Grandma is sitting on the edge of my bed. It's 9PM, time for her nitro patch. It helps her sleep through the night. I don't think she'd mind me telling you that she's 88 and has had a double bypass but God has still not seen fit for her to 'kick da bucket' so she's going to keep talking to Him so he doesn't forget her, in case she's in the bathroom or something when He's looking to take her home. I tell her there's no chance of that, since she's closer to Heaven than any of us, but she says, she has to make sure so she's still gonna keep talking, morning, noon and night.
She sings too. As she gets older, she forgets herself and half speaks and sings in Polish and English and when I can't figure it out, I say, ENGLISH, ENGLISH but I try really hard to not disturb her because until tonight she didn't know that I was listening. I had to come clean that I was eavesdropping but not exactly because you could hear her through a thunderstorm, to be fair but I thought she should know. At the same time I debated because although I had no faith in God, I did have faith in HER faith and liked to listen to her and would even awaken early and sneak closer to listen.
I had lost my faith in all things good, not just spiritual. I lost my compass through a series of deaths, illness and a really painful end to a marriage, and also a sweet and meaningful friendship I thought would last for life. I lost my home and then got sick again and although since childhood, I knew better than to ever ask if it could get worse, it did anyway.
I was asked to return to my faith, and I angrily refused. Unlike Job, I did curse God. I lost more than he did, and was lost, I said to God, 'Fuck you, kill me or I will live to spite you.' I guess He chose the latter because I'm still here.
People are shocked that I say that but why? He's God; He can handle it. I laid in bed for days and I stopped eating. I developed an ulcer and I screamed at God. I was still talking to Him, you see, my belief in His existence was still intact, but His love was another story so I told Him what I basically felt about the last few people who hurt me. I don't trust you. I never will again. You're a liar. You're a fraud. You deserted me when I needed you most and I held my breath expecting lightening to hit me. Nothing. He didn't even care even to rain fire and brimstone on me. I truly was pitiful.
My doctor and therapist were trying to figure out the mind-body connection with my energy levels and chronic pain and my condition with the lumps had returned. I'd conveniently not told them I'd stopped eating, but reasoned that I was taking gummi vitamins so it wasn't technically a lie. I was only fooling myself. I lay on the couch for weeks. My eyes were dry. I wasn't even drinking enough water to make tears. I said screw you to that too.
Job had a few friends who stuck around after he lost everything but his miserable wife who told him to curse God and die, (I one-upped him on that, I didn't even have a husband anymore) but those friends didn't hesitate to tell him where he went wrong. Thing was, God Himself said Job was righteous. Now, there are some preachers who try to find some kind of loophole that he wasn't, but that's baloney. Of the 66 books of the bible, I know this one by heart, and Job was the good guy who was being shish-kebob'd in a game between God and the devil. God's personality here, I have to note, is a lot more in keeping with the Northern gods--Loki or Odin, I'm thinking and that just didn't flush with me, I didn't care who He was. What kind of loving god...blah blah blah.....never mind religion or faith--God was on my shit-list.
My gran is nearly stone deaf now so when she sings and prays, I can hear it from anywhere in the house, even outside. I hear her crying too and it breaks my heart. She has lost so much too. Who emerges unscathed from burying both her daughters, two grandchildren and a husband of over 40 years? No wonder she felt left behind. We both did, we both lost the same people, in fact and I think of this as we do this little crooked dance of trying to fit into each other's lives with love and as little damage as possible so because her fingers are so gnarled from arthritis, I offer to put on her patch and she slowly makes her way through the house to me, because she says she likes how it feels in this room and how the cats all sit around us in here.
My father grouses and grumbles that he doesn't see why HE can't put her patch on for her but she reminds him that he gives her her insulin shot, so be quiet and besides, his fingers are too chubby and I think she isn't keen on flashing him since it goes directly above her breast, but it's also because she wants to talk with me in the light and sweet smelling room, as opposed to the dark paneled pipe-smokey room.
