Wednesday, May 30, 2007

May 31st - My Personal Memorial Day

I have alluded to the fact that I had a somewhat difficult time growing up. Tomorrow I will be in mourning for the one person that was my savior and champion throughout those difficult years – my grandmother.

While I am now, as an adult, able to have a meaningful relationship with my dad and mom (biological and step), I did not have that opportunity while I was growing up. I lived with my egg donor and stepfather from the age of four (when the original set of parents split up) until I was seventeen. Throughout that period, I moved over twenty different times, lived in ten states and another country and attended a legion of schools. The original cast of me and my sister was increased by two half-sisters and a half-brother as well as two step-sisters from my dad’s new marriage. (This is the last time you will hear me refer to any of my siblings as half or step. Love and not blood means more to me in any relationship and I feel that they deserve more from me than to demean our closeness – or sometimes lack thereof – with abbreviated titles like step and half) I was sometimes neglected and often abused by people who were supposed to love and guide me. I do not say this as a person with a bitter childhood, but as a responsible adult who knows the difference between discipline and abuse.

The ONLY reason I made it through those horrible years was due to the love and guidance that was given to me by my maternal grandmother. Mary Thelma Virginia Smith was the greatest person that I have ever had the opportunity to know and love and be loved by in return. Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of her passing and there are still days that I wake up and think about calling her just to hear her voice and laugh. In my mind, her death was a travesty bought on by neglect and abuse and I will forever regret not moving sooner to make a change in her life.

You see, my grandmother and I lived together for almost my entire life. Even into adulthood, we lived together. She helped me care for my child, as I was a single parent, and I worked two and sometimes three jobs to pay the bills and put myself through school. When I married my husband (tomorrow will be four years – she passed away on my wedding anniversary), we got her an apartment and I helped to pay the bills so that she would be able to keep it. In the years previous to this change, she had some serious health problems, but we were taking her to the Cleveland Clinic and she seemed to be getting better.

Then, out of the blue, my grandmother called me as I was driving home from work and told me that she decided to move in with her daughter (my egg donor) and that she was leaving that evening. I was shocked to say the least. I walked over to her apartment – she was close by – and my real mother, who I had not seen or spoken to in years, was there with her husband and some of their friends and they were packing my grandmother’s stuff into a moving can. The egg donor did not say one word to me the entire time my husband and I were there. It wasn’t until after she moved that my grandmother explained to me that she felt as if she was keeping me from having my own family while I was so worried about her and that her daughter promised to care for her and take her to her doctor’s appointments that she would now have at John Hopkins.

The devotion and fawning that her daughter displayed was just a ruse. Once she had my grandmother ensconced in her house, watching my siblings, cooking and cleaning for them and paying rent, she and her husband would pack up and take off for months at a time. My grandmother would have to pay other people to take her to the doctor or ride a special bus when she was able. Once my siblings were old enough and moved out, she was often left alone for very long periods of time. In addition to having heart problems, she had a very rare lung disease that made her prone to pneumonia and she also had diabetes. I was extremely angry when I found out about this, but at the time, there was not much I could do. She was in Maryland and I was in Ohio and I had just gotten married, finished school and started a new family. I did not have the means to bring her back to Ohio at that time.

Last winter, she came for a visit and I was horrified by the stories that she was telling me. The way she was being treated by her own family shocked and horrified me, but I should not have been surprised as I know these people and they only think about themselves and their desires without a care for what is happening to others around them. While she was with us, my grandma got pneumonia and ended up in the hospital. After she recovered and returned to Maryland, my husband and I talked about it and decided that since we had moved into a much bigger house and we both had established careers that we would move her back in with us. We set the date for June, but did not say anything to my grandmother for a couple of reasons. One, we wanted to make sure that we could get an exact date set and two, my grandmother was so disgusted by her daughter that if she got mad enough, she would tell her off and we would need to go earlier than expected to move her. So we waited and came up with a weekend in June to move her in with us. Our three year wedding anniversary was on May 31st and we had planned to go away for the weekend and then tell her about the move. On May 31st, 2006 I received a phone call while standing in line at Costco. It was my egg donor. She called me to tell me that my grandmother had passed away and I broke down in the middle of the store.

