Monday, November 16, 2009

the matriarchy

She's always been a tiny woman. At 98, she seems even tinier, with her shoulders hunched, and her hands idle in her lap.

Those hands raised eight children, and shepherded seven of them across the Atlantic Ocean when the youngest was a baby and the oldest was eight years old. They milked cows and helped with the haying. Those hands could sew the straightest, most beautiful seams - wedding dresses, prom dresses, alterations for customers, dolls with embroidered faces.

She doesn't forget much. She is as aware as a person with dementia can be - sometimes she forgets names or faces, and she's a great one for making things up. In her reality, there is a polluted underwater river, full of chemicals from my sister-in-law's hair salon, running under the house. Well, go big or go home....but for 98, her powers of recall are still amazing, even when interspersed with the fantastic.

She raised her head and looked at me with her bright blue eyes. We were having tea in a nearby restaurant, having momentarily escaped the nursing home. I had already been thoroughly chastised for having been away for so long...but she wasn't finished.

"I am afraid to ask you this..." she says, but do you still have a husband?"

No, I tell her. But I'm okay.

She shakes her head. "Well, people have to do what's best for them I suppose."

I turned my head and muttered to my mother "It's a good thing she doesn't know the whole story." My grandmother is quite deaf...

"Oh, she knows," my mother said.

My eyes widen. "Really?"

My grandmother had been out visiting one of the aunts - and managed, in spite of her apparent deafness, to overhear a conversation that centered around my facebook status on National Coming Out Day. There were a lot of family members in the house at the time, all talking about me. I love being the center of attention, really I do, but I love it better when people talk to me instead of talking about me.

"Well," Oma says "Everyone has something. It's not what I would like, but people have to live their lives and be happy."

First of all - this is the first time that my mother has mentioned anything about my coming out - ever! And we were in public! And she wasn't even in a hurry to change the subject....

Second of all - if I'm out to my 98 year old grandmother, I really am out.

15 comments:

Ang said...

Awesome....:)

Making Space said...

OMG what a legacy your Oma is leaving you. I'm laughing and crying for joy. What an amazing person.

aneke said...

Awesome. My grandmother would have a heart attack and then rally the family forces to pray for my soul for the rest of her natural life..

eileen pennington said...

very nice!

Solo Homo said...

What a cool G'maw! Sounds like there will be some interesting conversations around your Mother's kitchen table in the future...
I must tell you, Cam, I continue to enjoy your writing even more than when you began. Great talent! Thanks for sharing that with us. :)

jelly said...

thanks for sharing this...how sweet, i totally enjoyed it.

greg said...

I was having an awful morning (seriously, it's barely 9:30am right now and already it's been out of control) and this gave me such a smile. Thanks for sharing this, I live for the good stuff.

Avril Fleur said...

Oh, to be a fly on the wall for THAT conversation! lol!

Camlin said...

Avril - you know it would have been a good one. About two months ago, one of my uncles was trying to convince the family at large that not liking gays was not the same as being homophobic...my sister argued him down and then my aunt told him to shut up (she is on my facebook, and my facebook really is an open book)...

greg - you made my day too!

jelly - it was sweet in a frightening way. My grandmother is as formidable as she is tiny.

Solo - thank you. I feel like my writing has not been at its best lately....

Aneke - my grandmother is more the subtly obvious type - I remember her on the phone to one of my uncles who lives far away `Well, you could always wait to visit until I`m dead and then you can come to my funeral.``

MS - she is an amazing person. Still.

Ang and Eileen - thank you!

Dragon said...

YAY!! That is great! I am happy for you!

kimber p said...

this is a beautiful post Camlin, thank you so much for sharing this with us :)

Laura Lee said...

I love that - 'go big or go home.'

you said it. and you did it!

Maria said...

so, how does it feel?

Mrsblogalot said...

How damn awesome is that Oma?

reeflightning said...

wonderful story! thank you camlin for sharing your precious life moments.