Once upon a time, I had two friends. Well, once upon a time, I had more than two friends, still do, in fact, have slightly more than 2 friends, but that's neither here nor there, as this little story concerns just these two aforementioned friends I had, once upon a time, and my grandmother, which is weird, considering the three have never met.
So I had these two friends. And they were funny and silly and I enjoyed their company. And they were my friends. And then we had a very dramatic, sad, ugly falling out.
I'll spare you the drama of our sad and ugly falling out. Suffice it to say, as is usually the case in these matters, all three of us can hoist some of the blame onto our humanly puny shoulders, burdened as we are already with pride, anger and selfishness.
In thinking about my role in this little tragedy, the Greek chorus in my head reminds me of a recent revelation, a reconciliation of sorts with my paternal grandmother, who has been dead for over a decade. Crazy Greek chorus, just like them to bring up some long ago turmoil, buried securely in my mind, to teach me a lesson.
Of Grandmas and Grace
Grandma and I had a monumental tiff during her later years. The kind that overshadowed family holidays and jubilant occasions, like my wedding. That lady was a spitfire on her best days. She was a mountain-mover, a hell-raiser, and woe be to thee if you raised her ire.
We had a minor miscommunication that grew and festered. I can blame my dad for this, because he invited Grandma to something I did not want her to attend. When she called for details, instead of being gracious and insisting she come, I blurted out that she was, in reality, not invited. I know. I'm embarrassed. This classy move led to the Thanksgiving Tumult of 1991. Neighbors still talk about it.
For the rest of her life, we were at odds, which pains me to this day. Tradition says that this is where I remind readers to cherish their loved ones, to seize every opportunity to express their devotion. Not gonna happen.
Here is where I tell you that if I'm at all like my hell-raising granny, I share her sense of justice, her stubborn pride, and her ability to hold a grudge like a precious gem.
Freedom through Tea Sets?
Standing at the tiny stainless sink at the decrepit family cottage, my mother and I shared the job of washing and drying the dishes. Offhand, she tossed out a bomb that shifted my perspective of my grandmother, veritably shattering the angry image and reminding me of her gentle thoughtfulness. My mother said that Grandma had packed a box with an antique tea service. She labeled the box: FOR JEN AND ABBY. Abby, my daughter, was 18 months old when my grandmother died. Moreover, my grandmother was suffering at the hands of a cruel enemy, Alzheimer's, that stole much of who she was and confused her memories.
I stood at that sink totally bewildered. My grandmother remembered my daughter? She cared enough about me—or her descendants—to leave a special gift just for us. In her darkness, in her deterioration, she remembered me with love.
What's with the Greek Tragedy, Again?
So, back to my fractured friendship. A solid decade after her death, my cranky, unforgiving, hardened grandmother, my kind, giving, talented grandmother taught me a lesson in humility, grace and forgiveness.
Platitudes don't work for me, they're too easy. But. If I don't look at this situation in a spirit of growth, I will continue to cherish regret, fatigue and bitterness. Maybe life's not too short for regrets. Maybe in the poor choices we make, in our betrayals, our deceptions and our minor infractions, there is a future wrapped up just for us, specially marked and ready to be opened. Maybe a future of redemption and reconciliation comes with regret as its cost.
For reconciliation, I can handle a little regret.