I won’t go into details about the funeral and the sick behavior of some of the people I have the misfortune to be related to, but I will tell you that I have completely severed all ties with my “mother” and stepfather. They knowingly left a very sick person alone for over two weeks – she had just gotten out of the hospital after another bout with pneumonia. These people treat their dogs better than they treated the woman that raised and clothed their five children. I almost hoped that they would go to jail on some type of neglect charges, but there was no way to prove it by that time.

However, I will say this: I do believe in God and in Heaven and Hell. Some people choose to believe in other deities and some choose not to believe at all and that is fine by me – I am the last person who should be judging others. But that belief is deep seated and abiding and while I am not open and blatant about my spirituality, it is there and was taught to me by the smartest woman I have ever known. She may have only had an eighth grade education, but she was the best person in the whole world and she loved me more than anything and kept me from ending my own life more times than I care to count – no one ever knew about this. That belief gives me some hope about a final judgment for people who absolutely deserve to rot in hell. Whether it is on this earth, or in another plane of existence, I truly hope that those responsible for my grandmother’s death end up getting ass fucked with pitchforks in Hell. (My grandmother would be appalled at my evil thoughts and maybe I will learn forgiveness in time, but I don’t have that enlightenment right now – I am still very angry)

To the woman who taught me everything I ever needed to know to get through life I have this to say:

I love you still and miss you every single day. Sometimes I can close my eyes and see you and I ache in a special place in my heart. I regret that I did not do something sooner to ease your burden and I feel a terrible guilt that you died alone and scared without anyone to hold your hand. I can’t wait until the day that I see you again and I hurt because my youngest child will never get to know you. I miss you so much, but I know that because of your love I am a stronger woman than I ever would have been without it.

Thank you,


Avitable said...

That is a very touching post.

Legaleagle said...

This makes my heart hurt. Take solace in knowing that there is a special place in hell for those who do what your egg doner and her husband did. My condolences to you.

The Legal Eagle

Helen Skor said...

My grandmother was a real battle ax when I was younger, but as I got older, I grew to recognize that she was that way to help her deal with the brutality of being married to an alcoholic for almost 50 years. When she passed away 2 years ago, I had built a relationship with her that I never would have dreamed was possible when I was a child. From time to time, I will go to pick up the phone to call her or think about how I need to ask her a question about our family tree, and when the reality of her being gone sets in, it's like losing her all over again.

And as for your youngest not getting a chance to know her, that's not entirely true. Your children will know their great-grandmother because they will see her reflected in you, and the beautiful person that you have become because of your her role in your life.

ADW said...

Avi - Thanks, I think that is the most serious I have seend you...

LE - Thank you. In my beliefs, there is always this tenet about forgiveness, but the issue is that she does not see herself as a bad person or one who wronged anyone else and that makes me sad )=

Helen - Thank you for sharing that. It is wonderful that you got to have a relationship with her and the last part of your comment made me cry.

Kim Ayres said...

Anniversaries are always particularly difficult times when you've lost someone very close.

My thoughts are with you.

themuttprincess said...

You gave me goosebumps. What a tough and touching post.

Anonymous said...

AWWW...Geez. Thanks for making me cry first thing in starting my day. Your grandma was so sweet and she never deserved ANYTHING to happen to her like that. NOT at all..This was a very touching post and because I have the pleasure of knowing you personally, all of these people reading this will see another side to you..I understand the guilt you feel about not doing anything sooner, I empathize because I had a situation with my grandpa that was similiar in some regards..Your grandma is watching down on you and your beautiful family everyday..She is watching your great kids, grow and learn and change..Trust me, She isn't missing a moment in their lives..She sees it all. Knowing that my grandpa can see Pierce run and laugh and play makes it so much more worthwhile.
I love you!

NAME: Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

That last swig of coffee was for granny. Here's to ya! She sounded like one, special lady.