It was when my daughter was in her most rebellious stage that I called you beyond tears, beyond rage, exhausted and hopeless. I apologized on behalf of myself and my siblings.
“For what, honey?” you asked.
“For all the crap we ever put you through–all four of us. Every stupid, selfish thing we ever did.”
You chuckled and told me there was no need to apologize. You said as you had said before, that you had always wanted to be a mother and you and Dad knew there were certain things that went with being parents.
I listened, shaking my head the whole time, and restated my feelings. “I know, Mom, but still…I’m sorry.”
You thanked me and assured me that the tough times would get better.
Of course, they did. Of course, none of the crap my child put me through changed how deeply I love her. In the years that have followed, she has matured into a woman of strength and compassion who mirrors her grandmother much more so than does her impatient and cynical mother. Apparently, certain genes really do skip a generation. It helps that my daughter spent a good deal of time in her formative years in the bright beam of her grandmother’s heart. She was exceptionally fortunate in that regard.
I don’t know why I didn’t benefit to the same degree that she did from your guidance except for the plain fact that you were, by necessity, tugged between four children and a spouse and all the stresses of modern life in mostly foreign lands. I did benefit nonetheless, such that when my child was born, nothing mattered more to me than protecting her. As she grew, I tried to follow your example where I could.
You left us on Thursday the 29th of January of this year. On Friday morning, I slept in as I often do. I dreamed one of my typically vivid dreams. In it, I drove the old ’78 Buick through flooding rains, narrowly missing several wrong-way drivers until I finally came to a safe stop at your house. I walked in to find you sitting up in bed, looking twenty years younger, healthier. You were singing to a young child who was both my daughter and my granddaughter. You waved your hands joyfully to the tempo of the girl-empowering Disney-esque song. You turned and grinned at me as I greeted you.
I awoke and felt held and loved and at peace.
So many times in my life you comforted me when I was in pain. When I was small and awkward and bullied. When I was struggling through my first marriage. When the Girl was in her I-know-everything-you-silly-parents stage. No small wonder you were there to comfort me Friday morning after you had to say goodbye.