My Memere, who was my mother's mother, told my sister and me in a rare moment of self revelation, that the reason her ex-husband (our late grandfather) had not lived to see any of us is because after she threw him out for dallying with his secretary, she put the gris gris on him. We were stunned and confused. First of all, no one had really confirmed for us before that Memere and the mysterious man who sired our mother and her 3 brothers were actually divorced. He was never mentioned and up until I was around 11 or 12, I thought perhaps Memere had just magically produced these children of hers without a mate. After all, she was a formidable woman who seemed capable of magic anyway. The fact that he was caught with his secretary and thrown from his house without the shoes on his feet was revolting and fascinating at the same time.
Our own parents had been married for decades by then and would remain married until my mother passed away. This concept of infidelity and divorce was something reserved for soap operas and the parents of kids who weren't Catholic. On top of this scandalous confirmation, we also learned our grandmother had the ability to put the gris gris on someone. This was perhaps more fascinating than her ability to make perfect iced tea and maintain a perpetually full candy bowl. I am convinced the makers of York Peppermint Patties suffered a drop in revenue after my Memere passed away.
Although nothing was ever said outright or direct (we are Southern women after all) we knew there was bad blood between my mother's father and, well, the rest of the people we knew. Even though he had been dead for years, no one ever mentioned his name or his existence. Ever. Isn't that almost worse than spoken wrath? This man was so unworthy, no one bothered to waste breath on him. And, he had already been dead for 20 years by this point. That, my friends, is fury. It is silent and insidious fury.
I thought about this in a moment of crushing grief the other night. Max and I were lying in bed (as we often are...most of child-rearing seems to be coaxing someone else to sleep) and he said, "Your mommy can't come to our house because she is in heaven with Sam."
"No, she can't," I said. "But I wish she could."
Oh how she would have loved Max and his little hands and feet and elbows and toes. And, despite her consuming distrust of men, she always started each little boy with a fresh slate. Her father's inability to be a good and decent one never interfered with her love of her little boy grandchildren. In fact, more than a clean start, she also armed each grandchild with a huge resource of excuses and grandmotherly defenses - "he didn't mean it!" or "he's just a boy!"
I miss my Memere and my Mother...I miss their humor and their pluck. I miss their love and their stories. My Memere lived to be 89. My Mom lived to be 70. I would have given anything to have another 19 years with my mother. I want to hear more stories. I want to eat Sunday dinner at her house and have her attend grandparents' days at school. I just want her to love me like no one else in the world could...or should.
Instead, I have to swallow that grief and turn it into love for my little boy. Gulp.