Sunday, February 24, 2013

The crux

My grandmother passed away, finally*, at age 94 back in October. She died in her sleep. More importantly, she died dreaming of my grandfather (or rather in a haze of dementia) and repeatedly mentioned that he had asked her to marry him.

"What should I say?" she asked my father.

"For godssake, say yes, otherwise I won't exist," said my father. She laughed as though she got the joke, and she may have, because she was a sharp lady.

I love to think of her suspended in that giddy moment of young love, the moment just before her life settled into its track and took off barreling toward pregnancies and houses and addictions and celebrations. I see it as a conductor raising her arm for the downbeat, the gesture before the music, the instruction to draw bows and breath.

Yet, when my grandmother died, I had a sudden and explosive thought; I had been waiting for her to die before allowing myself to consider suicide. It was a simple rule, and it worked for years. While she was alive I could spare her needless pain and confusion. How would this woman, who only knew the kindest, most patient side of me, ever reconcile that image with the desperation of my truer self? Why force sobs from her? I assumed, too, that my father would very likely lie to her, and how could I make him do that. How cruel would I have to be to force him to make that decision?

And so she fell asleep, and so she never woke, and when that word popped into my head I had nothing handy to bat it away.


At first, the thought itself was so upsetting that the anxiety swept me into fits. Every moment of solitude or quiet brought on hyperventilation and tears.

Then I started really thinking about it; how I had drawn away from friends and I could recede even more, how I could sell my things, throw away papers. We already had a temp at work, which just proved (in my mind) that everyone is replaceable. I had already stopped enjoying the usual pastimes; reading, writing, singing, hanging out with friends, even eating. The world had become two dimensional, blank cardboard cut-outs of the actions of living. And so it was time.

Of course, I'm an asshole, and this is why.

My father hinted to it on the phone but I didn't believe him at the time. He was drunk. But then again, he had just lost his mother. I cut him a little slack, at least. He mumbled something about Grandma's will, and I decided to dismiss it. Then my mother mentioned something and credibility came into the picture. And then I went home to see my aching family and touch them to make sure they were solid and okay.

Mom and Dad were puttering downstairs, clearly waiting for me to get ready. I came downstairs to the two of them on either side of the kitchen counter, suddenly hushing themselves. My father had something in his hand, barely hidden.

"Johanna Mary... your grandmother loved you very much." He then went on to describe the many ways I was good to her; sending cards and letters, insisting on seeing her on my trips home, making sure my brothers remembered her at Christmas time and her birthday. And then he talked about his mother meeting his father, how dear they were to each other.

And then he showed me the ring, and told me Grandma wanted me to have it. She only mentioned four people in her will, and I was the only grandchild. She left her wedding band to Aunt Depresso, her pearls to Aunt Klondike (I think), and her engagement ring, a cushion-cut diamond flanked by the tiniest chips of diamond in an art deco setting, to me.

I cried. A lot. My parents hugged me. They couldn't know that every part of me wanted to reject the gift. If I had really been a good granddaughter, I felt, I would have called. I would have sent the card I bought for her last week and she would have loved it. I would have gotten my license and seen her on my own, and often. But then again, here was proof that she knew I loved her.

Four months later, my brother said the thing I needed to hear, and maybe couldn't absorb until this moment.

"Grandma didn't want you to be buried with that ring."

He also soliloquized about how special I am and how important I am and blah blah blah - nothing I could believe besides that one thing. I was given a ring in hope that I would have a piece of her, know she loved me, maybe someday find my own love. She could never have thought that I would kill myself mere months afterward and scramble to think of someone more worthy of the ring. She was clear in her gesture: I am worthy. Whether or not I believe it, I am worthy of her love and love from any direction.

I still don't believe it, but I do accept that she believed it. In her honor, I live.

