the way their
hurts when they speak.
I’ve hit a wall in this exploration of family. I think it comes from the fact of my youth. So many of their memories I can’t remember, which makes me feel like I am not deserving of their story.
I am leaning on my grandmother, likely more than she knows. I am relying on her to share the moments of their lives with me, so that, maybe, I can find some understanding.
Tonight, on the phone for well over an hour, she tells me things. How she mushes her bananas with her oatmeal. How the macaroni that I made her got too hard. How the tuna salad that I brought her from the deli wasn’t anywhere as good as the tuna that I made her—a mistake that I will not repeat. How somebody keeps coming by to clean out her refrigerator, and takes away the things she wants to eat. Somebody is both my mother and myself; we each blame the other, which I find amusing.
She tells me about John, my uncle, and how he was afraid of being alone. How he was such a handsome man. How everybody always said how much he smiled and laughed.
She tells me about my cousin, and how he told her. How she wondered why there were so many people in the family room. About how he held her hand and said, My father passed away last night. She said he was so gentle when he said it. So kind.
She tells me about my cousin’s daughter, and how she misses Ompa. About how she says that she misses him too. How she tells her that whenever she thinks of him, she should think of all the goodness and the love inside the world, and every happy moment that she had with him.
She has a picture of Joey, my cousin, at her bedside. Every night before she gets in bed she tells him that she loves him. The 4 x 6 inch photo of him in a frame. She tells him that she misses him, and wishes he were here.
She says that my grandfather taught her how to always do the right thing. She tells me that she walks the cart back to the front of the grocery store every time she goes to shop, because it is the right thing to do. All 85 pounds of her, rolling metal carts back to the storefront.
When we hang up the phone, she says, Have sweet sleep, and have a great tomorrow.
I’ve come to realize something. All of us, shrouded around my grandmother, protecting her and loving her and lifting her up. She holds the memories. She is the symbol of our family—she was the first giver of life I knew and loved. She is the keeper. The keeper of our secrets and our hurts and our stories. She is the key to our healing.
Her, and her mashed bananas in her oatmeal. Her creamy Oro Wheat bread. The way she tells me, My goodness, this is sooo good, as she dips into the shepherd’s pie I made her just the other night. I’ve been focused on the patriarchs, and missed the love that came from matriarchs. The hurt of the fathers was so great, that we forgot the love that mothers had been giving all along.
I am refocusing. Orienting myself around her and the healing that she represents. I have finally seen it—her, the thing that was before me all along.
So, to my dear friends, have sweet sleep, and have a great tomorrow. You carry my heart, just as I will surely carry yours. I have found my key to healing—I can only hope that you find yours.