i very nearly forgot to do the most important thing today: call my gram. my parents, who usually check in with her, are on vacation, and all of us sibs are on a calling rotation, just to call and say hi. the day sort of got away from me at work, and it was 5:30 before i remembered. it's not the best time for her; mid morning is usually better. when she's tired, it's harder for her to string together a sentence. if she finds a sentence that works, she'll use it repeatedly. and talking on the phone, of course, i can't watch her face to see what she might be struggling to say. and i can't recall what we talked about a few days ago, which means i can't find the triggers for her. so it was a bit frustrating, on both sides, i think. but she was still happy to hear from me, which was nice.
so nice, in fact, that i felt like a complete shit. since she had her stroke, i've been a coward. rather than just wading in and helping her deal with it, i took refuge in distance. i'm an hour and a half away, and currently carless (thanks to my shit of an ex-husband, among other things). it's been so painful to see her lose her speech, her independence, her short term memory - and i let the pain get in the way of seeing that she is still very much the same person i've known and loved all my life. she's still my gram. and the fact that she's frail, has trouble expressing herself or remembering names doesn't change that. who she is, on the inside, is no different.
when i went down for Easter, i went to give gram a kiss, and she started crying. just a little, that barely moist sort of weepy when you don't want it to get away from you... she said 'i don't know why, but i always want to cry when i see you.' i had to bite my lip. maybe there are other reasons, but i think she gets weepy because i've been so miserable about keeping in touch. oh, i think she feels badly about some of what's going on in my life, primarily that i don't have a nice older man to love. but right then, in that moment, i'm afraid that the pain came from missing our relationship. and i still haven't asked her if that's the case.
that point came home all over again today. she got her Mother's Day card today. when i do remember to write (which also isn't nearly often enough, and clearly late), i try to put in funny stories, or tell her what i'm up to, or ask how she's doing. and i'm hyper aware of how sloppy my handwriting is - when i write to gram, it's school book Palmer Method. she said that the card was beautiful, and she had read it over and over again. ::wincing from the self-inflicted dagger, turning in my heart::
i had called gram last Friday as well, that time in the morning. we were able to talk for nearly 15 minutes, and she told me all sorts of stories about her and gramp, and my mom, and various relatives. this is the kind of personal history that's essential and far too easy to miss. and she loves talking about it, too. long term memory is pretty okay for her. and particularly amusing/informative are the stories that come out these days. for some reason (the stroke, perhaps, or just not caring because of age), gram tells fairly scandalous tales. i would have paid to have a camera when she told one rather incriminating episode about my mom... the look on mom's face was priceless.
so, okay. i'm writing about gram, but in a general sense, i guess this is about family. i love my family, warts and all, and thank my stars that they love me too. and yet. and yet i don't make the effort to keep in touch. i stay here, in my little comfortable world, getting the occasional update from the outposts.
this has to change. wait, wait - *i* have to change that. just saying it has to change does nothing except express my guilt and remorse. *i* need to take steps to nourish my family attachments. family is, in so many ways, the life blood of who we are as individuals. you can't turn your back on that. hrm. well, you can, but you lose so much.
there's a picture i have up on my refrigerator. it's k's school picture. for the longest time, i looked at that picture, and thought, 'oh, that's L's daughter'. just the other day, i walked by it, and was blown away when i realized 'that's my niece'. L is now my sister in law. k is my niece. i'm an aunt. i'm an aunt. damn. when i was very young, my aunt sally came to visit, and she brought Shrinky Dinks for me. she and i spent an afternoon in the kitchen, coloring in the figures and baking them in the oven. that memory is one of the clearest ones i have of sally, who died when i was 6 or so. i treasure that memory for a lot of reasons, in part because it made me feel special that she did something like that with me. i got her undivided attention for a few hours, and it was wonderful.
so i sit here thinking about sally, and the Shrinky Dinks, and seeing my gram at Easter, and the sleep overs at gram and gramp's... and crying. crying, because i've been blessed with an amazing, funny, loving, difficult, cantankerous, loyal wonderful family. and crying because i haven't given that back to them lately. i am going to change that. i will write to my gram more often, and call her, and call all my other relatives, and make plans to see them, and try to take my niece out for a special afternoon now and then, just the two of us. maybe i'll even try to hunt down some Shrinky Dinks.