These days my conversations with Deb are sprinkled with the phrase, “I don’t remember.” It’s true; I don’t remember. I repeat things in my head: “Dinner’s at six; Dinner’s at six; Dinner’s at six; Dinner’s at six” or “Remember to ask about…; Remember to ask about…; Remember to ask about…” I do remember that my grandmother retreated into herself because she couldn’t hold a reasonable conversation with anyone else. She was a drunk. For years my sister and I found bottles beneath her bed. We knew that if we had her take us to the mall she would buy us anything, take us on a wild ride to the mall and back, take us to lunch.
I believed she was removed, sad, and lonely. She had drunk herself into a shell of the woman she had once been. I also remember her in her glory days – marching through the house with my grandfather and their invited guests. I loved the nights they partied. In the morning there would be half-full drink glasses, left over hors d’oeuvres, and some kind of special sweet snack. We loved that. Though they put us to bed as early as possible, we stayed awake to listen to the party.
What I didn’t know then was that my grandmother was a drunk. I feel so sad for her now because I know that she never got help. My grandfather loved her as deeply as anyone could. As a matter of fact, he loved us all. I remember his embrace, the way he held me so tight I could hardly breathe, the way he patted my back so hard it hurt, but it hurt so good because I knew that he loved me. He loved me like no one else ever has, like no one else ever could. To this day I miss him. He has been dead for years and years, and I miss him. Sometimes when I need comfort I think of him. He was such a beautiful man: eyes that twinkled with love and tenderness.
Right now I seem to need him all of the time. I am so lonely! I feel alone even when others are around. Deb is talking about going to the World Cup Women’s Soccer games and she wants to leave me here with a woman from a company. I’m afraid I will feel lonely. I don’t want to be alone, but we don’t share the same interest in sports. I’m afraid that we don’t share the same interest at all anymore. When I worked we had mutual friends in the department. We could gossip and share stories about our days. But now, there is nothing.
We do talk, but it’s an effort. I don’t know about her and I have to work to think of ways to begin conversations. I enjoy it when we talk about politics or other topics. Those conversations animate us and give us ways to connect. It’s during those conversations that I remember how we fell in love and why. I still look at her and see a woman who is beautiful in a regal kind of way. Now, though, I look at myself and see a woman who is worse for the wear, who is fat and ugly.
I don’t remember feeling happy.