I went food shopping with my mom and the strangest thing happened today. I was standing by the orange juice waiting as my mom browsed the frozen food section and the strangest thing happened. A woman spoke to another woman who was either her daughter or granddaughter. I don't even remember what she said, all I know is that she sounded exactly like my Grandmother Ida.
My Grandmother was the second to last child in a family of nine children. Born and raised in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, my grandmother is what I would call a spitfire. Being the second and youngest daughter, I'm sure there was a lot of fighting for attention in such a large family, including the pain of losing her mother at the age of three. We in the family talked about it over the years, and we believe she never got over that loss. And with her being sort of the black sheep of the gang, with a super-strict hard nosed father, an eventual step mother who did not like her, and abusive siblings - my Grandma definitely grew up feeling like it was her against the world (and trust me, I know all about growing up in a large family and feeling like a black sheep).
My Grandma had four children - three boys and one girl (my mom). All by different men. Never married any of them. The interesting thing is, from what I'm told, my Grandma had one of those 'deal with it or get the fuck out of my home' attitudes when it came to men, which makes me laugh when I think about how I wish I had a tenth of that attitude. According to her children she wasn't the most outwardly affectionate of people with them, but they all agreed that Grandma worked, took care of them, made sure the bills were paid, and knew how to party as well. I've seen photos of my Grandma when she was a young woman. Wow. She just had IT. And I could see how men would follow behind her no matter how much she'd curse them out, lolololol!
Anyway, I was actually the second of all of my Grandmother's children. My older cousin - whom I've never met to this day - wasn't so much in their lives after my uncle and his ex broke up. It's no excuse, but who am I to judge I suppose.
Growing up, I often had a hard time determining whether I was loved by family, except from my Grandma. She didn't baby me, she loved me. My Grandma is the only person, other than my son, I knew whose love I never had to wonder about. When I talk about how my Grandma loved me vs. how my mom and her siblings felt growing up, I wonder if all the expression of love that she didn't show to her own children, were bestowed upon me, my siblings, and my cousins.
My Grandma was around for most of my childhood before she moved to Colorado to live with my uncle and his family. She eventually came back to NY long before she passed away.
My Grandma had a lot of demons and anger, and as I got older I could feel her demons draining the life out of me at times, and this is one of the reasons why I'd kept my distance and my pregnancy from her. When I found out I was pregnant I literally lost my mind. I was a barely functioning zombie, and while I will forever feel guilty for staying away during my pregnancy, I also understand that it was for self-preservation in order to get through such a difficult time in my life. Although in retrospect, I wonder if I had gone to her would I have gotten the support I needed. I know I would have, but I also know I was so out of my mind (and sick) during that time, that I wouldn't have been able to accept comfort from her in the first place. It is one of few things that I continue to wonder about and the answer is always different (like trying to figure out the end of Inception, we always go back and forth about what the ending really means).
My Grandma died, alone, nude (she appeared to be changing her clothes), in the basement room she rented in a private house in the Bronx. It was estimated that this occurred August 20, 2002. We found her two days later. I remember looking at her, laying on the floor, and wondering what her last thoughts were before she passed. It had to be sudden because of the surprised look on her face and the fact that she appeared to be in motion of getting dressed. I hope she didn't suffer. I hope it was quick. It still devastates me to this very moment that I couldn't be there to comfort her. I still try not to be mad at God about that.
There's a book and a half worth of things that I could write about my Grandma, but of all of the things that happened during those last years of her life. I am beyond grateful that my Grandma met and knew my son. And she loved him. My mom told me she was so hurt when she found out I had a baby, and the punk in me is grateful for not seeing the look on her face when she found out, but I am so glad that God gave me the change to witness my Grandma and son together. I have a photo of them together, and the look on my son's face epitomizes how I feel about my Grandma. And that's why when I heard that woman's voice in the supermarket today, I broke down and cried, right in front of the orange juice section, with strangers looking at me like I'd lost my mind. And interestingly, I was so grateful that my mom was there because I know she knew.
(Grandma & Elijah)