We’re in this awful purgatory – not yet able to start grieving but knowing we will be doing a lot of it very soon. Wanting her body to let go and let her rest for good, now that her life is painful and confusing, but still unable to fathom a world without this mighty little woman whose fierce love and ambition for her offspring have shaped us in ways I suspect we are just beginning to grasp, now that we are losing her.
We keep telling each other not to be sad, because this woman has had a mighty good kick at the can. She is one hundred years old. She had a doting husband, a comfortable home, a life thick with friendships and family and travel. She has six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, all fattened and prosperous on decades of her love and pride and home-baked cookies.
I get a lot of praise from people who read my blog. They tell me what a fantastic mother I am, and how lucky M. is that I’m her mother. “You are amazing,” the comments say.
I am grateful for this support, but it never sits right with me, frankly, because I feel that I am just doing what I was taught to do. I’m just passing along what was poured into me from the day I was born: A rushing tide of love that is fierce and blind and massive and proud. My grandmother gave it to us. My parents did, too, but I think there’s something special about the role of grandparents. Removed from the day-to-day struggles of life, they can overlook the small stuff – and they can spoil you rotten. My grandmother did, and my mother does this for M., too. M. has told me, apologetically, that sometimes she loves her grandmother more than she loves me. I’m OK with that.
And here is why I can’t take too much credit for the way I’m parenting M.: When I first realized that M. wasn’t going to be a typical boy (and perhaps wasn’t even a boy at all), I sent a letter to my family and friends (you can read it here), explaining this and asking for their support for my nonconforming, perhaps gay, perhaps transgender child. I spoke with my grandmother after she read the letter. I believe she is the only person – among all my family and friends – who didn’t ask me a single question, didn’t wonder aloud if this might be a phase. She simply nodded, smiled, and told me she really liked my letter. “Well-written,” she said, with pride.
When we made the switch to female pronouns and M.’s new girl name, my grandmother – then in her late nineties – didn’t miss a beat. Much younger minds frequently “forgot” and used the old boy name. But not her.
“We are who we are, dear,” she said, patting my hand. “We are who we are.”
Damn, I’m going to miss you, Grandma.