My beautiful, eccentric, wonderful, damaged, real, grandmother died last month. I miss her. She’s a soulmate and I’m glad to have spent all of my life thus far knowing her, just a call away from her. I’m sure our time together is not complete and we shall meet again. I hope so. She had been abused as a child by an alcoholic father, had not known her mother, run away, put in care, and left to fend for herself. She married my grandfather at 17 and on her wedding night cried when she realized she had to stay with her husband and not return to her sister’s house. She didn’t know how to be a mother. She knew how to lie, how to take, how to survive.
But for me she was a wonderful grandmother: full of stories, laughter, encouragement and bad advise. She didn’t knit, didn’t keep a tidy house, she cursed horribly, cackled like a fishwife and filled me with love and enthusiasm and a genuine interest in what the world is. I love her.
But compassion is in scarce supply in my family which seems wrecked by old grudges and misunderstandings. I learned yesterday that my father does not yet know his mother is dead. When told she was ill he became angry and said he didn’t want to know anymore. And so he walks around in his guilt and his shame and this must be a terrible weight for him to carry. No closure, no release. My father won’t talk to me, he won’t talk to any of us, how can I help him? I know this is his choice, I know this is his path, but it rips me to see him damage himself so thoroughly, so chronically. It seems my family is dead, we are merely ghosts.