by Warrior Poet
Biographic Essay (letter)
|Dear Grandma, 29-Mar-10
I love you. I could stop there, and I hope you know the rest. I am sitting at work in Afghanistan. I know, I don’t write you enough. I can hear you now, “you can’t be so busy not to be able to write to me.” I can also hear you ask me to send you something from here. Personally grandma, it is just another country to me. They have lost the luster I used to see in foreign places when I was young. I have tried to focus on work this morning, but for some reason, I can’t squash the urge to write. If I don’t write this, I probably won’t get anything done today and won’t be able to sleep tonight. I am writing you this for my own peace. I can’t really speak for you, but peace isn’t something I have had much of for very long in my life, so I figure you need this letter. I hope this letter finds you in the best of health and happiness.
I miss you. I hope that doesn’t surprise you. People have always thought too highly of me. You have been gone for such a long time now, but for the life of me, I can’t remember when you left us. I have so many memories of you flooding my mind today. Good and bad, but mostly good. I remember you always trying to spoil me. You and granddad were never rich, but you always tried to give me what I would never have gotten from anyone else. I remember a certain Christmas gift. For a change, it wasn’t socks and underwear. It was a portable radio and cassette player, a Walkman. It was a great gift, grandma. That had to be 1988 or 1989. It was the year the Jay Hawks beat Oklahoma State for the College National Basketball Championship. I know you will keep my secret. You always would. I would stay up late after I was supposed to be asleep listening to the only radio station I could really get out in the country. It was a golden oldies station out of Larned. I know it was about that time because that night I listened to the Jay Hawks play and win. I kind of blame you for being such a Kansas fan.
I remember your strength…and outright stubbornness. You were one of the few people who would at least attempt to put Carl in his place. He is a sorry excuse for a man and has lived longer than he should have. I think you must have been half crazy. Growing up, he was always such a large man. Don’t take this wrong, but you were tiny. I didn’t realize how tiny until I became a large man myself. I would give you a hug and just feel how frail you were, especially at the end. I also remember you being the oak your children would always try to get under. You kids’ lives were a mess. They would get into bind after bind. You were always there. Even for the grandkids that seem to take after their parents. That is something I don’t understand grandma. I doubt I ever will. They abused you so much. Some of them put bruises on you. Some stole what money you had. I don’t know why, you always gave them more than they deserve. You would rant and rave about it, but you would do it every time they came asking. I never took anything from you, never abused you, yet you always gave me such a hard time. A grandkid would bruise you or steal you blind, and you would heckle me for not sending letters often enough.
I guess you had many qualities. You were also demanding. I think that derived from your stubborn streak. I am ashamed to admit the next part. You used to irritate me. You were constantly demanding I write you letters and send you pictures. Writing letters was your hobby. You only had one hobby and way too much time to practice that hobby. Don’t get me wrong. I always enjoyed getting your letters, especially when I was overseas. Unfortunately, I never had the motivation or time to keep up with your pace. I don’t know what you did with all the photos I did send you. Yet, you would constantly ask for more. I figure they got stashed away, lost, or stolen from you like so much of your stuff. You were an incredible pack rat. I could track the progress of your failing eyesight based on your letters. There were some letters towards the end I couldn’t even read.
I am ashamed of a great many things in my life. One of them is that you never really knew my children. What shames me even more is that they don’t know you. I hope you can understand and forgive me. I don’t want my children to know what I came from. I don’t want them to feel as I do that deep down inside they are white trash. There are things their father has seen that even you don’t know. I don’t understand how I can love you, yet avoid going home like the plague. I don’t understand it, but I did it for years. I am sorry.
At one point, I offered to have you come live with me. I wish you would have accepted. It would not have been easy. By that time, I firmly believe you were showing signs of dementia and had serious health issues. I can see the smiles on your face put there by your great-grandkids. I wish you would have accepted. It would have been a small atonement for me. In some small way, I could have made amends for abandoning my family. Yet once again, you were stubborn and refused.
I don’t know if we parted on very good terms on our last visit. I received a phone call from Tracy. She is the worst of your daughters by the way. Based on that phone call, I drove to Louisiana, picked up Amanda and Maurice, and drove to Kansas to see you. It was a good drive. Amanda and Maurice are good people. You would be proud of them. We got to Hutchinson late that night, and went to visit you the next day. It was a hard day. In my eyes, you were even smaller than I remember. At least that day you were able to ask for ice and ice cream. You couldn’t hear, and I know you couldn’t see. I pray now that you know I was there. It would hurt more than words knowing you thought I didn’t see you off. It was hard seeing my mother hurting. I remember feeling an intense anger when I learned the doctors were not doing anything for you. Then my logic kicked in. I tried to keep my light switch turned off that day. I did fairly well.
I failed utterly to keep the light switch off the following day. I sat by your bed, held your hand, put my face next to yours, and prayed for you…prayed the Lord take you. I prayed that you would die. I am sure I would not have made any friends had the family known what I was praying for. I hope you won’t hold that against me. I prayed and cried and asked others to pray for the same. You were so far off. You just hadn’t crossed yet. I felt that at any minute you would draw your last breath, but you were too stubborn to let go. It pained me to see you like that. I’m sure my pain can’t compare to the pain you must have been in.
I stayed by your side as much as I could. I wanted to be there, wanted to hold your hand as you left us. I finally had to leave in order to get back to Fort Jackson and work. You were still being an old mule. Two hours or so after we started driving back home, the Lord took you. It didn’t hurt to hear that you had gone. I was relieved that you were finally at peace. I just wish I would have been holding your hand when you took your last breath.
I am sure you can see how we are all doing. My family is normal. Your great-grandkids are growing like weeds. McKayla is so smart. She is so tender. Vincent is just like me. I hope he grows out of that. The weather here was cold when I got here in February, but it has been really beautiful spring like weather. It rained earlier today. Well, I really need to get to work. I miss you. I hope to see you…but not for many years. I know you won’t mind. Tell Grandpa I said hello, and I miss him also. Take care and have fun.
P.S. Written on a rainy day, in more ways than one.
Mary Corine (Elliot) Carrier
November 19, 1928-2008