A week ago today–last monday–was my grandma S’s birthday. July 19. I am pretty good with birthdays. I am pretty good with remembering them…like, all of them. Even those birthdays of classmates and acquaintances with whom I have long since stopped communicating. If you tell me your birthday and you’re someone I see or talk to fairly regularly, chances are I’ll remember it.
Probably because I am good with dates in general. History was my favorite subject in school. For a several reasons, but one of them was that I just got it. I always aced the tests because I could remember the pointless dates they had everyone memorize. You know, like what date a treaty was signed. Because knowing that was WAY more important than the reason it was signed, or the events leading up to it, or what it actually said, or how it affected peoples’ lives or anything like that. Yeah, I could remember those things very easily and whiz my way through all the short answer and multiple choice and then b-shit my way through the one or two laughable essay questions which you knew had to include some one or two or five points the teacher had made in class during lectures because I knew he/she would be impressed with my bringing up some idea that he/she had brought up in class on the subject because then it showed I was paying attention and listening and it also made the teacher’s ego feel good and I always knew that was a good feeling for someone who is grading me to have. You know, flattery in essays goes a LONG way! Plus, they always gave you a study guide that you simply had to take home and memorize. With me there was no studying–ever. I simply listened, remembered, memorized, and flattered. In fact, watch–I still do that. That’s how I get through most days!
So, yeah, I was good at remembering that shit too, I guess. I still am. I have an impeccable memory…which I ashamedly have let slip of late…hmmm, not too happy about that. Nonetheless, it is one of my gifts. I cannot and will not deny it or write it off as something small. I’ve always had a good memory. That is why it is difficult for those without one to argue with me. My mom has said so…because that’s why SHE does like to argue with me. Because she knows I remember things better than she does! In fact, she’s been telling me this since I was about 8-years-old–that it’s so hard to argue with me because I have an impeccable memory. And she’s right–I do. She also knows that’s why I was good in school. Well, that and, as humble and modest as I’ve always tried to be about it, my above-average intelligence. That and a good memory made school easy. And numbers too…and dates.
Thus, I remember birthdays. I remember every single one of my high school friends’ birthdays. All of ’em. In fact, I could probably take a good stab at the birthdays of a majority of my graduating class. Yup, going through it right now in my brain. (Remembering everyone isn’t that hard considering there were only 43 of us.)
So, I did remember my grandma’s birthday last week. I always do. And I always call her. I call her probably about 3 times a month. I love talking with her. But, I need AT LEAST an hour free if I’m gonna make that phone call. Because she likes to talk. And I like to listen. I don’t like to have to cut her off. I always want to hear EVERYTHING she has to say…and then some! So, our conversations on the phone last usually about 3 hours. So, I need like a whole afternoon! And I LOVE it!
But, I couldn’t call her last week on her birthday because I was working on set and never had more than 20 minutes to myself. I knew this would be the case so I called her the Friday before to make sure we got our nice long chat in. And I’ll be calling her again this week because I feel I need to compensate for not calling on her birthday by making 2 birthday sandwich calls–one the week before and one the week after. That’s what I do. If you’re in my family and I cannot SEE you on your birthday–I call you…because I love you…and I love hearing your voice and about your life and your passions and the minutiae. I love feeling involved. I love sharing. I love reminiscing. I love laughing! I even love crying–even though my family is not so good at that one. I love YOU!
My grandma S was my idol growing up. I wanted to be her. She is so strong and so firey and so independent and so respected and so hard-working. I’ve never heard her complain…I’ve heard her gossip, but never complain. She loves fully. I know she does. I can feel it in everything she does. But she doesn’t show it. Ever. She says she loves me. But it is very formal. There are rare moments of actual FEELING with her. Nonetheless, I DO feel it! I FEEL her. I feel connected with/to her. I feel her heart. I know it is strong and courageous and also totally closed off from communicating.
Grandma S is the matriarch or my family. For sure. This was the reason I idolized her as a child. She held our family together. She made it her job. Could be because her mom died when she was only like 21…
But her matriarchal behavior began to show its human side when I was transitioning from childhood to adulthood–adolescence. She was very critical of my first “real” boyfriend. She didn’t like him. I was so surprised by this and the subtle cutting comments and remarks she would make about him in my presence but not directly to me. She obviously did not approve. ANd this hurt me because I felt like I was disappointing her in some way by being with someone I loved that was really a good person and treated me with nothing but love, kindness, respect, sensitivity. My parents always gave him their trust and kindness. But my grandma didn’t. Then I began to notice that she never really approved of anyone any of her children or grandchildren dated.
This was the beginning of my disillusionment. But not the eradication of my idealization. I was torn. She is my hero. Yes, my hero. As a child. And now. She is so strong. She always has it together. Perhaps that’s why I try to appear so “together” always.
But as she (and I) gets older I’ve noticed some of the togetherness she’s always had beginning to crack. It’s like a shocking wake up call because it is like a sign to me that, yes, I can have it “all together,” but it will cost me. She seems now as she is getting older so much more broken than I’ve ever seen her. Not necessarily in her health or physicality–she still goes non-stop. But more in her emotional state. She doesn’t like break down and freak out or anything. But you can see cracks in her facade. Like she is WANTING to breakdown. I feel it. And I don’t know how, as her granddaughter, to help her. To help her feel and be ok with feeling…especially because at the same time I’m trying to be ok myself with feeling.
But I want to. I sooooooooooooo want to just hold her. EVERYTIME I call her I want to tell her I see it…I feel it. I see her. I feel her. I love her and in loving her and her loving me I want her to feel safe in me. ANd feel safe in her weakness because part of me feels like if she did and was ok with it that it would dramatically help me to be able to do the same–with her and with others.
But, I cannot rely on her. I can help her, perhaps, just by loving her. By calling and emailing her as I do. By being her granddaughter. By smiling. Smiling over the phone. (I love that because you can SOOOOOOOO feel it!) By living my life.
Sometimes I see her crack in that she simply misses me. She’ll say things to hint at me moving back or moving closer. SHe’ll offer to pay for more frequent trips to visit. She sends me money more frequently. (which I need and so very much appreciate…and use up way way fast!) It makes me wonder but also reminds me that I need to–so very need to!–live my life! Live my love and my passion. Fucking live my dream! And realize it and accept it and allow it to HAPPEN. That’s how I can love her. She loves seeing my happy and hearing about my life. I can celebrate her as the best grandma in my passion and determination. And know and feel her love and support…and her desire for me to feel those things as well.
Grandma S is still my hero. I still want to be her. Perhaps a her she never fully lived or a her she could live through me and a her I can live through my individual unique path.
I fucking LOVE being her granddaughter. She makes the best pies in the world!