Then, in the chill of a Tennessee morning, or perhaps on an afternoon destroyed by mosquitoes, she would spit and scream her final curse, her bitterness echoing into a barren room. The news of my grandmother’s expiration left me chilled. Our last communication had been via email, ironically, her last words to me: “You are ignorant.” I hadn’t seen her for ten years, a long ten that went from pre-teen to post-twenty-one. It isn’t time I regret.
But this story does not begin with my grandmother, nor does it begin with an email. It finds its origins in a larger-than-poster-size black-and-white photograph. One my sister and I both tried to steal. There stands my mother at seven in a field of wildflowers, blonde and smiling. There is a tear in the bottom right-hand corner that doesn’t make me wince. History hasn’t been appreciated, by either side of my family and I like that I see it here. Neither my mother or my father saved his or her own baby blankets or comfort possessions, few relics from generations past, no letters or books or antiques.
If I tried to refute the stories my mother tells–that my grandmother, an RN, chose shifts to keep her working during my mother’s waking hours, or that she didn’t support my mother when my grandmother’s boyfriend raped her at fourteen, or that she sent Mom alone to abort the resulting pregnancy, or that she told my mother she would have aborted her too if it had been legal then–I couldn’t, not once my own personal trauma brought us together for the first time. History repeating itself, a friend of my mother’s–an old boyfriend–took advantage of me during my final summer of thirteen, my final summer as a child. Mom called in her mother for support, ever the hopeful child on the edge of her seat for that sought after parental love. She was played for a fool.