My parents divorced when I was very young and I grew up with my dad, grandma, and grandpa. Grandma was, by default and by choice, the only significant mother figure I had in my younger years (though I am willing to admit, somewhat grudgingly, somewhat lovingly, that my mother-in-law has also been a strong maternal presence in the years since I married). When I try to think objectively about my grandma, two equally relevant peculiarities of character emerge.
The first is that Grandma feels everything deeply. Really deeply. And not just emotions. Grandma feels the pain of her loved ones in a very real, very visceral way. She’s described it as a sharp ache in her womb which occurs at the sight of her children’s pain. I have a very clear memory of being in labor with my daughter, lying in a hospital bed, struggling to remain composed during increasingly painful contractions. In one of the lulls, Grandma came in the room. Other people were with her, I think, but I only clearly remember her. What I remember most was how she tried to make eye contact, but couldn’t; how she tried to keep a positive face on, but couldn’t. How she smiled tightly and said something that was probably meant to be soothing but came out pained and then hustled out of the room. I’m sure she was compelled to go into the room both by whoever was with her and also by a sense of maternal solidarity and the wish to comfort her child, but I remember thinking privately that she should have just stayed in the waiting room. It obviously hurt her to be there and it gave me a momentary pang of guilt that I was indirectly hurting her.
The second thing about Grandma is that she’s smart as a whip and possessed of a wicked, but subtle, sense of humor. I don’t think many people notice these things about Grandma. She herself doesn’t advertise them beyond a general air of intelligence. On Tuesday I posted about the bedbugs which had been living in my bed and off of my precious, precious blood. Yesterday, Grandma sent me the following:
Rebecca, I just read your blog about (shudder) bedbugs. Please note the first sentence in the third paragraph of this weeks-old email to you:
“When you said that you were being eaten up by invisible mosquitoes, my first thought was bed bugs, perhaps picked up in clothing or luggage at your motel.” (email 8/4/2008)
Leave it to Grandma to deliver a devastating I-told-you-so without ever having to actually say the words.
So, Grandma, I’m sorry. You were right about the bedbugs. May your magic wand of truth wave ever upon my more receptive ears.