Monday, November 5, 2007
15 Days till 30- 1992
It is only fair to mention that this is the year that my sister Jenny graduated from high school. The memory that I have from this year though is about my grandma and grandpa. My grandma had had a stroke and was in a nursing home. My grandpa would wake up in the morning and drive to the nursing home and sit by her bed everyday until visiting hours were over. The only time this routine was different was if he had a doctor's appointment or someone came by to take him to lunch or dinner. We always went down every week to visit. I would ride in the car with gramps and ask him what he had for breakfast- it was a favorite topic of ours. He'd say, "Well, I had some shredded wheat (the big biscuit kind) and for a little natural sugar I crumbled some chocolate chip cookies over it." My favorite part of the tradition was the "natural sugar," it always made me smile. Gramps was a gentle soul and seemed so different from my grandma. She was very sick for a long time and seemed to linger as if she was afraid of dying. When she was first in the home she would speak, but very poorly and not that often. One day when we went to visit, my mom told her that I was captain of the cheer leading squad (something I do not proudly admit, I must add- I hated it, but that's another story...) and that I was doing very well at it. My grandmother who could barely speak, let alone put whole sentences together, said clear as day, "Well, good, maybe she'll put that big mouth to use." I was stunned and really hurt. My mom said that I should go sit out in the TV room. Now, I know you're probably thinking wow, that's really harsh, but she was sick and she probably didn't know what she was saying, and you would be wrong. There was some history there and it all began for me in 1988. Unfortunately, the story of my grandmother's meanness goes back a lot further, but this was its beginning for me. We always went to a really early dinner at a restaurant called Hex's (you know the kind of early dinner that occurs at three in the afternoon because your grandparents are really old and they go to bed at 8 or 9). Well, this particular dinner my mom was having a lively discussion with her parents about the coming election (George H.W. Bush vs. the Dems, my grandparents were Republicans and my mom (and I) were Democrats). I thought that I would be able to add a bit to the conversation and I felt that mom could have used some support, so I chimed in, "You know what grandma, if I were old enough to vote I would vote for Jesse Jackson!" See, the first biography I had ever read was about Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition and my grandparents loved biographies. They would go to the library every week to get a new one. And if I could have gotten a word in edgewise, I would have told my grandma this, but I had started a screaming fit to end all screaming fits. I specifically remember my mom telling my sister and I to get under the table. While under the table, Jenny questioned my logic for even bringing this up. Honestly, it just came out. I knew my grandma was racist. I also knew that my best friend in the whole wide world wouldn't be allowed in her home. I think it was my silly 10 year old mind telling this old person she was wrong. Unfortunately, my mom was forced to bear the brunt of her tirade. And I sat under that table wishing that I could take it back. From that day on when I would go to say goodbye to grandma she pretended I didn't exist. She would actually turn her head from me when I would lean in to kiss her cheek. I was never addressed directly again, unless you count the big mouth comment. Grandpa came out to the TV room in the nursing home a little while later and sat down next to me and took my hand in his and said, "I'm sorry your grandma said that to you, but you know where it comes from don't you?" I nodded my head and he said, "That Jesse Jackson comment." Of course the person that should have apologized couldn't and he knew that. In his own sad way he was trying to apologize for a woman he had grown to love even through all her anger, abuse and sadness. I loved him for trying, in his own way he did make it better, I learned to love him more that day and all the days that followed.