Friday, February 5, 2010

My dear grandmother's birthday was this week.  

She would be 86, if she was still alive.  

She died a year before I had Maxwell.  

She never understood why I was so old without being married, why I didn't want a baby.

"when you have a baby I am going to buy you a crib, and a rocking chair" 

That was an enormous pledge from a woman who came from nothing a woman that was never gifted a single thing in her life.  

When I got a degree in English, then Women's Studies, she shook her head...  

"all that money for something that doesn't pay anything, all that work to teach kindergarten" 

She loved me fiercely even when I was a puzzle to her, in my black clothes, in my mannish shoes.

"Heidi doesn't like anything purty"

Even when I insisted on living in this hundred year old flat, with no stairs, and substandard heating (she made my grandfather and cousin build me stairs,  a handrail, a porch and a gate for the poodle).  

She dutifully mailed me a check for $100 each wintry month to pay for the feeble gas furnace that mostly blew dust around around and made  the poodle's ears fly  up when he walked past,  then quickly disappeared out the big windows.

She was thrilled when I moved to the big apartment on Flanders with Rolf.  She loved Rolf, loved to drink Coke and talk about cows with a cow enthusiast.  He would set me straight.  He would make sure I finished grad school, got a job, got it all pulled together. 

When my aunt phoned me to say she was in the hospital, I was devastated.  Something real, and big would be required to drive her to the hospital. 

She hated doctors. 

I had only returned from Rome  a few weeks before, had just begun my romance with Mark.  I lay in the hospital bed with her and jabbered on and on about my new love.

 "you had better like him just the way he is, or leave it alone."

She cautioned when I veered into foolish romanticism. 

He left for Dallas on a business trip that week.  

Rolf and Lily comforted me when she died a few days later.   

I picked him up from the airport a few hours after her funeral.  This woman, not my mother, so important to me, nearly a mother.  I drank a bottle of champagne, I sobbed in the stupid tacky church, I wore an absurd black dress, purchased by my mother at the last minute. I felt that  nothing would make me feel cared for again.  No one would commission stairs and a handrail on my behalf ever again.   I was thirty years old and totally alone.

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