My grandmother was narcissistic, selfish, and crotchety. She used to fuss over preparing food for; she acted like she was doing this great service to the family by feeding her grandchild. Then, she would serve me in these little monkey dishes, while she stowed away the vast majority of food for her own leftovers. I would glance down, and see that her army of cats would get fed – with both wet and dry food – in normal, human-sized bowls. The irony of this discrepancy was not lost on me, even as a child. My eyes would dart back and forth between whatever meager helping of baked clams, shrimp bisque, or occasionally raw scallops (from Shoprite, certainly not sushi-grade) she was doling out to me, and the oft more appetizing cat entrees on the floor.
My grandma was also a brilliant artist and illustrator, who often went unrecognized. She was born to a poor, immigrant family in Brooklyn, and she could’ve stayed there. Instead, she stormed Manhattan as an amalgamation of bohemian, intellectual, femme fatale, and single mother.
Grandma smoked cigarettes every day, and later in life she over-salted all of her food, due to the early demise of her taste buds. Her silverware reeked of tobacco. She was a shitty parent to my mother, and she never planned for the future. We’ve been financially supporting her irresponsible lifestyle for decades.
She loved me, but it was pretty difficult to love her back.
And yet, I’ve been here before. It was different but the same. My dad was dying, and it was easy to love him back. He supported my family, instead of taking away from it. He was young, and my grandma is old. But seven years ago I would wake up to an empty apartment, and find that my relatives were all at the hospital, sharing in a loved one’s final days. Seven years ago, I visited a comfortable, well-lit hospital room to watch a human body slowly collapse into itself. The similarities are so striking; I am forced to question whether I am even grieving for my grandmother at all, or just painfully withstanding the echoes of losing my dad.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know what to feel.