Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tobacco Stains and the Snow Plow

I decided not to go that morning. I decided not to go to see her and she died.

Because I did not go see her? Maybe. Because the survived ovarian cancer, survived breast cancer, emphysema, past fall down the stairs thanks to her drunken ex-husband culminated and said “Your coming with us now”? Likely.

Since I was born, she was there. My mom brought her home after she visited her in the nursing home and found out they were not treating her right. My grandmother. She was like another child- unable to cook, run errands, or do algebra. Her and her ex got drunk one night and he pushed her down the stairs and he caused brain damage. I never met him, but oh, oh how I hate him for that.

And also, in a weird way, I am grateful. Otherwise, I never would have gotten to grow up with a grandmother who was my equal but could remember the wars. Could remember the depression. So many stories

She was always kind, always smiling. Always smoking too. I still wake up sometimes, 10 years after her death and 15 since I have lived in the same house, smelling her Benson and Hedges Menthols. And I hug my pillow and I wish, so terribly, that her wrinkled, tan, calloused and tobacco stained hands would hug me like she always used to. Would hold me while I cried, like she used to when I would find my mother on the couch, passed out with tequila spilled on the carpet.

I was living on my own, going to college and working and living, when my father called and invited me over for dinner. My grandma seemed off that night, sad somehow. I hugged her and she told me she loved me.

Then she told me to remember that I can fly away in my dreams.

And I knew. I knew she was going to die. She used to tell me that same phrase when I would cry and sob in her arms, clutching her shoulders, sobbing into her flat double mastectomy-ied chest, because even as a child I realized what my mother was doing to herself and I wanted to run away.

And I left. And that night it snowed. And I called my Dad early and said I would not be able to make it to feed the horses because the road had not been plowed yet, and would he mind walking out back to do it this morning?

An hour later he called back, as I was settling in to study, and told me my grandmother had died last night.

And I shattered, there amongst the piles of papers, my laptop, the wet boots from my trek to the buried car that morning. I shattered.

When my mother and I drove to the ocean to spread her ashes, I could not. I could not touch the ceramic jar. The cold, dead jar. The cancer. And I fell to my knees on the wet sand.

And I was five again, wishing I could run away.

Then I smelled her cigarettes, and my head filled with memories of her hands- making clay snakes with me, frosting cakes, giving me her veggies because she hated green things…

And I wished her sweet dreams. And my mom, my mom who has been through so much, let her mother’s ashes fly away.

And I imagined that she was up in Heaven, smoking her favorite cigarette and eating cake and patting some child on the head, comforting them as she used to comfort me.

Inspired by this from Her Bad Mother:

This post was inspired by a discussion that was shared between me and some very good friends – Lindsay, Loralee, Julie and Devra – at Mom 2.0. We curled up on the floor of the bedroom of the Four Season’s Presidential Suite during the CheeseBurgHer party and talked spirituality and faith, grief and loss, prayer and meditation and all variety of confused and confusing things. And then Lindsay decided that maybe we should explore some these questions (like the one I’m struggling with above, talking to kids about death) together, on our blogs. So we are. You’re welcome to join in. Leave me a link if you do. Or just speak your piece in the comments. Talking, maybe, will bring enlightenment. Or maybe more confusion. Either/or.

So: how do you talk to your children about death? Do you talk to your children about death? If they ask the hard questions, how do you/will you answer? Or do you, will you, like me, seek their answers, and look for comfort there?

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