I think I loved you.
You were not, in fact, my grandmother. But rather you were someone who took the place of one I never had, and for that I am eternally grateful, To me, you were more than blood; you were someone who I can never replace.
You – with your Scottish tongue and your iron wit – were there when no other was. You taught me how to add and subtract. You taught me how to deal with bullies. You taught me how to make a boy cry and fall to their knees (a Scottish woman’s specialty I hopefully inherited).
You played tag with my sisters and I – never once complaining about your old age. We sang songs in the living room, you teased us about our nonexistent boyfriends, and you told us stories about Scotland.
You were there at all of my birthdays, and at all of my Christmas mornings. You smacked me when I talked back, and hugged me when I cried. You taught me the importance of being truthful, because in the end the truth is the only thing that you have complete control over.
Despite all of this, as time went on, I became bitter. I was angry that you could see me for who I truly was – a shy girl who never stood up for herself. I was tired of the teasing and all the remarks that, in the end, made me a stronger person.
I think I hated you.
I remember quite clearly, refusing to invite you to my elementary school concert because I didn’t want anymore of your teasing remarks. I thought I was annoyed with you, because having your grandmother tease you in front of your few friends wasn’t cool at the time.
For the longest while, I pushed you away. I never visited you, and went into my room whenever you yourself visited. To be quite honest, I cannot even remember a concrete reason why I had done this, only that I didn’t want to see you anymore.
It was in the Summer of 2009, when you started to forget who I was.
At first, we thought it was normal. That it was just your age that was finally starting to catch up with you. But when you started to forget what year it was, and didn’t remember telling a story you told five minutes ago, your biological son put you in a senior’s home.
I was scared.
I didn’t fully understand what the term dementia meant, and I didn’t understand why such a strong woman was falling apart in front of me. Unless you have seen it with your own eyes, you cannot comprehend what it’s like to have one of your loved ones forget who they are slowly and painfully. There was nothing we could do but watch as you deteriorated.
You had two biological granddaughters. You never loved them as you did my sisters and I, which is likely the reason why your son refused to allow us to visit you at the home. We were upset, because we were the ones who loved you and cherished you in your last lucid moments, whereas your son quite literally abandoned you.
In a way, I was grateful that I couldn’t see you in that state. Selfishly, I saved my own memories of you instead of providing you comfort. I never went to visit you once.
A couple of years ago, my family and I heard from a friend that you had passed away. The guilt I had felt in those first few days was immense.
I should have visited you.
I should have never abandoned you.
I should have called you Grandma, not Margaret.
I should have loved you more.
Even now there are moments where I think of you and your ability to make me laugh and cry at the same time. I miss you on my birthday, and I can’t eat roast beef (your specialty) without thinking of you and the dozens of games of dominoes that we would play during lunch – eating roast beef sandwiches. I watch the tape of my elementary school Christmas concert and get angry because I know you weren’t in that audience because of me.
I see commercials for dementia organizations and want to cry because you were alone – alone – due to the fact that I couldn’t handle it. I see an elderly lady doing a satirical burlesque dance on America’s Got Talent and laugh because that would be something that you would do – in a kilt. I will cherish these memories forever, and I miss you.
I know I loved you.