfort & understand me, but never shied away from discipline!
With out you, I don’t know where I would be, but with you, I have an amazing family I wouldn’t trade for the world. I know that was possible because of her. Even if it was because my mother decided NOT to be like her own mother.
I would also ask if she liked her funeral. If she liked the video I made for her. I would ask what she thinks of me thinking about getting a tattoo in her honor that says “The fat lady is doing just fine”, like she used to say.