I’ve struggled with writing recently. I tried to chalk it up to the typical writer’s block, but I realized that I started distancing myself from all things writing-related since around June. I haven’t wanted to write. I haven’t wanted to edit the book. I have thought about getting rid of my blog completely. The bits of writing that I keep locally on my phone are second-guessed and trashed. I don’t want people to see what I write.
It was a typical day for me at work in late June when my phone suddenly rang and I looked down to see my 92 year old grandmother calling me. I answered, surprised that she would call me and at an hour she would know I was at work. I was worried that everything wasn’t okay. When I answered with a “Hey, Nana, is everything okay?”, her proper voice began to tell me how disappointed she was in me. My mouth dropped open and I was speechless. She went on to tell me that I was a disgrace to the family and that I was no longer welcome. She hung up before I could muster a single word in response.
I started crying immediately. It turns out that someone within my family decided to tell my 92 year old grandmother that I was writing about the family. I doubt she would have read anything herself because she doesn’t know anything about the Internet and doesn’t use it. So someone within the family decided to tell a 92 year old woman that I was writing about the family, and summed up my writing in a few sentences that caused her to disown me.
Do you know why this was and continues to be such a problem for me? Because I had spent two hours on the phone with her the month before speaking about writing. “Nana, I’ve lost a few friends because of what I’ve written.” “Was it the truth?” “Yes, Nana.” “Then you write your little heart out.” We spoke of happiness, love, and truth within our lives. She confessed that she was concerned about telling me she was in love with someone other than my papa who had passed seven years ago. I laughed and congratulated her on her happiness and newfound love. She cried she was so happy that I approved. It was one of the best discussions we’ve had, and we both hung up happy.
So her calling me and telling me I was no longer welcome was a slap in the face. She hung up and I didn’t reach back out to her. I missed her anniversary, her 93rd birthday, and Thanksgiving, all on purpose. What would I say? I have drafted many letters to her, standing by my decision to write, and sent none of them. I have discussed this pain with friends and family, and I come up with nothing. At what point do we set aside our own truth to make someone else happy?
I lived across the driveway from that woman for thirteen years. She and my papa helped raise me. They tried their hardest to make me into a southern belle so I would be “seemly”. She sang with me, had tea with me, brought me book after book, took me to church, and talked to me about being a lady. I have so many good memories of her.
I also have not good memories of her. As with all families, we have skeletons in our closet. And I guess I was expected to not write about them ever, because it’s not ladylike to speak of your family having issues with alcohol, or your dad shooting the television that one year. I have written over 250,000 words on this blog and those two facts were all I had written about how crappy my family was growing up. Those two facts were enough to cause my grandmother to disown me. Just think of what I haven’t written yet…
And now she is waiting to have surgery on her broken hips and pelvis from a fall. I won’t act like she will pull through all perfectly fine, although that’s what I certainly hope will happen. She is 93 years old. I’m not ignorant to the statistics of elderly surgery. She’s always been healthy and strong but the body can only endure so much. So what happens when she dies? I throw away those letters I had written, because I don’t concede? Do I feel guilty that I didn’t concede? Is it from stubbornness? In the face of death, stubbornness doesn’t stand.
I am hurt. I am hurt that someone who raised me disowned me for my writing. I am hurt that some nitwit in the family decided to tell an elderly person that I was badmouthing the family, especially when I was telling the truth. I am hurt that she will die, likely soon, and the last words I heard from her were that she will not see me. And I’m angry.
When she dies, I can only hope that I will ignore the last conversation we had and focus on the one before that, where her last words were “you are a part of my heart.”
Ernest Hemingway says to write hard and clear about what hurts. And this is what hurts.