I use this space to remember, as a means of spurring conversations that should happen when you're older, as a way of documenting your world. There are parts of your world that you won't know unless I tell you about them, and I know that sometimes the best way for me to do that is here. I tend to choose my words more carefully, be fairer to the people I mention, and do a better job of balancing all sides of a story when I do it in writing, knowing that I have an audience.
One of the parts of your world that you won't know without me telling you is your grandma, my mom. She's also one of the people that I know I would describe differently in a conversation than I will here. It would be very easy to talk about a small part of her story, perhaps the funny part, or the part that is really just about me. Maybe I could talk about how completely unfair it was that I grew up never able to steal clothes from her closet, because she only ever wore things I wouldn't be caught dead wearing. I'm not even kidding when I say I never once witnessed the woman wearing jeans. Instead, her closet bore a rainbow of polyester elastic-waisted pants. If that sentence alone isn't just cause for hours of laughter, I don't know what is.
For years I've had a few posts about your grandma rattling around in my brain. For years I've known that parts of her story are important, that parts of her story need to be told, and that I'll only tell those tales fairly if I do it here. Yet, I continue to prolong that which I know needs to be done. I'll do just about anything to avoid telling her story. Mostly I would just much rather write about you.
Recently I asked myself my favorite new question to ask myself: Why? Why am I so quick to write something, anything, and everything about you but so reluctant to shake those rattling posts out of my head and finally get them out of the way? It only took a moment to figure out the answer once I faced it head on--I know you much better than I ever knew her.
It's not that I didn't want to know her, it's more that she didn't want to be known. Much of her life was a mystery, in no small part because she didn't talk. Really. Every single day you and I have a conversation that is longer than any I ever had with her. She just didn't have anything to say. On the rare occasions that I had a friend over to our house, I often would tell the friend that my mom was mute. It was easier to just make an excuse for her than it was to deal with my friends awkwardly trying to be polite, only to be met with silence. For her part, my mom did what she could to make my lie very closely resemble the truth. She rarely even managed to spit out, "Hello."
Even as your grandma sat dying of breast cancer fourteen years ago, she didn't feel words were important. She didn't leave me with words of wisdom, she didn't declare a battle cry and fight the disease, she didn't even say goodbye. She didn't have anything to say.
That brings us back to my new favorite question--Why? Why didn't she have anything to say? Now that I'm a little bit older, perhaps a little bit wiser, and have the advantage of time and distance, I think I'm able to see the answer.
My mom was broken.
She had nothing to say because she was a shell of a human being. Life had beaten her down, driven her to silence, taken away what I assume must have once been there. I mean, at some point she must have been a happy child, a child who sang and played games and laughed. I don't know exactly what broke her, but at some point her spirit died, although her body remained. I don't know when she became broken, but it predates even my earliest childhood memories.
Alexis, I prefer to write about you, even when there is nothing to write, because you are very much so not broken.
I'll do anything to make sure you stay that way.
Thursday, October 8
at 9:36 PM