My Greena Cousina

October 30, 2009

I found out this morning that my grandmother died. I have so many memories, suspicions and opinions about her. The hardest part about the funeral will be tolerating the feeling that as I get older and older, I am less and less a part of my mother’s family. Or that I want less and less to be a part of it. (Remind me to tell you about the time my father died.)

So, my grandmother. She took care of me sometimes. She helped me illustrate book reports and told me witch stories before bed time. She taught me how to wash my vagina, she called it a “pounchie”. She would always explain, in front of lots of people, about how independent and self sufficient I was, waking up on my own, pouring my own orange juice in the morning, covering my own legs with a blanket while I watched TV on my own.

She was a conservative republican who instilled in me an actual fear of Desmond Tutu as a young child. I remember the way she would point at the TV when he was on it. I still feel strange looking at pictures of him, trying to get into my head that this man is held in the same high esteem as Mandela, Ghandi or King. After she had the stroke a couple of years ago, she could only roll her eyes when I would mention my soon-to-be Wifebian, which was good.

She had outrageous hair and make-up. She was a Jewish Elizabeth Taylor. She was a loudmouth and could hold a grudge like nobody’s business. We had a lot of fun bickering, fighting, and flexing our will in one another’s direction. Whenever I would visit her in the nursing home I would kiss her hands and feet and look very deeply and sweetly into her milky blue eyes. Her daughters are nervous and coarse.

In college, I interviewed her for a report about Jewish women’s lives. I said, it’s so strange that you, as a Jewish housewife in the 1940’s, post WWII, didnt have kids until you had been married for ten years and she said, “I was just so in love with your grandfather, I didnt want to share him.” That was the story they told — how in love they were. How she complained one day to the deli manager that the potato salad was rancid and it turned out she was complaining to her future husband. The family legend says that she had a contract with Mero-Goldwyn-Mayer as a 15 year-old and threw it away to marry him. She was “The Little Girl with the Big Voice”, they say.

My mother says that sometimes she would lock herself in the bathroom, sobbing and threatening to choke herself with her dead father’s tie.

One day, three or four years after the interview, I was 23 or 24. My dad told me, out of nowhere, that my mom was adopted. That my grandparents had been infertile for the ten years following their marriage (which I still dont quite believe) and that they adopted my mom. My hands went numb the way they do when stuff like that happens to me.

(My mom is not my mom, she is my step-mom, having raised me from the time I was two. I remember when I was five and they told me that she was not my mother. It was OK.)

I told my mother that my father told me she was adopted one night in the car on our way home from some family function. She responded haltingly while I supressed my rage. She said she grew up knowing and everyone knew, that it was an open secret. She told me her biological mother was a nursing student who said she was raped by a dark-skinned man. Based on my mother’s looks, he was probably just not Jewish. The nursing student died a couple of years later from meningitis. My mother met the student’s family as a young adult and said, over and over, that she didnt feel anything for them. I asked her when she was planning on telling me about this and she said she always thought she would tell me after Harriet died.

I never called Harriet grandma. And it only occurs to me now to be hurt by this. Knowing what I know about families.

I’m supposed to be a pallbearer.

In other news, I keep clogging the toilets in this stupid fucking house. The shame wears off a little more each time. I just can’t tell you how mighty my nether regions are. Seriously. My pelvic cradle is a magnificent cauldron.

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3 Responses to “My Greena Cousina”

  1. Loaf said

    You write so beautiful. I’m sorry for your loss. I’m glad you have writing to process your thoughts. I like reading it.

  2. Trinityvz said

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  3. thebao said

    I’m so sorry for your loss. How lovely that you were able to use your blog to write so movingly about your grandmother.

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