What a year. What a summer.
What an eight weeks.
While I was still in Minnesota, I was pretty convinced that this grieving thing was going to be fine. My family was around, and were all very supportive, and we had things to do, and people to see, and we’d get through it the way we always had.
The thing I forgot is that there wasn’t really a “we.” People got through it on their own time, building their own systems. So, when I got back to NYC, everything I’d been holding in and holding together, unfurled. Many times, it was completely inconvenient: Taking 15 minutes (at least) out of my workday to cry in the bathroom; Tears rolling down my face on the subway; Losing my shit in the middle of the block on a sunny Sunday, because a certain song came on and brought me back to the days before she died.
It’s been raw and it’s been rough.
Adding to the taxing nature of all of this has been my mother trying to reconnect. How does one go from a congenial “we’re in it together” attitude adopted as a means to get through an unbearable task, and then turn around and remind someone that you’re not friends? She sent a few emails, and texted a handful of times. I could’ve responded. I probably should’ve. But, why? And how?
“I’m sorry, I don’t think this will work. It’s you, it’s me, it’s both of us. Please don’t contact me again.”
I’d hate to send that kind of email. I hate receiving those emails.
Then, Wednesday morning, the doozy of all the doozies is sitting in my inbox, calling out to me.
Welp. Guilt immediately washed over me, but so did indignation. The whole first paragraph is a rehash of what happened the weekend of my brother’s graduation. How stressed she was, how anxious. Everyone knows apologies are not about the apologizer, but the person wronged. So, great. Moving on, clearly I can’t understand because I don’t have children, but will once I do. Oh? Cool. Got it. And we’re still operating in the world in which I am most certainly having children. Nice to know how well you know me.
But then, then, we get to how much hate I hold in my heart and how angry I must be. I’ve never been happy, so certainly I’m angry. Ahh. Is that how that works? I’m not hurt, nor sad, nor indifferent, no. I’m angry and hateful because I can’t, for the gazillionth time, write down my feelings for the sake of yours. Here’s the thing: I’m not angry. I don’t hate you. I just don’t have the energy to care anymore, to keep up with the land that shifts beneath my feet every time you’re near or in my ear, and to keep myself happy and functioning at the same time.
A society that portrays mothers as martyrs and perpetuates a message that they should be elevated by their children in spite of any and every toxic they do causes bullshit like this.
Parenting is hard. I get that. But can you claim the mantle of a parent when you did everything in your power to shunt the responsibility to others, whether emotionally or physically or financially? There are plenty of parents out there who accepted me onto their roster, regardless of the children they already had and needed to feed and clothe and shelter and guide. To them, I give so much credit. To them, I am very grateful. I’ve started saving to send them checks for the money they spent sharing their food, buying formal dresses for dances, getting me pedicures when their daughters did so I wouldn’t feel left out, and so much more.
And she’s right; I’ve not historically been a happy person. I’m prone to depression like anyone. My Seasonal Affective is an outright bitch. Now, think of that in a teenager. Those years were not easy, and it’s a credit to at least two women that they didn’t strangle me in my sleep. But also, why wasn’t I happy? Because I wanted to be left the hell alone. Because I was yanked from my grandmother’s grasp and thrust into the jurisdiction of a sociopath. Because it was never about what was best for me, and always about what was best for her.
She likens us to the Gilmore Girls. It’s a parallel my friends drew in high school because she was a teenage mother without great ties to her mother, and I was a smart, (somewhat) driven kid. We might share tastes in music, sometimes pop culture references, but that’s where the similarities ended. Lorelai dated but never brought a man into the house she and Rory shared because she didn’t want to destabilize her daughter. She didn’t want to introduce anyone to her until she was comfortable and secure in a relationship, sparing Rory a childhood of awkward encounters with strange men who may or may not last.
She also begrudgingly accepted Friday night dinners with her parents for Rory’s sake. She also didn’t have a hair-trigger temper that tended to the tirade side.
I let the email simmer for a little while. I told my best friends about it, and V suggested I put it into track changes, and get rid of the extraneous commas. I told her I was thinking of doing just that, plus rewriting to add passages that would’ve been more helpful than what she wrote. Because #TeamPetty.
I told my therapist (for the grief, and a few other things), and she suggested a letter might be in order, instead. One that spelled out that in the wake of my grandmother’s very quick death, I am dealing with what is left. What’s left in terms of everything I’m feeling, plus sorting through my complicated feelings about her (my mother) and when I am ready to contact her, I will.
This is palatable. I am still chewing on it, like a baby gumming a graham cracker but unwilling to fully commit to eating the whole.
In the mean time, I did what V and I discussed and have passed it around to a handful of my friends.
It makes me laugh, and it’s galling and it’s absolutely befuddling that she thinks I’m angry — but it’s also not surprising. Her email, too, is unsurprising. I watched her and her first ex-husband have email wars with various members of their families when they thought they were being wronged or victimized by them, somehow. This happened often. I refuse to engage in the same type of fight. I refuse to be manipulated.
I’m not sure if I’ll send the letter my therapist suggested, but I should do it before the burial in September.
And more on that later.