PoeticaL
cluttering the net since 2001

Ruth

Thursday, Jan. 27, 2005
Tonight at work around 8:00 p.m. my first cousin Wendy on my deceased father’s side called me totally out of the blue. I have not heard from her for almost 8 years. She called to tell me that my Aunt’s…my favorite Aunt’s mother died. Yes, today my grandmother on my Father’s side passed away from natural causes. She and I never had much of a relationship because my Mother never allowed it to happen. My now deceased grandmother was schizophrenic most of her adult life. She had 3 children, my deceased father, my Uncle Joe, and my Aunt DeDe. Her and her husband stayed married until his death in 1977 when I was only 7. After that point I only saw my grandmother once or twice. She had a lot of cats. A lot. In the hundreds. Eventually when I was around 9 the authorities came to her house and made her leave her house. They killed the diseased and infected cats (it took so long the story made the papers....men in white suits draggin cats with long plastic sticks with loops on the ends)and then she was sent to a mental home. She signed herself out shortly thereafter and got herself an apartment in downtown J-town, PA. She managed somehow to take care of herself since then. Until a few years ago when my Aunt found out she was struggling to take care of her daily tasks etc. She stepped in and helped her somewhat deranged mother despite it all. My Aunt, my Father, my Uncle Joe…they did not have an easy childhood. There were no birthday cakes, no normalcy..no nothing. My father and his sister, my Aunt used to wash their underwear in the high school bathrooms because their mother didn’t do so or buy laundry detergent, soap etc. They used to be the laughing stock everytime their mother went off on a mental jag…like the time she beat her 1974 Pinto up with a canister vacuum cleaner because she believed it was an animal trying to eat her…. They endured things I know little to nothing about….

My cousin Wendy went on to tell me that my Aunt insisted that I be called today, not tomorrow, not later but rather today because I am a part of the family and could NOT be overlooked. When my cousin said that to me it was all over, I burst out in tears. I cried for all the years I did not have a grandmother on that side of the family. I cried for all the difficult years my Father and my Aunt must have seen. I cried for all the years that my Grandmother suffered with that disease. I cried for all the years when I felt like I truly had no family…..I cried for all the times my own mother told me I was nothing and didn’t matter for shit. Here was my grieving Aunt making sure I was called from half a dozen states away on the “very” day my grandmother I was denied of….passed away. I cried for all the times my ex-husband told me I was crazy like my mother, crazy like my grandmother…..and fuck, how could I not have some sort of depression when my paternal grandmother was schizophrenic and my maternal grandmother was manic depressive for years? How could I possibly have come out unscathed? I cried for all the times people have discriminated against me for struggling with depression. I cried for all the people I know directly and indirectly that are affected by mental illness and yet still misunderstood.

I cried for all the times as a child I wanted to venture over to my grandmother’s house (she lived next to my Aunt and first cousins all of my childhood) and my mother would promptly grab us by the hand the hair the arm…..literally one decibel below screaming and inform us that that was NOT going to HAPPEN. Yes, perhaps she was protecting us, but then again my Aunt let her children (my first cousins) go over there and they are all productive citizens in the world.

My Grandmother had one particular cat she named Sugar. Sugar was a big fat cream colored cat. Sugar was mean. She kept him tied up to a long wire outside her kitchen door. If you even looked at Sugar he would growl the death growl that a thousand exorcisms could not cure him of. He was scary. He had yellow eyes and they were evil mean. My mother would tell us that if we went near my Grandmother her cat Sugar would scratch us and we’d die a horrible death from infection of the skin.

When I think of my mother’s ideals and opinions of my paternal Grandmother’s illness, I want to find her…smack her. Then drag her to a shrink and get her diagnosed once and for all.

My father NEVER talked to me about his mother. I never ever was brave enough to ask, not even in the last years when we were two tight peas in a perfect pod. I just couldn't strum on his guitar of pain like that. But I wondered....oh god how I wondered what he must have endured. There were photos I once saw of how she dressed him like a girl and reportedly told people he was one. How damn horrific that must have felt. Oh how I pray now that he was too little to know it then.

