Sunday, July 09, 2006

Conflicted, Lonely

So, my mother's father died. Although one is naturally quick to offer condolences, I should point out that I said "my mother's father" and not "my grandfather," because we didn't have a relationship to speak of. He didn't have much of a relationship with anyone these past seven years, regardless. He had Alzheimer's, and he hasn't recognized anyone for a long time.

The circumstances of the past seven years aside, I have wracked my brain, trying to reconcile a happy memory of the two of us. One where he isn't reliving World War II, making my mother miserable, treating my dad like a boyfriend he never liked, making my grandmother cry, or yelling at me for things like getting crumbs on my lap at dinner or putting ice cubes in a cup AFTER I put water in it.

Here's what I have- 1.) When I was in second grade, he drove my grandmother to my school carol concert. We got to watch a video while the other grades were performing. My grandparents came to the doorway and waved at me. He was smiling. 2.) One time, when I was 6, he was in a good mood for three hours at the Land of Little Horses in Gettysburg. 3.) He liked licorice all-sorts and let me have the blue ones.

That's all I got. The rest of the memories are things I should probably write about in my much-less-public journal, though to put it into context... I think he had an untreated mental illness for most of his life.

So I have to leave soon to go home for the funeral tomorrow. I'm surrounded by laundry, and I've had a headache since yesterday. I accidentally dropped a $1,600 lens in a creek while trying to shoot a goddamn rubber ducky race. It's insured and everything, but my editor will be thrilled, I'm sure. Joel is gone for 5 weeks on a cross-country nature photography adventure he's had planned forever. I'm surprised at how fast my apartment went from being mine, to being mine where my boyfriend is around a lot, to being ours and it feels weird without him now. He's out of cell phone range for a few days. I am grateful, in a way, because I'm not sure how I want to introduce him to my mom's side of the family.

I know if, God forbid, something were to have happened to Nanny, he would be back here in a heartbeat. He spent hours with her (and me) over the Fourth when my parents were away. I knew she was lonely, so I tried to see her as much as I could- five times in three days. At one point, we were in the elevator, weighed down by the laptop, a photo album, the cat carrier, a manicure kit, and a home-cooked meal. Another visitor said, "Oh! You must be here to do some sort of program! How nice." Well... not exactly.

And yet... Nanny has been a loving presence in my life for years. She took care of me when my mom worked part time when I was a toddler, made me pastina soup when I was home sick in elementary school, came to every school play, every spelling bee, bunked in a hotel room with me at my sister's college graduation. We talk freely about before she was married, about our boobs, about life in general.

I've felt so lucky to have that kind of love in my life that it's far overshadowed the less-than-adequate relationship with the other half of the family. The other half that needs me to turn off the computer now, iron the black pants, get in the car and drive South.


shannon said...

Pretty new design, lady.
I'm sorry to hear about your grandfather, and sorrier still that you didn't have the type of relationship with him you deserved. Hope everything goes well and Joel comes home soon!

gwen said...

Ditto on all that -- and sorry about the licorice all-sorts, too, because those are gross.

lauren said...

I was going to say pretty much the same stuff, so, *hugs* and take care of yourself.