The Only Way To Do It

I have a grandmother (the grandkids call her baba) who turned in her gray hair for a red-brown dye job.  Instead of sweet loving words, she cusses a lot and has an inordinate amount of energy. Her tiny frame carries enough energy to match two 5 year-olds jacked up on mountain dew and Pixy Sticks. 

A friend of mine has a photo of Amelia Earhart with the quote, 

“The only way to do it, is to do it.”   

That’s my grandmother’s anthem. 

So when she decided to move, she did it. Like the seaweed clumps tangled in the shallow water along the beach, the dysfunction in our family floated to the surface. As my grandmother leaned in and out of reality, the rest of the family struggled to engage in real relationship.  Unwilling to give up her independence or matriarch status, my grandmother dug her heals deeper into the slipping sand beneath her feet. 

Seven of us (‘us’ being my family) came to Florida to help her move so I’ve been here for a few days now.  Long enough to have some good stories but short enough to still appreciate her.  Earlier tonight I grabbed my phone and let her know I’d be walking to the end of her street (about a half mile).  She asked if I wanted to take a whistle.  I didn’t want a whistle—she lives in the geriatric version of the Truman Show.  No whistle needed.  What I did needed was some fresh air and a listen lady.  So I called my mom and exploded with all of the stories from the past days.

During my short walk, my grandmother called twice to see where I was.  Concerned she declared if I didn’t answer my phone she was going to call the police.  I told her I was at the end of the street and on my way back.  Five minutes passed and I received another phone call.  Exasperated she exclaimed: Where are you?! Why didn’t you take my whistle?!  

Still trying to redeem the original intent of my walk, I called my mom back.  I told her that I feel sort of numb.  And she said that’s how you have to survive there.

And there is truth to that. Some relationships require protection and numbing.  But what if you’ve become so good at numbing that you are afraid to do the feeling part?

Most times my grandmother is her jovial-loving-life self and other times she shows despair or anger or confusion for irrational reasons.  And I don’t always know what version of my grandmother I’ll be talking to.  Which makes this more complex because my heart has grown up knowing her as safe and thoughtful.  And every time she does something a little strange—a little uncharacteristic—I have to fight against a tiny brick being put up around my heart to protect me from her. I love her and I choose patience most of the time.  I don’t want a brick wall around my heart to keep me from her. What I want is this change to not happen right now.  What I want is things to go back to the ‘normal’ that I was used to.  But that’s not reality either. 
This week I learned that navigating clumps of dysfunction and change takes time—and love. The only way to do it, is to do it... one damn (that word’s for you, baba) step at a time.  


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