I don’t feel “close” to my grandmother.
At least, not anymore than a husband feels “close” to his wife’s antique vanity. The one he bought for their anniversary. Whichever anniversary is symbolized by wood. Whichever one caused him to make a dozen god-forsaken trips to the hardware store in search of exactly that god-forsaken color of wood stain that she so affectionately calls ‘periwinkle’. A color he’d never heard of until their third date. A color he never cared about until she did; and until he realized that he cared about her.
Like that husband, who spent weeks on end stripping, sanding, and staining that god-forsaken vanity just to show the woman he loves that he loves her. And like that unforgiving piece of worn out, poorly designed antique fucking furniture, and the not-ungrateful but not quite-grateful-enough wife for whom it was painstakingly stripped, sanded, and stained, I feel not-entirely connected to my grandmother.
But I do care. Deeply.
I care immensely in the survival, well-being, and the longevity of that antique collection of broken, under-crafted pile of unrelated pieces of history. But not for the sake of the furniture; but for the sake of the one who looks into that mirror. Broken though it may be, the mirror sends back a reflection of a girl sitting before it. An image of a woman, her expectations of the world, and her dreams of what she can and will become.
I feel invested in my grandmother.
I feel connected, and afraid to ignore the reflection. I want, wish, and wonder what will become of the girl staring into that mirror. I hope she sees what she hopes for. I hope she doesn’t take it too hard — whatever she sees. I hope she can look past the cracks in the mirror to see her own beauty. I hope she can see that the cracks aren’t real. That they are just signs of aging, and not of her own. That she can see, when she looks into the eyes of a generation before her, that she is not alone. That she can see the ways in which these stains, cracks, and blemishes portrayed across her face are not hers, but merely a reflection of a life lived before her.
Before the luxuries and conveniences of which her own mother bitched and moaned; I hope my own mother can see the truth. That we all came here not to die; but to live. And that life isn’t full of regrets, but it sure does manufacture them. That decisions are just a series of stepping on toes before you know where you are stepping. That being alive means having ambition, hope, and regret in such nauseating equal portions that eventually one loses energy for the race, and simply coasts through the finish line.
I hope my mother knows I love her now. And that I always have. And that I always will.
I hope she knows that my growing up, and set in my ways, is not a sign of growing apart from her. I hope she knows this, so she can feel better about living through this with her mother. I hope she can forgive herself and me at the same time. I hope she knows that we’re the same. Years and chromosomes aside, we’re all suspiciously the same. We all want to love our fathers and mothers. We all want not to be them.
I don’t feel ‘close’ to my grandmother. But I feel closer today than I ever did.
Mildred ‘Memaw’ Malson — wife of James, and granddaughter of a Cherokee native who named himself ‘Howard Smith’ — born in 1927; the year of Al Capone, Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, and the Model A; there are many reasons to celebrate your wild and sordid life. I have, however, but one cause to justify my worship of whatever god brought you to be — that is the baby girl you made eventually. The one who one day made me.
Thank you Memaw.
For a mother I would only know as a man
that the world would dream of only if they can
I thank you for my life
and for the woman my father calls his wife
Mildren Malson, and the crazy life you lead
May angels carry you from each corner of your bed
To Heaven’s gates, and the eternity of which you’ve dreamed
Plugging their ears, for the obscenities you’ve screamed
I’ll miss you, Memaw.
You outlasted your peers
May your memory surpass the count of your astounding years
May all who go from this point, in memory of your life
Remember your beloved, and his beloved wife.
Goodbye, Mildred Malson.
Thank you for my life.
I don’t feel “close” to my grandmother.