Peter’s grandmother, aged 96, whom we call “Bis” for “Bis Nonna”, has an incurable cancer of the blood, and she took a turn for the worse this past week. She was in the hospital for a couple of days, then discharged to a nursing home.
The most important thing about this, of course, is that no person should have to face such a debilitating illness at the end of life: putting an infirm elderly person on an ice floe seems humane in comparison.
The second most important thing is that my sister, a cancer survivor, has been taking care of negotiations with the insurance company and the paperwork, visiting almost daily, and otherwise serving as the health care proxy, with complete love and dedication, for which I totally respect her.
I’ve visited “Bis” twice, each of which required about three hours of driving.
Putting this into perspective, it was $25 worth of gas and roughly the same hours required to fly some 1,200 miles round trip. In other words, I could have flown back and forth to northern Florida in the same amount of travel time that these two visits required.
Today I brought her a small flower arrangement. I thought having something pretty to look at might bring her a little bit of cheer.
My niece was there, which was a nice surprise, I hadn’t seen her for quite a while. She’s 12 weeks pregnant but had come in from Long Island to visit “GramGram”, and at one point, she commented on how she’d been bitten by a bug while she was sitting in her brother’s back yard. In fact, she had a large, nasty-looking welt on her leg which looked horribly uncomfortable.
Rather than accepting this explanation, though, “Bis” assumed that she was allergic to the flowers I’d brought.
In other words, she jumped to the conclusion with very little effort that the flowers I brought were making my pregnant niece sick(!) As close to the end as she is, “Bis” still finds an outlandish way to spin my act of intended kindness into assuming the worst of me, and to say so.
To my niece’s credit, she laughed this off, but it’s illustrative of my relationship to this woman, and to her family, that anything nice that I’ve tried to do over the last 62 years has always been assumed to be mean, vicious, destructive and harmful.
Why they hate me so much is something I will never understand. It could be as simple as the fact that I am not really “theirs”, but a stranger introduced to their family whose main contribution was to facilitate the birth of a “real” daughter, at which point I became not only irrelevant, but a burden.
I used to believe that living with that family was karma for some horrible thing I’d done in a former life, but at this point, I’m reconciled to the fact that it was simply my lousy, rotten luck. I was the sacrifice for the eventual reward of having not only their own child, but a perfect one: pretty, petite, and athletic, all of which I am not; bright and good-natured.
After many years of wearing a hair shirt because I wasn’t thin enough, kind enough or whatever enough, I realize how angry I am, angrier than anyone can imagine, for the fact that my mortal lifetime has been wasted in the company of people who have loathed and tormented me for no cause, including those who one would expect to be the most loyal.
I now see how damaged I am as the result of growing up with someone who was loved unconditionally, versus my experience of never being loved no matter how hard I tried.
Worse, in my seventh decade, I’m forced to acknowledge the hideous reality that my relationship with my own son has been destroyed by a pattern of undermining and pettiness started by the woman in that hospital bed and perpetuated by her blood kin. Destroying me wasn’t enough; they had to destroy the bond between my son and me as well.
If it weren’t for my aunt Margarget, a loving soul who died much too young, and my grandkids, I would have given up a long time ago.
Maybe like Obama, I need to believe that my suffering as a result of being rejected means that I am destined for something important. Unlike Obama, though, I’ve about run out of time to figure out what that is.