*"Finally" sounds harsh, however, Grandma was fed up with birthdays and suffering daily shame from merely existing in a facility where she did not leave her room or cultivate friendships. Some of that is her own fault. I also find myself saying "finally" to continue convincing myself that death is quite final. It's a one-way street. Unless you're Wesley from The Princess Bride and you wind up "mostly dead," but I digress.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What do you do with a broken JoBiv, what do you do with a broken JoBiv

What do you do with a broken JoBiv ear-lye in the mornin'...

To be honest, I don't care to hear your answers. I don't want to think or grow or challenge anything at the moment. I want to shrivel up and blow away. Alas, that only happens in Indiana Jones movies.

Let's talk about ol' Indy, then. Here I am at a facility where the VCR still works and there are such choices as Karate Kid I and II alongside White Chicks and Somersby. We chose Indiana Jones, which brought up the line (internally) from The Last Crusade, "You have chosen... wisely."

Of course I forget how unspecial the effects can be, how over-orchestrated the score can be, how completely bizarre the plot can be. For whatever reason, the lead actress wound up dressed in long silky white gowns - the better to be torn and frayed and reveal more skin? Clearly the production team looked at the story boards, loved the look of the shroud on the woman's body, and thought, "Hmm... but how can we get her in a gown? Officer's ball in Cairo? ... That's ridiculous. She's a... seamstress! And carries samples with her everywhere! ... No... How about we get a pervy Frenchman to dress her up like a doll in a random drinking scene! Yeah, that's the ticket!"

And then how much more ridiculous is it that I wound up incorporating this idea in my unavoidable nightmares? I have sets of them, to make it easier on myself. There are Exposure nightmares, Responsibility nightmares, Victim nightmares and Oh My God I Have the Sickest Mind nightmares. And then there are night terrors, but I digress.

So the Exposure nightmare goes like this: They (y'know, Them) ask me to put on the same dress this woman wears in the film. Of course it's a size 4 and I'm a size 40 and there's no spandex (was there spandex in 1981? I'll have to research. Or perhaps they were going for historical accuracy.) At any rate, the dress doesn't go on over my head or up my legs. I can't get in it sideways or backwards or upside down. But they're knocking on my door and asking to come in to complete the "fitting." I also have a large wound on my back that's bleeding and it's staining the dress and I know I will be in trouble on top of being too fat to fit in the dress. And then it rips. Ffrrrreep. Fuck.

Now the costume crew come in and they yell at me, and then I'm sort of stuck in this dress but I have to pee, and no one will let me leave the room, and I start crying and they yell at me some more, and there's no more material to make a new dress and it was spun from Chinese silk from the ancient Wang Chun dynasty or some shit...

In case you were idly wondering whether or not I'm able to see the humor in these dreams, the answer is... not while I'm dreaming them. I feel the red hot shame and misery and fear, and any comic elements elude me until at least the next day, sometimes two days later.

Did you know there's a med for nightmares? Or I should say there's a med for high blood pressure that has an off-label use as a nightmare cure. I'm on it now and it mostly works - that is, I've had fewer flashbacks and night terrors. But I still have these Exposure dreams and Responsibility dreams (where I'm juggling nine babies with brittle bone syndrome and the oven is on but empty and my grandmother is slowly but steadily rolling away in her wheelchair toward a massive cliff). Of course, this miracle drug makes me dizzy and - go fig - messes with my blood pressure, but I like to think these are just the adorable quirks of a new friend I'm gettin' to know. As long as it doesn't chew with its mouth open, I think I can take the quirks.

I suppose, then, we have our answer: What do we do with a broken JoBiv?

Fill her up with drugs that make her dizzy! Fill her up with drugs that make her dizzy... etc.  Or perhaps,

Send her to McLean and watch her closely?

Oh, gosh, these are fun... Verse three: Throw out all her shit and plan her funeral!

All right, that's not funny. Outside of McLean, anyway.

Send her off to sleep and never wake her
Make her eat her food and take her showers
Call her on the phone and make her blubber...

Tell her to go back to work already...

Honestly, I could go on. Laugh at all her jokes as if they're funny!