We have a ritual. If I haven't put my laptop down, she asks me who I'm talking to. She asks me about 'that jackass in Germany' and I've stopped trying to explain she's got the wrong country but I tell her to let it go, let it go, just...please...let it go and I look down and take the packet out of her hand and rip it and pull the covering off and press it against her skin, smoothing it out so there's no bubbles because she hates bubbles. I give the packet back to her because she keeps it on her nightstand as a reminder to take the patch off in the morning. If I stay out for the night, she forgets the patch, and forgets to take off the old one, but never forgets to tell Wonton I'll be home soon and not to worry. Neither will sleep if I say I will be home that night. If I don't, she tells me Wonton lets her baby her to a degree but in all her life has never seen an animal more devoted to someone than she is to me.
She makes a little appetizing hot snack for Wonton and puts it on a china saucer and Wonton never eats it, she says, but looks out the window for me or lays by the door, waiting, but she thinks Wonton likes the ceremony of her making her something to eat. I know she does. She also says Wonton is just.like.me. and I tell her that regardless of whether it's intended as an insult (as my ex would) or as a compliment, I'm taking that as a compliment. It's a peculiar little dance between us but I have so few dance partners now, and her years left are uncertain, so we need each other. I think this isn't accidental which is also a part of faith.
I told her, as I handed her the packet that I had heard her singing and praying. She was taken aback. 'From where?', she asked, 'This far from here in this bedroom?' I said, 'Yes. Grandma, you may be hard of hearing, but God isn't and neither am I.' I said, 'I hear you say that you look at the pictures on the walls and tell Him how much you miss everyone. That you see my wedding picture and you ask Him to never let my ex hurt another woman again, please, and to take good care of that stupid jackass in Germany because he must be crazy and you cry,' and I start to sob that this 88 year old woman who has had a life of great hardship, and cries for a granddaughter who too has a eerily parallel life, still thinks to pray for someone she's only heard about and probably never gave her another thought save one conversation through me on IM two years ago on Thanksgiving. I once told him that those who love me would love him because I love him which he doubted, but here was 88 year old living proof.
She tells God not to let her die until she dances at my wedding and I stop to say, 'But you did dance at my wedding,' and her eyes twinkle and she says, 'I did not dance at your wedding but I won't die until I do. I will dance with your husband when you marry again,' and I don't know whether to curse God or bless Him but I know not to mess with this little woman with gnarled hands who used to make me applesauce and butter sandwiches and crochet hats and mittens for me and made my Communion dress, and she says, 'I know I talk to God too much but I figure He has to answer me sometime just to shut me up, right?'
My legs are bare as she sits close to me and brush my hands across the bumps and scars that disfigure me and I tell her, 'I don't know who will love this scarred body, now,' and the tears fall down my face and she brushes them off and says, 'Elaine, God keeps your tears in a bottle. He knows their number and He knows what hurts you and who hurt you. He hasn't forgotten you. Someone will love you, all of you and not care about your bumps and scars. They won't matter to him. No one will reject you anymore. He will love you because you are beautiful inside and outside.
I am a humble woman with a third grade education. In Poland I was rounded up like an animal by the nazis and their slave on a German farm for three years and am lucky to be alive but I am and I am not stupid. Don't give up on love and don't give up on God. God took care of me in Germany and the farmer and his family loved me like their own. Their son was going to marry me when he came back but he never came back from the front line in Russia and I met your grandfather at a Sunday beer garden and that's the funny way life turns out.'
Then she began to tell me the bible story about Jesus assuring his disciples that he would come back for them and if it were not so, He would have told them, so she was demonstrating that He cares about our feelings and fears too and began, 'When Jesus was in at the Last Supper with the Twelve Opossums...'....I giggled through my tears.....she said, What? I said..nothing, sorry, nothing...She said, no tell me...I said, you said 'possums...like the animals outside...She threw her head back and laughed. 'Imagine', she said, 'a painting of Jesus with all those 'possums' and we both laughed.
She apologized and said she was sorry her English wasn't so good still after all these years and I said, 'Oh grandma, it's because of your English and your accent that I love accents. Probably one of the reasons why I loved that jackass from Germany so please don't say you're sorry. I get it. I really do. And I like to hear you pray and sing. You're a little Polish canary and I don't want to think about the day that I won't hear you sing anymore so don't shut the door, okay?'
She got up and nodded in that resolute way she has when something is finalized. 'Okay, but only if you don't give up either, okay?'