Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Poor attempts at standing in

Hated tonight.

Family went to Aunt Marie's house for dinner.

(Side note for new readers: Aunt Marie died in November, 2009 of complications from her juvenile diabetes.)

We went to Aunt Marie's house for dinner because it is her husband's birthday. I think that my grandma was trying to make a grand gesture to show Uncle Bob that he is still very much a part of the family.

Having the party at his house was the biggest gesture of them all. Uncle Bob might not know, but I know. I know that my grandma hates being in that house without Aunt Marie in it. I know that my mom feels the same way.

And so my grandma coped with her feelings by dousing them in wine.

She was drunk before dinner - she's tiny, it doesn't take much - when I walked into the kitchen and she's standing between the open oven and the kitchen counter, using her hands to get our meat from a skewer. And then she's standing on her toes, wobbly, trying to use tongs to get corn from the boiling water on the stovetop and I was just trying to help her as best I could so that she wouldn't hurt herself and so that she wouldn't ruin dinner and so that I wouldn't need to enlist the help of my mom. And it was just so sad.

I didn't say anything to my mom because she was outside on the deck and I didn't want her to worry and I was maybe in a little bit of denial and didn't realize exactly how plastered my grandma was.

Really plastered.

My mom eventually said something to her about it, which I didn't hear, and my grandma insisted that she could keep drinking and my mom let it go until my grandma did a very ungraceful stumblewobbletip. Mom said to her as she took the wine glass from her hands, "Mother, you're either drunk or you have vertigo." And that was funny at the time but it really wasn't.

It really wasn't. It wasn't funny. It wasn't funny watching my grandma struggle to cut her meat. Or listing to her sniffle as she helped me dry dishes. Or watching my mom - oh, my poor mother - watch her mom.

That's the hardest part. Knowing how much tonight will hurt my mom's heart. My mom's heart, which - just like Grandma's - has been broken since 2009.

It's just impossible for me - truly impossible - to understand how my mom can take all of this burden. It is always something. She is always taking on something. Fixing something. Holding something together. Her mother. Her marriage. Her nieces. Her daughters. Her friends.

I do what I can to take the pressure off of Mom - tonight it was getting dinner safely on the table and doing the dishes and quietly asking Grandma if I could help her cut her meat. All of this hurt and sadness sits so heavy on my chest and it burns my eyes. I don't handle it with her ease and her grace.

I am not a saint. I am not my mother. I am not built for this.


LLandL said...

I think the way you handled yourself proves that you have the strength and grace to keep things running smoothly when you're needed, just like your mother.

She may have a BIT more experience dealing with the aches and pains and minor blows that lead up holding things together after the more major ones, but as any athlete knows, strength doesn't come over night. I think as women we often pick up the slack where we're needed intuitively, easing the burdens from one another when necessary. It's sort of an awkward but beautiful dance, how we lean on and relieve each other when needed, or at the very least that we want to, even when it's painful and uncomfortable.

I'm certainly not a saint either, and I never want to be the one to pull out the family phone tree to deliver bad news or make sure everyone else is okay when I'm hurting too. But, I'm starting to think that maybe being able to help where I'm needed in any small way is just part of being a woman, at least in my family. Thank goodness we're able to be there now, when we need to be.

Your mother and grandmother sound like remarkable women, and I'm so sorry for your families' loss.

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