In this way, I got treated for my yearly strep throat and swimmers’ ear. I got a cast put on my broken ankle after crying, limping and crawling for several days– my mother maintained that I was just being a brat about a sprained joint until she saw the x-ray, and she still said it was all my fault afterward. No one ever noticed my severe food sensitivities, because Grandpa had been educated in the days when nutrition wasn’t tied to sickness at all and he presumed I just had irritable bowel syndrome. I also got heavily medicated for a couple of nasty disorders I actually did not have, when my mother represented her version of my symptoms to him over the phone. I didn’t realize that this was happening until much later. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties, for example, that my aunt told me my mother had told him and all the rest of the family that I was hallucinating. That explains why they all treated me so strangely. I’d often wondered why they never believed anything I said.
But that wasn’t my grandfather’s fault. He was only working with symptoms he heard described secondhand. He actually loved me and wanted to help.
When I tried to set boundaries with my immediate family, as an adult, my mother told my grandfather that I had lost my mind again– then she reported back to me that Grandpa was “very concerned” that I was “off my meds” and insane. Grandpa was still a practicing internist at the time, so I feared that he’d call the cops and have me committed to a mental hospital. My lease was up just about then. I moved to a new apartment without telling anyone. I didn’t speak to my Grandpa or anyone else in the family for three years, but I missed him every day. Every day I lived in that crazy apartment in the nastiest part of Steubenville, I dreamed of his brick farmhouse and his beautiful garden, and my youngest days when I thought he must be a farmer, a carpenter or a scientist.After I got married, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I tried to establish a relationship with my family again. For the most part, it blew up in my face, of course. But my grandparents still loved me. I don’t know if they believed me, but they were willing to treat me like family. The last time he visited me was just before Christmas– he came bringing an artificial tree for the living room. He sang songs with Rose and told her stories. I got to hug him goodbye, and tell him I loved him, and he said “I love you too.”
Just two years ago, my grandfather had a fall. He fell in his basement, where all his woodworking tools were, and he hit the back of his head. It took him a week to die, in that same hospital where he’d worked for fifty years. I wanted more than anything to go be with him. But we didn’t have a car and had no one to give us a ride even if it would have been safe to let my daughter in room with my mother. I waited at home for news from anyone– one great aunt snuck me a photo of him in the hospital, and wrote me a message when he passed on.
That was the last day of April. And there was plenty left unsaid.
I don’t know if my grandpa ever understood what happened to me. I don’t know if he went to his grave believing I was a liar and psychotic. I don’t know what I’ll say when I see him again, in that other perfect garden owned by that other perfect Carpenter, where everything hidden is brought into marvelous light.
I know that he was someone who loved me. And that’s enough.
(image via Pixabay)