Sunday, 4 March 2012

Feeling Raw

Growing old sucks. Middle age sucks. This post will be more personal than usual, because my 91-year old grandmother died yesterday. I take comfort in the fact that she is in a better place now, especially as she started feeling poorly and not remembering who we were a couple of years ago, but I have to admit that I feel pretty raw. Due to unusual familial circumstances (don't ask!) I am taking a more active part in the whole process than a granddaughter usually does.


So here I am, back to France in a hurry and struggling to sleep. As I was laying awake in the early hours of the morning, a cicada started to sing. I liked the fact that this little creature was unwillingly keeping me company. I woke up early and bought some bread. On my way back home an elderly man who looked a bit lunatic because he had big hair and no shirt on told me -actually, shouted at me: "Jesus loves you!" and I have to admit that he managed to make me laugh.




I know nothing about grief. Not much will happen today because it's Sunday and everything is closed. While rummaging through old family photos, I saw something. It was a small, white piece of paper, without any date. I instantly recognised my grandmother's handwriting: she was a head teacher and her handwriting exudes authority, with its peaked s and t. I unfolded it eagerly, hoping it would bring back some childhood memories. The paper was torn. It was basically a part of a -quite nasty- hate mail to my mother. It was probably never sent. My grandmother was my Dad's mum, and my parents eventually divorced -which triggered a massive family feud. The few words I read amply sufficed to remind me of how high emotions were running at the time. A bit sick, I didn't read the whole thing and threw it away. Time to forget and move on.

The whole experience felt a bit weird, because the very fact that I had completely idolised my grandmother hit home. For a brief moment, it felt like her hate filled the room. Very odd indeed.

But then again, it is all over now. Who knows? The very fact that as far as I know she didn't send the letter is a positive thing, isn't it? She is in peace now and strangely I feel less emotional...

So let's end up reminding everybody to throw away your hate mail. Or burn it. That's not how you want to be remembered.

23 comments:

  1. time to move and come home
    JS & DD

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    1. I think that I know you from somewhere, Anonymous...

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  2. I am really sorry you are having such an unpleasant and confusing time. Family rows are just awful. I suppose there is aLao a sort of conflict in your mind right now between loyalty to your grandmother and your mother. Such things do pass away and you dif the right thing to throw the note away.

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    1. Thanks, Jenny Woolf. What is done is done anyway... Unfortunately, there was more than a conflict (you could talk of a war, actually) between my grandmother and my mum and I have always tried to avoid (sometimes with limited results) to stay away from it.
      All of this doesn't matter any more now.

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    1. Thanks for our kind thoughts. It was never going to be easy anyway!

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  4. How very difficult, to find a note like that at this time but I really appreciate your attitude and I like to think I would have done the same to throw it away.
    Thinking of you.
    xoxo

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    1. Thanks Stacey. There wasn't much else to do, I believe. The thought that crossed my mind when I was tearing the thing apart was that it didn't matter any more.

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  5. I imagine how hard it could be to discover something like this, but as you say past is past, there is nothing to be gained looking at the old papers, trying to make sense of things that we can't explain. You did good by throwing it.
    Keeping you in my thoughts.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. The hate between my grandmother and my mum is not something anyone can make sense of. That being said, it is all in the past and there is nothing to gain to try to understand it now.

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  6. Excellent words Muriel. We should remember that one day someone will have to go through our things - how awful to find an old hate letter! I sense no animosity from you though, only love and practicality (which is love in action.) Like actors in a scene, life continues to change. One generation is gone and another grows. Thanks to choices you made the mold has been broken and your children experience healthy relationships. Love and strength to you at this difficult time.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words and support Elizabeth! I think that moving to London was a life saver! Can you imagine being caught in so much hate in France? I hope that you are right, and that I have managed to break the hold, as you say. I am working hard on it but only time will tell.

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  7. I am so sorry for your loss. Maybe your grandmother is someone like me who needs an outlet for when they are angry. I always write nasty little letters to people who have hurt me and then I tear it from the notebook and rip it up. It feels good to get it off your chest so you can move one. It was wise to throw it away and move on from it. You don't want to remember your grandmother that way. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts. Take care.

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    1. Thank you for your kind thoughts Jennifer. The funny thing is that my grandmother was very religious. But now I wonder whether she had moved on. It really doesn't matter any more...

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  8. Emotions are usually transitory (except, unfortunately, grief over a loved one's passing). Let's hope your grandma felt a whole lot better after expressing herself on paper, and then moved on. Grandchildren sometimes are born into the role of being the buffer or the last, uncut thread between their parents and grandparents. Such was the case in my family.

    There is a letter I wrote some 20 years ago to my children's birth mother. I have it still, and should they find it after I am gone it will only affirm what they came to know on their own: she was a shadow cast over our lives. Thankfully I worded it mindful that they might indeed read it some year.

    My deepest condolences on your loss, Muriel.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Scrollwork. You hit a nerve. I am also a buffer between my parents and my grandparents. That's just the way it is, mainly because of the divorce of my parents. Not always nice but hey, what can I do?

      As for the birth mother of your children, I believe that at some point we have to call a spade a spade. As long as your letter is not full of hate and insults (unlike my grandmother's), I think that you did the right thing.

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  9. Hi Muriel.
    You brought up lots of things here. Is your mother alive? Did she mention the bad vibes or did you feel them while growing up? I remember my mother (Danish) and her mother-in-law (French/Austrian) not getting along. It's probably more common than the great relationships that we're all hoping for. It sounds like you were close to your Grandma.

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    1. Hi Sonia! Yes, my mother is alive. But my parents divorced and my grandmother always resented her for it. In her generation, divorce wasn't an option (at all...).
      I was close to my Grandma but have always found her a bit distant and, shall I say, a bit self centred. But nobody is perfect and I have to admit that I was quite shaken. Hopefully things will settle now.

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  10. Sorry you are having a touch time Muriel and to have to come across the letter at such a time must be very saddening. My condolences to you

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    1. Thanks a lot for your support. When I was listening to the news this morning, they were talking of 5 soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan. They were less than 21. What an awful tragedy! My grandmother was 91 - she had had her life. Obviously it is never easy to lose a loved one, but I take comfort in the fact that she had a very full life!

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  11. Thanks a lot to everybody for your kind words and thoughts! It felt good to know that you understood what I was going through. Thanks for being so kind.

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  12. I feel for your loss Muriel, and I am sorry you had to stumble upon that letter. You didn't need that, but do take comfort in the fact that she didn't send it. Families. It is never easy.

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    1. It is never easy. 91 is a beautiful age. I have a lot to be thankful for, letter or no letter.

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