The real reason I’m OK

Empty fall peaks.My grandmother is dying.  Dad just called to say she didn’t really know him this morning.  She’s lying in bed at the nursing home, and the drugs are making her sleep all the time.

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.

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15 thoughts on “The real reason I’m OK

  1. Une grand mère formidable
    Une grand mère que tous aimerions pour la nôtre
    Une grand mère qui restera dans ton coeur ou ce trouve tant amour …. Rien que pour elle !

  2. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, but never commented. You are an extremely strong person and an amazing mother. To accept M. (even with some trepidation) is wonderful. There are many who cannot and will not ever. That is something that was instilled in you through the love and support and guidance from your mother and your grandmother. I have yet to come out as trans* to my grandma but I hope she is just as accepting as yours was for M. It sounds as though she has had an amazing life and she did a wonderful job giving you the qualities you needed. M. will be a very strong woman with your love and guidance also. May your grandmother rest in peace and your family find solace in the memories.

  3. I just shared this on my professional Facebook page. I absolutely love your grandmother’s response to your child’s transition. I also appreciate you being willing to share your letter to loved ones. Thank you!!

  4. I’ve mentioned before that I think you’re an incredible mother. It remains so because you took all the things your wonderful grandmother taught you to heart.
    You’re facing one of the most difficult losses of your life and you will mourn. And that’s as it should be.
    Fortunately you carry with you all the time something no-one else can, the individual memories you and your grandmother shared. You’ll also carry the strengths your grandmother and your parents gave you, especially from your father who was taught at the knee of such a special mother. You and he will need to hold each other hard at the moment.
    The world is lucky to have known this lady and we are lucky to have shared her through you today. ‘M’ will have her own memories of her great grandmother and no doubt grow up as special as her mother.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

  5. Gendermom: This is such a beautiful tribute to a woman with a big heart and wise even beyond her century-marked years. You are such a wonderfully skilled writer and put your thoughts down in such a clear and meaningful way. You are a good writer. May your heart and wonderful skills serve you and your daughter well. My grandmother did not achieve the years of yours, but she too was wise and big-hearted. As a transgendered female when I came out to my grandmother, she simply hugged me and said that she loved me. We can learn so much from such from our Earth mothers. You certainly learned it well. Bless you.

  6. I don’t doubt that my mother loves me more than anything in the world, that her love for me is her number one priority, yet she does not unapologetically accept me, and probably never will. Acceptance might seem propelled purely by love, but there something beyond love that is holding it up too.

    Your grandmother taught you a lot more than just love, and for that she is a wonderful human being, and so are you.

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