I don’t know what to say to you that will make you feel better, and that hurts me. I feel like I have all of this training and useless knowledge about how to help someone who is depressed, and it doesn’t apply. I feel like there is more I should be doing, and I know there is.
I don’t come visit, because I can’t stand to look at you. I am afraid I will cry in front of you and scare you. I am afraid I will say the wrong thing. I am afraid to see you because I saw Grandpa the day before he died and if I come see you, you might die too.
I know you are giving up. You offered one of your most prized possessions to me — Sparky’s duck toy that Kizzie loves so much. I know you would never give that away if you were still going to try and get better.
Every time I talk to you, I try hard to sound as if things are normal, as if life is going on and everything is great. I talk about the mundane events in my life like they are exciting. I don’t know if this makes you feel better, but it makes me feel like I am giving you something.
I know I wasn’t always nice to you growing up, and it is painful for me to remember. I know that I can’t change what I have done or said, and I don’t remember doing anything particularly atrocious, but I know that I have hurt your feelings more than once. For that, I am sorry. I wish I could take it back, but I can’t.
Most vividly, I remember when I was in grade school or maybe junior high and it was the evening of a Halloween party I was going to at Sara H.’s house. I don’t remember what I said to you, but I know I said something that made you cry. At the time, my only worry was DH finding out and yelling at me. I am sorry for making you cry.
When you moved into the assisted living, I did my best to avoid you. It seemed like we had nothing to say to each other and I didn’t want to deal with you, living like you were. It seemed as if you went from super-human, making cookies and cinnamon rolls and scrubbing the floor on your hands and knees, to using a walker and not being able to drink liquids or eat without choking. I didn’t understand and I didn’t want to.
Over time, I accepted that you were older, and then Grandpa moved in across the street. That made it easier to visit you, because for some reason I always wanted to see Grandpa. He made me feel good and he did all the talking. That was the difference between you two.
When I was growing up and up until the day he died, you always threw into conversation, “You know your Grandpa loves you.” Mom always thought that was your way of telling me that you loved me too. It wasn’t until after Grandpa had been gone awhile that you told me that YOU loved me. Sometimes you still lapse and talk about how much Grandpa loved me.
I know that when you die, I am going to feel guilty that I didn’t visit more often, didn’t make more of an effort, ignored you, failed you, made you cry, didn’t pay attention to your feelings. This may not be how you perceive it, but I feel like our relationship has always been strained…that only Grandpa loved me and you were second in line.
I am not going to be able to bring myself to give you this letter, namely because I know it would upset you. I am posting it because I want other people to know that it is okay to be angry or feel guilty or feel unloved. It is okay to have a hard time interacting with someone who has given up on life and is waiting to die. I have to think it is okay, or I couldn’t bear the guilt, so it must be okay.
I don’t want to lose all touch with reality when you go. I want to remember the few good memories I have with you, and not dwell on the fact that I wish Grandpa were still around instead of you. I know that is a horrible thing to say, but it is true. I don’t feel like you really love me and I don’t really think you are capable of making me feel so. Deep down I am sure that you do. It is most likely even your belief that you make me feel loved. But you can’t. That is not your fault. It is who you are.
And I am who I am. That is why I am writing this letter to you today. To tell you I’m sorry I can’t make you feel better, to express regret over things I shouldn’t have said or things I should have done, to tell you I’m sorry that I don’t visit more often, that I have pushed you to the back of my mind for years.
Mom said it gets easier to accept aging and dying as one gets older. Unfortunately I do not think I will have that luxury in your case. I am not wishing for you to die…I wish for you to feel happy, to remember a good time, to have a moment of clarity and know you are loved by many.
And no, Grandma, you’re not bothering me. Keep calling.