January 05, 2009
what I read to my Grandmother tonight

I've been telling people about your stroke, and they all tell me the same thing: don't feel guilty; it's not your fault. But I do feel guilty - not responsible, I'm not deluded - but guilty for the way I felt before the stroke. How I resented your visits because I was afraid of what you would say or what you would ignore. Or who you would favour. I lost the trick of your approval, and I always wanted to figure out how to get it back. I wanted you to like me. I'm trying to be ok with you not liking me. I'm trying to just love you now, while you're here, and not be angry because I didn't make you happy. My friend Clarke, the priest who married me, once said: "Aleta, you can't like everybody and everybody can't like you." I used that to get me through teaching. Now I'm using it to get me through this week.

I know that you love my son, love him without reservation. You still look right at him as soon as he speaks, no matter where he is in the room. One of my friends told me that when your head comes round to watch him, that you might be mistaking him for one of your own sons or grandsons. That you may be traveling in time. I don't think so. I think that you love him still, that you know who he is, and that your love is stronger than this stroke that's pinned you to the bed.

I think you hate your daughter brushing your teeth and changing your diaper. I think it's hard for you to need these things done for you. I think you saw yourself as immortal. God knows, I did. This is why I can't stop feeling guilty. Mom knew your time was limited. She would make excuses for you left, right and centre. I had this immature conviction that you would never grow frail or sick or on the edge of death. I was so sure that the strength of your will would keep your body and soul together. I was so sure that you'd be chain smoking over my burial plot. I was so childish.

When I told people about you in the first few days after your stroke and they immediately told me they were sorry, I rushed to reassure them. It's okay, I would say, we're not close. I kept saying that. And I couldn't figure out why I would go into a mild panic attack when I tidied up and found the ornaments you'd brought for the tree still sitting in their bag a week after Christmas. I couldn't understand why just looking at the envelope where you'd placed 4 crisp five dollar bills for Blake's Christmas money made me want to cry. I would think back to Christmas Day and how weak you were then, and tell myself that I should have known something was up. It's taken me days, whole days, to realize how important you are to me. I didn't want you to be. I wanted to brush off the crisis. My mom did, too. But she didn't because she found a deep, uncomplicated love. I'm trying to find that love. It's hard, because in a lot of ways I try to be as tough as you. I try to pretend I don't feel anything. The two of us are such liars.

I'm sorry you had these strokes. I'm sorry that you're in this bed when you should be up and about and telling the nurses all about your sister and your greatgrandson. I'm sorry that I couldn't relax when you tried to give Blake everything he could possibly want in the Mandarin. I'm sorry I disappointed you. I'm not sorry that I can help my mom care for you. I'm not sorry to have this chance to tell you that I love you. And that I get the chance to tell you that I'm sorry.

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Don't make me send out the Blake. He doesn't listen to *anyone.*