I’m allergic to make-up, but we’ll get back to that.
A couple of months ago my grandmother passed away. It was an extremely difficult time for me, as we had just started getting close. My whole life we have had a strained relationship, over-shadowed by alcoholism and brutal honesty.
Now, I loved my Grandma! A lot! Even when I couldn’t stand her, I loved her. I hate even thinking about the “bad” years. Well today we had her “celebration of life” service (we had to delay it due to some family health problems) and when I tried to think of something to say about her, I broke down crying. In an instant, my mind flooded with all the ugly memories, and none of the good ones. All I could say was “The last few years were much better, Grandma and I had our rough times, but things had gotten better.” I was rambling through sobs. Finally I said I was sorry and there was silence for a good two minutes while people patiently anticipated another burst of mumbled words. Thankfully my brother saved the day and started talking about how he had dealt with many of the same issues, and then talked about some of the wonderful things she had done for him over the years. I was so grateful to him! Also to my precious daughter, who came over to me and hugged me tight. She could see that I needed comforting, but I knew she needed it as well. She had only really known Grandma during the “good years”, she didn’t know her as I did. She’s heard the stories, I’ve made it very clear to my kids that I’m not going to be the parent that hides the past just to make people look better than they really are. At the same time, it has never diminished how she felt about her Great-Grandmother. I have some special kids!
So, now for some back history about my relationship with my Grandma. I want to make it VERY clear (upfront) that I am not “trash talking” her! I’m not airing out dirty laundry here, nor am I trying to hurt anyone by writing this all out. I’m simply putting this all out there because I need to, for my own sanity. Because I don’t want to be fake, and right now I feel like if I don’t explain myself, I’m lying to the world.
DG (abbreviation of her name, not going to use her real name) was an alcoholic. Her husband was an alcoholic as well, but he could control it… she could not. She made it a point to always let everyone know how she felt about everything, and everyone when she was drunk. You couldn’t talk to her after 5 o’clock, because that was cocktail time, and there was just no point. They also smoked… a lot. Which made me sick to my stomach, literally. But it didn’t matter to her. Even when I started developing asthmatic symptoms and I begged her to not smoke around me, her response was (to my father, not me) “She’s going to have to get used to it, people smoke, that’s just the way of the world and she’s got to grow up.” That’s my Grandma, that is how I remember her. I HATE that I remember her that way! I don’t like those memories, I want to remember the DG that had given up drinking and smoking for the past 8 years and had turned into a completely different person because of it. The woman who started asking me (on a regular basis) how I was feeling and how my kids were. But I don’t. I remember the woman who (when we were kids and living with them for a short time) threatened to burn down our house. I remember the woman who told me when I was 13, to my face I was getting fat to “motivate” me to lose weight. I remember hiding from her while she was drunk, and standing outside in the freezing cold so I wouldn’t be around the smoke. It tears me apart! Yesterday felt like an act, a farce, an improvisation of life. I’ve done improv (my background is in theatre), but I was not prepared to act out this part. I promise, I’m going somewhere with this!
Now, was everything I said yesterday a lie? No, not at all. What I mean by all this is that I felt like it was strange to talk about her life as if she had always been this amazing, wonderful person. Everyone there seemed to focus on the last few years of her life, and whenever anyone brought up the earlier years, no one said anything negative. Not that I would expect them to, but it hit me that I do this all the time! I live my life everyday hiding behind a curtain of fake smiles. When people ask how I’m doing, I say “I’m fine” or “I’m here” because it’s easier than the truth. They don’t want to know how I really am, if I actually told them, all I would get is pity… and I just can’t handle that. I’m tired of hearing “I hope you feel better soon”, so I smile and pretend everything is fine. I don’t want to answer questions about my health, I just want to go home and take a nap (always). But that’s not how she lived her life. Even though it was one of the things that made her incredibly hard to live with, she was brutality honest. If she didn’t like something (or someone) she made it very clear. I don’t know how she would have felt about yesterday, she may have wanted me to stand up and say how I really felt. But I wasn’t strong enough.
For years I was told (by close family members) “you look so much better with make-up on, you really should wear more make-up”… only problem is that I’m allergic to it. I have a terrible allergy to all metals, especially the kinds found in make-up. I have tried every kind imaginable! Hypo-allergenic, natural, organic, expensive, cheap, you name it… I’ve tried it! Everything with pigment has metal (titanium dioxide and/or aluminum) and the VERY few that I have found that don’t are horrible and make me break out. So, if you see me wearing make-up, consider yourself lucky. I have found a way to make it myself, but only the eyeliner, mascara, and powder. The homemade eye shadow, blush, and base were flops. I only make myself up for very special occasions, and I felt yesterday was worth putting on a little bit. I should have known as soon as I started putting on the make-up what the day had in store.
I love you Grandma. I might not be able to remember them all, but I know we had some good times. You were a huge part of my life, and you taught me to be honest (and to respect honesty in others). Even though you didn’t mean to give me the gift of sobriety, you did, so thank you. I miss you, truly. I miss your smile, but I know you are much happier now that you’re with Grandpa again. Give him a huge hug and kiss for me. I love you both!