Handful of candy, 20 euros and a new alarm clock: Maarten visited his grandmother again.
I haven’t seen her in months. You know how it goes: I’d really love to but you know, things to see, people to do… Always, always busy, and forgetful when I’m not.
It’s kind of a shame, because she might be the best grandmother in the world. The first memory that I have of her was when she would come visit us now and then, and bring candy, up to the point where my sister and I went “Did you bring any candy??” weeks before we even bothered to say hello –Much to my mother’s dismay. She would also make that funny voice when we visited her every Wednesday and peeked through the mailbox after ringing the front door, basically brightening our day just by doing so.
We always swore that we would continue to visit her when we didn’t have to. But, then I went to boarding school and things changed. I could make up a million excuses but truth is, I rather sit by myself than bridge the generation gap between us. It takes a day like today, when my sister (who does visit her) calls me asking to fix the bathroom light, before I go out of my way to hop on a bus.
She is the only grandparent that I know. On my father’s side, his father died when he was young and his mother when I was just old enough to remember him crying at the funeral. On the other, cut off by the passing of my own mother, there is a man I have never met and who doesn’t seem to care, and my grandmother. Through the years it seems like she was set in stone; always there with candy. She grew older as we did (she’ll be 80 this year) but I never really noticed.
Never, until today. She still looked her chipper self and showed herself witty as ever, but as I sat down at the table and poured me a drink, she asked if I wanted a coke. I looked up, expecting her to realize.
For those who don’t know me: I don’t drink coke. I don’t drink anything carbonated, because it hurts my throat. It has been like this for as long as I can remember, and I never ever drink anything with gas in it.
She didn’t react as I stared. “Um, I don’t drink coke?” I started carefully. No response. “It hurts my throat.”
– “Ah well,” she said, “To each his own. It’s coke light, though.”
I don’t think she could have said anything that would kill my mood more effectively. Not because she had to ask- fuck knows how often I’ve had to explain, but because she couldn’t remember. That and her struggling to get out of her tiny car, are the only signs I have ever seen that she’s steadily growing older, and won’t live forever.
Imagine the sight: A grandmother with arthrosis and a grandson with a mohawk in a kitchen. He eating her stew and terribly sour berry concoction, while she’s picking out the seeds from her bread, for her fragile teeth. Under buzzing tube light, talking about everything and nothing. Still, I feel a connection with her that I couldn’t quite place before, but I think I now realize. I think she just loves me. How weird is that? Unconditional love. At certain times I don’t think I could have been further away from a decent grandson, but it’s as if that never happened.
She wasn’t telling me about her day as she talked; she was talking about how those of our family members went. I knew then, that she lives vicariously through them, and lives for them. For her children, and if possible even more so, for her grandchildren. And thus, for me.
I couldn’t imagine before how odd it would be, to come to realize that someone lives to see you happy. It comes both with a warm sense of blessing, and a painful guilt. Because I don’t live to see her happy, and because at times, I failed to be.