As I have written before, my family is complicated.
No different, I suppose, than anyone else - old hurts and memories, resentments and things said and unsaid layered like shale.
I'd not spoken to my mother since August of last year. When she called me a pretentious snob. And uninvited me from her house. I, in turn, told her that she wasn't a very good mother. To me, my brother or my sister.
When she called and left a voicemail on our home phone on the 8th saying my grandmother was dying I was, well.....skeptical. My mother has been known to exaggerate things, spin some events to her benefit making her appear MORE - hurt, damaged, sad, or whatever emotion she is going for. I guard myself against her descriptions, holding out for the kernel of truth in whatever story I am hearing.
I emailed my Aunt to assess the accuracy of the description. According to my mother, she and my Aunt were taking turns providing care to my grandmother who was in hospice at my Aunts house in West Virginia.
The idea of my mother AND Aunt living in the same house for any length of time was enough to make my alarm bells go off. The sisters have had a real love hate relationship over the years, sometimes going for YEARS without speaking. If there is one thing you can give my family - we know how to hold a helluva grudge. Last I knew, the relationship tipped towards the "not entirely warm" scale so the news that they were living and caring for my grandmother in tandem was shocking.
But yes. My grandmother had been deteriorating for the past year, her memory fading and her heart beginning to fail. My aunt had taken her into her home after her release from the hospital. My grandfather having broken his leg in the spring, was in their home being cared for by my uncle.
Nonetheless, the email announcing my grandmothers death last Tuesday was shocking.
The implications were even more shocking. I would have to go back to the Ohio Valley. I would have to see my mother. I would have to see my grandmothers body. I would have to see my fragile grandfather, and my aging uncles. I would be in the very places I had successfully avoided for the past 25 years, resisting all invitations for family reunions and the deaths of my other set of grandparents. I would have to drive by the very house in which I was sure my father was living.
My roots were reaching out to strangle me.