My Grandmother's Love


It was a summer afternoon in 1992. I was spending the weekend at my grandparents, like I did most weekends between the ages of 7 and 12.

I was in the Upstairs Back Bedroom, a spare bedroom with an unimaginative, formal name bestowed by my grandmother, watching TV when she called me to her bedside.

The room was completely dark, despite the time of day. My grandmother rolled onto her right side, and I collapsed on the floor onto my knees, leaning my head on her mattress.

She pet my head, and I started to cry. For as long as I can remember, I knew my grandmother's intense love, a love she had for me alone, but I also knew her suffering. At 8, lupus and Percocet were part of my vocabulary. I didn't know what they really meant, but I knew it wasn't good based on my parents' tone of voice when they talked about them. I also knew they were the reason "Grammy doesn't feel so good," most days.

Grammy didn't feel so good that day, and she was itching to tell me something. "Some day, you're going to grow up and leave Grammy," she said somberly.

"Grammy, I love you. I'll never leave you," I sobbed.

"Yes, you will," she said confidently. "You're going to grow up and meet a boy, and you won't care about Grammy anymore."

My 8-year-old mind couldn't fathom a moment, let alone a day, I didn't love this woman, and my 8-year-old heart broke at the suggestion.

My 23-year-old heart broke again on my wedding day when I heard she said, "she's changed for this boy," and that I was going to move to New Jersey and never visit again.

I tried to visit again in the years that followed, but she didn't make it easy. There was always a creative reason why it wasn't convenient – it usually involved her health or my 8-pound dog.

I spent years heartbroken and trying to understand what I'd done wrong. Unfortunately, it took another 7, therapy, and a book about eggshells to make sense of that conversation from my childhood – I had loved and been fiercely loved by someone with borderline personality disorder – and she wasn't the only one.

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