I don’t generally tell these types of stories about my family. There are a lot of them. I don’t really know where they go in my life. It’s really sad, but also kind of funny in a terrible way.
I have been thinking about my grandmother a lot lately. I am not really sure why. I did not know her at all. She died when I was 22. You might wonder why I didn’t know her considering I was an adult when she died. And the answer is…
I don’t know.
This is one of those weird things that my family refuses to talk about. I remember her calling sometimes when I was growing up. She’d call and after I said “hello?”
She’d say, “It’s Grandma D. Is this Maurna?”
And I’d cautiously say “Yes…” (This was before caller ID, for all you youngsters).
There’d be a long pause where I would hold my breath, waiting for her to ask me something, anything about myself. Instead she’d reply with, “Is your father there?”
And I’d either say yes and get him, or say no and tell her he’d call back. She never asked me anything about my life. We never said more than those few phrases to each other.
Sometimes it felt like we were reading from some alienating, dysfunctional script. But we weren’t. We were just so unknown to each other, it was an impossible barrier to breach. I guess we were alienated and dysfunctional.
When she died, I felt nothing. I still feel nothing about her being dead. She was a voice on the phone and a picture I once saw of her. Nothing more.
Until my father went out to go through her things. She lived in the desert in Arizona. In a single wide trailer with no AC. Her truck was 40 years old and also had no AC.
She was an interesting lady. She owned a co-op that she had started herself. It began with her pulling clothes from the trash (a habit I seem to have picked up) and cleaning and mending them and giving them away to the poor or needy.
Soon she was going to the dump and picking up broken appliances and fixing them, cleaning them, and taking them to her co-op. Everything was sold by donation only at her co-op. You could work a few days in the shop or just take what you needed.
When she died, she had branched out into food as well. She had volunteers that would dumpster dive at grocery stores and collect prepackaged or unspoiled food items to give away too. I hear she was even working with local farmers to donate surpluses.
In some ways I really admire her for doing all these things. It is exactly the kind of thing I could see myself doing. But in another way, that fact scares the fuck out of me. Because she was mentally ill.
She went to the dentist one day and got sick. For some reason, she decided that the dentist was trying to poison her. She became increasingly convinced of it. So much so that she stopped eating.
And starved herself.
When my father went out to her place, he found that she was a hoarder. Most of my family is, in my opinion. She had stacks of clothes waiting to be taken to the co-op. And appliances. And jewelry. And envelopes full of money.
Lots of money. She was a multi-millionaire. Living in the desert with no AC. Starving herself to death.
She was actually my favorite of all my grandparents. And I guess, in a weird way, we were the closest. We seem to have the most in common.
I don’t even know why I wrote this. I guess I thought sharing it might get it out of my head a bit. And it did. I promise to be funny again next time.