My grandmother wasn’t your regular cookie-baking, cheek-pinching grand dame. My grandmother was hard. She and my mother had a tumultuous relationship. And because I am a fierce defender of those I love, I always hated my grandmother for her harshness. I wore that anger like a badge of honor well into my adulthood. Then my grandmother lost her faculties to Alzheimer’s. I watched my mother care for the woman who had caused her so much pain. And I watched my grandmother’s mind fall to pieces.
Then she died.
I was inconsolable at the funeral. This surprised me. I realized that I was mourning for the loss of a woman I barely knew or understood, and worse, who I never bothered to know or understand.
What I learned from my grandmother, and my mother, is that you have to let things go. Compassion for others, even the most difficult ones, ends up saving you in the end.
My grandmother is gone and I feel her loss more acutely than I ever imagined I would have. And now, I’m writing a story that has a lot to do with her, and what could have been. I’m channeling our few tender moments. Like when she was worried during my first pregnancy because she remembered what a sickly child I’d been. Or the first time she saw her great-granddaughter and held her, and she remembered who I was and she understood who was the baby in her arms.
I’m writing for those moments…
as if I could bring back the dead.
This time around, my muse isn’t a mythic spirit. She’s ancestral.