This must be an awkward stage in everyone’s life. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself – mostly as a comforting mantra. I have one semester of college left. I’ll be graduating with a degree, but no career in mind. Nothing new in today’s world. Everyone assumes because I’ll have a BA in English, I want to teach. No, thank you. My mother is a highschool English teacher, and I’ve seen enough to know that’s not the path for me.
I’m careening towards the vortex which is graduation – May 1, 2004 – and I’m supposed to be an “adult” after that. Whatever that is. Right now, the only plans I have for after graduation consist of a large amount of alcohol being consumed with my friends to celebrate the ending of our small Christian college’s “no alcohol consumption” contract.
I wish I was more prepared to be an adult. Right now, I’m in a situation where I’m still the child. Living at home can do that to you. I often wonder if my parents will treat me similar to how they do now when I’m 25, or 30…or 40… We’ll just politely stop there out of respect for those in the blog with heart defects. I’ll be honest – living in the same house with your parents after you have had an apartment of your own is near unacceptable. My former room mate and her husband are planning on moving in with her mom after Christmas. I don’t think I could stand it. Coming home for Christmas break has found me looking at my family and not understanding what happened to them. They’ve become five strangers living in the same building. With the exception of my parents, everyone has their own room, and spend most of the time they’re at home away from others. My brother has his girlfriend. Obviously, they want to be alone together. My 16 year old sister has become permanently attached to the phone. And the youngest, 14, is a television addict. There are secrets at the house now…there have never been secrets before. There are strained attempts to make conversation. There are vain meetings to have “family” time, which fall apart within minutes.
The saddest part of this is that I’m not surprised, nor am I bothered by it. There is an inner voice telling me this is normal. Families have to split apart to become new families. If there were no splitting, there would be no new families. What a condescending way to look at it. Mitosis of the familial structure.
Yesterday morning, my grandmother was diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of throat cancer. My grandmother is the matriarch of our clan. She calls the shots at family gatherings. She presides over the dinner table when we gather for a family reunion. She spoils and disciplines us in her various ways. When I was young, I always unconsciously believed even God would listen to what she said. Yesterday afternoon, I walked into the surgery recovery ward and saw this tiny woman swaddled in white blankets with her round peach of a face closed. Her diminutive figure betrayed the imposing woman that she is. My aunt could not handle this. She and my grandmother have never had a comfortable relationship, mainly because my aunt has exactly the same personality as my grandmother. I cannot imagine the weight of guilt she’s dragging onto herself. I on the other hand, felt almost nothing. Not even the numbness I thought I would feel if I heard the word “cancer”. It’s almost as though we knew it was coming. The past week, I’ve felt as though I should spend as much time with my grandmother as possible. That same voice that tells me this is normal is telling me that this may be the last year we have her. I believe she knew it was coming -before she went into surgery, she got her will in order and told the doctors she refused radiation. And I’m not feeling sad, I’m feeling selfish. My grandmother and I have always had a very good connection. She has been my confidant, my wisdom source, my rock. The relationship I’m sure my mother always wanted with me, I gave to my grandmother. When my mother asks questions, my grandmother smiles, listens, and hands me a tootsie roll. When my mother gets upset and offended, my grandmother says I’m entitled to my opinion, “even if that opinion is wrong.” When my mother assures me everything will be okay, my grandmother says that’s the way things go and nobody ever promised us life was fair. And that’s what I’m fighting so hard with this blase attitude. I want my grandmother at my wedding. It is inconceivable to me that she will not be there.
My aunt told us she is afraid our family will fall apart when my grandmother dies. That my parents will not call her, or my other aunts and uncles. There will be no more reunions, and social gatherings, and Thanksgivings and Christmases. It’s almost as if this power she has fought for so long is actually the glue holding us all together. Now, things are drifting their separate ways more quickly than any of us suspected. And I believe in her fears. Things have been oozing out of place for years now. But it’s just normal. And although it’s not okay, that’s just the way things go, and nobody ever promised us life was fair…