LossNovember 19, 2009
Moon Phase: Waxing
Today is the first anniversary of my grandmother’s death. She was in her 90’s, had suffered from a long and debilitating illness, and it was time for her to go. That didn’t make it any easier — she was the glue for many things, and, in spite of all the comforts of “moving on” and “she’ll always be with you”, it’s not the same as being able to pick u the phone and talk to her or drive up to visit. It’s still painful, almost every day.
That’s not to say that our relationship was all sunshine and roses. Quite the contrary — it was tempestuous, to say the least. She disagreed that my decisions differed from hers. Her decisions included going straight from family to marriage to moving in with her brother to “do for” him after they were both widowed. She was a brilliant artist who always put her art last and “sacrificed” for everyone else, especially men. She was exceptionally strong and talented, but believed that a woman’s job was to seem subservient, even though she was the one actually doing all the work.
I made a decision early in life that my writing would be a priority, and anyone who expected to retain a permanent part of my life had to deal with that. Yes, I sometimes put my own plans on hold to be a “helpmeet”. I quickly found out that was not the path for me, and I was not willing to keep pushing my own work to the back in order to help/promote/support the work of someone else’s to the exclusion of my work. I wanted an equal partnership, not a constant battle for control, and I was certainly NOT going to take the traditional “woman’s” role.
We frustrated each other, because my grandmother believed my choices were “wrong” and I believed she’d sacrificed her talent for people who weren’t as talented as she was. We learned from each other what did not work for us.
We were on the same page, literally and figuratively, when it came to books and a love of reading. She had an entire wall of books in her dining room, floor to ceiling. An architect had to build support posts in the basement so the floor didn’t sag. It was in her bookcases where I first became enamored of Dickens, Austin, and Poe, and where I got my first exposure to authors like Daphne du Maurier and Somerset Maugham. When, many years later, I travelled to Cornwall and took photos of many du Maurier haunts, including Lantaglos Church, only 1/4 of a mile from my rented farmhouse, where du Maurier was married, my grandmother delighted in living the trip vicariously through me. Neither of us were whiners, and we shared contempt for those who whined. Something needs to be done, you go and do it without a fuss. We also shared a love of travel and a curiosity about the world.
She was far more gregarious than I am, comfortable in any social situation. She once travelled to Europe with my mother, visiting family land friends in countries where she couldn’t speak the language. She’d go out to parties until 2 AM and find ways to communicate when my mother went to bed early, exhausted.
She was an extraordinary woman who chose to always put herself last, and then got frustrated when people took it for granted. She could be harsh, judgmental, and yet, if you were in trouble, she’d fight like a bear to help you out.
I learned a lot from her on many levels. I miss her and salute her.