Sunday, June 08, 2003

Today has been long and arduous. I woke up in such a clear mood. I wish I was in that mood now.

But instead, I saw one of the most awful things I’ve ever seen, and now I can hardly straighten out my thoughts. I’ve written recently about my saint of a grandmother. And today I went to see her, in what amounts to being the nursing home my aunts have put her in. She cried throughout the visit. She begged us to take her back home. She said that she was confused, and so sorry to upset us. She called me pretty and said that I was getting prettier all of the time, and she genuinely meant it, and that’s all the evidence I need to prove that she’s really a saint.

My grandmother did everything in life completely right. She was born poor, and will die solidly upper middle class. She was a good mother, and a good wife; she was the gentlest person I’ve ever known. She was one of the only honest and sincere Episcopalians I’ve ever met. She took care of everyone around her; especially children, to whom she never condescended, and whom she always made feel like they were on equal, and quite agreeable, footing. She gave freely to charity, or to any drunken bum who asked, and she never acted the martyr over it. She educated herself thoroughly even though she had to drop out of school in eighth grade and, for more than anything else, I’ll always remember how quickly she thought and how genuinely intelligent she was.

But now she has Alzheimer’s disease, and her mind is almost completely gone. Her short term memory is totally shot. She can’t remember things she said even a few seconds ago. But every now and then, she becomes aware of the fact that it wasn’t so long ago that she asked the same question, and she becomes incredibly embarrassed over it. She’s aware that she’s a burden to everyone around her. She retains a long-term memory just accurate enough to remind her that every one she knew and loved as a young woman have been dead for decades. She understands just enough to know that her own children have condemned her, by sending her away from home, which was the only comfort she had left. She cries, but no one dries her tears. Or no one that she can remember anyway.

She did everything right in her life. And God has been cruel, and sustained her. She lives; but only in misery. Her good health belies her diseased mind, and mocks her with the knowledge that she’ll still probably live a good while yet. She lives; but I can only refer to what she was and never what she is.

I feel selfish even saying that I’m heartbroken over my grandmother. My own misery at watching her stare down the hallway after my father and I as we left is nothing to the misery she must have felt watching us leave without her. Though I’ll probably not sleep tonight, thinking of the awful way her so-called golden years played out, she probably won’t sleep tonight thinking of the very same thing. And I’m young, and I have my mind, and there’s nothing but future ahead of me.

The passage of time does not necessarily mean progress. And all progress is not forward, just as some movements are backward. If my grandmother had lived in the days of her own grandmother, she would be at home now, with her family all around her. She would suffer, but the laughter of great-grandchildren and the warmth of the hearth would surround and sustain her. She would be lonely for those who had preceded her in death, but never too lonely, since she would never be alone. But as I write this, she’s in a room with whitewashed walls, alone and confused, and only sure that she’s been deeply betrayed somehow.

And then Jody came over to plan for Europe. I really wasn’t in the mood to plan, honestly. She was very excited, and I feel a little sorry because I probably killed her joy. My mother embarrassed me repeatedly, just by being herself. Which shamed me, because I should never feel embarrassed about who my mother is. I ended up probably looking like more of an ass than usual, because I didn’t really feel like talking about anything much. Poor Jody’s probably at home right now praying that the fates will find a way to null and void our trip, so she doesn’t have to spend so much time with such a jackass. And I’m a little annoyed that I have to spend the rest of my life with myself, when I can’t even live up to the simplest of my own ideals.

It just hit me that I have a German final tomorrow morning that I probably really should study for. But I want to spend some time with my friends first, though I’ll probably just piss them off because I’m in a jackass sort of mood. Anyway, I won’t write anymore.