The last time I saw my Grandmother, she was in a bakery. I was going out to lunch from my first job working for a lawyer in downtown J-town. She was ordering their famous macaroni and cheese and a Danish. She was right in front of me. I knew her instantly even though I hadn’t seen her since I was 9 years old when they carted her away on a gurney and put her into the back of an ambulance. Nine years had passed and my memories of her were hazy, shady underground mumblings force fed by my judgmental fuck of a mother. This time at the bakery this huge part of me wanted to say hello, wanted to tell her who I was, who she was. I watched her from a distance wondering how someone I knew and was so related to could be in the same room and not know me.

And then she turned around and looked right at me. Hard. And I swear she recognized. But I got scared. All those nightmarish tactics my mother used over the years scared me into silence. She turned away and walked out the door. I ran after her. Watched her put her bags into a metal cart and walk down the street. My Grandmother had a metal cart with a flowered plastic/handled bag. She was talking to no one. It reminded me of how when I was a kid she would talk to the flys on her screendoor. Naming each of them and telling me and my sister that they were angry at her for having her TV on too loud. All those little girl fears and yet the women in me wanted to understand, touch her, examine her face, her eyes, her hair. How much of her I never knew. But I didn’t. Now I never can.

When my father passed away I found papers on his desk. He wrote notes for projects the same way I did. Scribbled all over the paper, the paper turned a thousand different angles. But then stacked neatly because they were important. The same way I did. But I never saw him do that until it was too late for me to say, “hey dad….I did that too…” I wonder what things she did that I do too. No I don't talk to flies...before some asshat asks....and no it's not funny to ask me such things. I don't have cats either but one day I'll get one and overcome my fear of becoming a crazy old lady with cats because thats a stereo type that has always made me cringe.

My Aunt is listing me and my son as those left behind in the J-town newspaper tomorrow. She left out my Sister and my Brother. The two people who turned their backs on my father and then on her after his death. I told my cousin that wasn’t necessary. She replied, “My mom feels that it is.”

For some odd reason I called my Maternal Grandmother and told her in the littlest tear ridden voice I could muster, “Grammy, my other Grandma died today…and I never knew her.” She didn’t say much. She asked for the gossipy details, never offered her condolensces….and then I said, “My other Grandma died today and she never knew me….oh not really….and god how I never got to know her.” She said, “You’re better off, she was a nutcase.”

To which I wanted to say, “Yes, but she was sick, she was ridden for years by a demon so horrible I cannot even imagine living with, she had an excuse, and you with your “make dinner for the Catholic priest and then talk shit about everyone around you….you….you could know me…..and you choose not to really hear me….know me…get me….understand me!”

She started to backlash my dead father with the same old song of “he was just a drunk…” I got angry and said, “that drunk guy…the one you have so much shit to say about …he provided a home, food, clothes….life….he provided everything….your daughter....yah she had nothing and would still have nothing if not for him….”

She said, “Love is blind I suppose…”

To which I said, “when you die and I call my Aunt in tears…..she’ll tell me she’s sorry for my loss…..she’ll say it and mostly I already know she’ll mean it…she’ll cry with me and let me tell her all the wonderful things about you that I remember…she’ll do these things because she loves me…....the same things that you couldn’t do for me tonight.”

And then I hung up on my 89 year old Maternal Grandmother and cried for the other one I never told….

I’m sorry….I’m sorry Grandma Ruth….I’m sorry for everything you never had, for everything you lost….for not saying something that day….for not telling you…..something….even if you couldn’t get it….I had it to give….and chose not to. I’m sorry I was afraid of you…..I’m so damned sorry. I’m so damned sorry that I give so much credence and importance to people that just don’t give a damn…at least not enough.

-PoeticaL

survived by granddaughter Kristy _ _ _ _ _ _ and great grandson Keith _ _ _ _ _ _ ."
11:51 p.m. ::
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