Wednesday, February 17, 2016

An Understanding

I realize I'm supposed to be writing about The Original Series but here it is February 17th and I'm doing this:
No, my socks do not match.

It's not exactly that I've had a hard time with The Original Series. I've rather enjoyed seeing Kirk and Spock and the mad sets and the velour tunics. But, as much as I love the curios weirdness of TOS, I will always find comfort in the familiarity of Next Generation. And, at the moment, comfort is what I need.

My grandma died nine days ago--not the one who was and still is in hospice care. The other one. The one who still seemed strong as an ox. It's strange.

She was my paternal grandma and we were never very close. Growing up, I often felt unwanted and she always managed amplify that feeling. She was blatant about the fact that I would never be treated as well as my male cousin because I wouldn't carry on my maiden name because I was a girl. She whipped me with a fly swatter when I was naughty. She told me terrible things about my mother (real or true, I'll never know) that no kid should ever hear. Our interactions were always thorny and tangled.

When I was a kid, living with my dad after my parents' divorce, he dropped me off every weekend with my grandparents. My cousin (just two years younger) was there as well and, in these weekends, he became my best friend. Every Sunday night we all watched Touched By An Angel on CBS followed by The X-Files on FOX. Angel was my grandma's show. X-Files was mine, obviously. In this way, we had an understanding. TV bonded us for two hours at a time every week. I came to enjoy Touched By An Angel and she ultimately fell in love with the paranormal weirdness of The X-Files. These Sundays became sacred.

She died abruptly but not suddenly--on a Sunday. She'd been taken to the hospital on a Friday and told she wouldn't have much time as the infection she'd developed was too advanced. It was enough time that my family (with the exception of me) could see her. Then on Sunday morning she asked to read the bible with her two daughters. My aunts picked out their favorite passages and she picked out hers and they read together and then she sat up in bed, smiled, and held her arms aloft as if she were entering an embrace. And then she died.

My grandma was herself until the end--and after. When my family took to the arrangements they found them already made. My grandma had planned her own funeral. She picked out her coffin, paid for her plot, and decided on the services well in advance. She'd even recorded video of herself to be played at the funeral.

It's only now that I see how alike we were. She planned everything out in advance. She charted weeks' worth of dinners before Pinterest made it en vogue. She planned out of habit, out of necessity. A lifetime of poverty had given her the shielding and know-how to not only survive but thrive in a pinch. She didn't want to be a burden on her family. Nor did she want to stick around so long everyone forgot the strong, capable, fierce woman she had been. And she had been fierce.

Maybe that's why we always butted heads. Maybe our personalities clashed because we are both so unrelenting, so determined, so fierce.

The last time I saw her was on Christmas Day. I was back in Kentucky and planned to see Star Wars with my dad. I was surprised that, not only were my dad and sisters there, but also my aunts and grandma who, in spite of her diabetes, seemed strong and healthy. The theatre was tiny and it was packed. We didn't sit together. But, just like all those episodes of The X-Files, my grandma watched, enjoyed, appreciated the movie. When it was over we met in the lobby and she grabbed my face and said, "I just wanted to see you one more time before I died. I want you to know how much I love you and how proud I am of you."

My grandma may have been misguided about a lot of things when it came to raising me, when it came to the measured way she doled out affection, when it came to the level of ferocity with which she protected her little family. I never understood her. Not until I was an adult and had more distance, not only from her but from my own childhood and from hers. She had been unwanted. Dropped off on one relative after another. A little girl in the foothills of Appalachia never made to feel worthy. When she found my grandpa she held on tight. When they had their only son, she held on tight. When they had two daughters, she held on tight. Constantly clutching at her family. Constantly providing. Constantly proving her worth--even to the people who loved her and relied on her. Lashing out at anything or anyone who might take them away from her. I get her a little better now.

I spent innumerable weekends sitting on the sofa beside her, calling a truce two hours at a time. I longed to be Scully. I longed to escape my feelings of unworthiness, to be capable and strong and fierce, to have adventures and see the greater world. I wonder now what my grandma wanted. Did she watch with an eye on Tess? Did she want to be tough and gruff with a gooey center? Did she want to be wise and all-knowing and smarter than everyone else in the room? Did she want to set an example of how to survive and maybe even thrive as a nobody-woman in a world that's always trying to beat you down? I don't know.

I'll always cherish those hours, though. Those two hours of TV, every weekend, when we were forced together and always, in spite of how different or how much the same were were, came to an understanding.


  1. Empathy, growth, and perspective are all we can ever hope for. Carry on sweet friend. *hugs*

  2. So when I read this, "I would never be treated as well as my male cousin because I wouldn't carry on my maiden name because I was a girl," I thought that is a pretty dang weird thing to say. I was all set to totally not like this woman and silently rage at her on your behalf. But then I kept reading and there was more to her. Isn't that true of all of us? If we would just keep reading. She was a woman fighting aloneness. Something a lot, tons and tons and lots of us can understand.

    My heartfelt condolences, AshleyRose.


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