There is a dried yellow rose on my dashboard. It is from my grandmother’s casket. On the drive home, it perfumed my car, while the sun dried it to perfection. I need to get a box to keep it in, because it’s time to put it away.
Time to let go.
I did not have the best relationship with my grandmother. She could say things, unthinking or not, that cut to the bone. And did, often. At least to me, and to my mother. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that we were not the only victims of her sharp tongue. On multiple occasions in his life, I heard my grandfather tell her to shut up — necessarily so.
Yet so many people have good memories of her. She was kind to them. Generous with her time and her money. And, honestly, she was kind to me. She never doted on me the way my kids’ grandparents dote on them, no. But she never missed my birthday, or Christmas. Her efforts to give me gifts as a child were often misguided, but she did try. She also gave my children generous gifts. One of her last acts was to send my mother a birthday card.
I want to hang on to the good things she did. Holding a grudge against her for the things she said to me makes my stomach hurt. I do not want my last memories of her to be bad ones. So I have deleted the last email she sent. Soon, I will put away the last card she sent, and this beautiful flower that does nothing but remind me of seeing her body in that coffin.
I did not respond to either the email or the card. For that, I am sorry. She was so lonely. But I could not for the life of me come up with a nice way to respond to the harsh messages they contained. So I put it off. Too long.
I did not want to respond in kind. Because I suspect we were more alike than she ever dreamed. I see a resemblance in her personality, my father’s, and mine. A tendency to say things that aren’t intended to be hurtful, but sometimes come out that way. A blunt, duty-oriented approach to life. A preoccupation with things being fair that leads to incessant comparison (I have since abandoned the concept of fair, but I used to share this obsession, so I get it). We may not have been peas in a pod, but we were certainly cut from the same bolt of cloth.
I know that my words and actions are sometimes misconstrued to be hurtful when I intended nothing of the sort. I know my father loves me and wants what is best for me, even if that doesn’t always come across in his words and actions. Is it so far-fetched that my grandmother may have felt the same?
It’s what I choose to believe, anyway. I like us both better this way.
So I am letting go. Of the hurt. Of the resentment. Of the guilt. Of the might-have-beens. Of her.
Goodbye, Gran. I love you. Rest in peace.