During my teen years, I lived with my grandmother, a divorced, full-time laborer who took time for her family and her interests. I suppose during those years, some of her lifestyle rubbed off on me. She always seemed happy; she always seemed busy! And she knew me better than anyone ever had.
Many nights we discussed the possibilities for my life. Of course, she was quite biased and believed I could be anything from a model to a corporate NY attorney to the next Hemingway. But one thing she never doubted, was that I would do, whatever it was, on my own. I had a few relationships at that point; tragic and sometime bordering on a Lifetime movie of the week, but they existed nonetheless. I wasn't repellant or narcissistic or demonic in anyway. Men came and went and I moved on.
Once I became an "official adult," I was told the tales of the romances of my grandmothers life. Two men entered it; two men left it. One by choice, one by force. The only overlapping in these tales was time and heartbreak. My grandfather, hmm, to speak delicately of the deceased, was not a saint. Handsome as they come in high school, often being remarked to be a James Dean body double, and you better believe it's true. Women swooned after him, and from what I hear, he loved that! My grandmother, on the other hand, if you think of the most shy, backward person you know, that would be her. How they ever got together, I just can't figure it out. I know I was told, but I believe I glazed over in amazement looking through old photos, trying to put myself in that lifestyle, so much so, that I never really heard.
Regardless, it happened. Quickly. My uncle was born a mere 9 months after high school graduation, if you catch my drift. The marriage was a pretty stereotypical 1950s standoff, though my grandmother did work outside the home. Maybe that was some of the problem with the two of them getting along. Over the years, there were affairs, there were hospital visits (and missed hospital visits), and separations. Until finally, one day, my grandfather left. Yes, HE left her! I suppose he finally found a woman who understood him, or could cope with him, better than my grandmother. At that time, my grandma went into therapy, because the greater part of two decades just walked out of her life. Eventually, she began seeing another man.
Herein lies the problem. They were only separated, her and my grandfather. To this day if you ask my grandmother about my grandpa, "I loved him, I don't care," is the response you'll get. She doesn't lie about the things she endured, she doesn't try to justify them either. She simply accepts the fact that she loved a man she couldn't have, understand, or settle with. Well, my grandfather, at this point, was already living with another woman; but when he caught wind of the fact that my grandmother was seeing someone, all hell broke loose, and there was another separation. Two, in fact. Hers from the man she was seeing, and hers from my grandfather, in the form of a divorce. He divorced her. And somewhere around the age of 40, she was alone, entirely.
Once some time had passed, the divorce was finalized, and the two quit speaking altogether. Eventually, my grandfather passed away, I was 11, and a reunion happened; my grandmother was no longer alone. This was somewhere around the time that I entered and upset her world. I guess my brother had some adventures with the two of them; I never had the fortune. The relationship went into secrecy, and wasn't spoken of again, for nearly 20 years.
I'll never forget the moment. Driving down Wheeling Avenue, frankly, I thought she might be having a stroke. The noise that exited her lips, the exasperation, shocked me, and I said, "what, what's wrong." "Nothing, don't worry about it." So I started looking around, wondering what I missed. My first presumption was that my grandmother ran over an animal and I hadn't noticed. She is the greatest animal lover I've ever known. Coming home from the mall one day with my brother, she had hit and killed a squirrel. Hours passed before the mourning ended. She anthropomorphized every living creature, and today, she killed Rocky, or Bullwinkle, I don't know which was which. Well I didn't notice anything and the conversation ventured off in another direction.
I had always wondered why my grandma never dated, but we never talked about it. I knew she was shy, and terribly insecure, so I had always brushed it off. That night, I got my reasoning. In 1993, NCR closed it doors after 28 years. She had worked there the entire time. At 53, my grandma got to start over in the workforce. Not easy. Additionally, that same year, maybe even that same month, a feisty redheaded teenage girl came to take up occupancy in her home. Probably not easy either. And so she told me this:
"One night, shortly after you moved in with me, you and Mindy were in your room doing God knows what and the phone rang. Well, I had been seeing a man, and it was him. I just told him, my life is different now. I have new things I have to take care of and it just isn't going to be possible for me to see you anymore. And I hung up."
I was just sick. And I have a pension for saying anything that goes through my mind the second it makes its appearance. "Why would you do that, I would never ask you to do that!" And it's true. I would never ask my grandmother to compromise her happiness for me.
But in that, was the earthshattering awakening. I was her happiness now. And sometimes, you just can't share your heart with more than one person.
I think back on that night a lot. I hear that conversation in my head as if it had just happened. And the lesson will never leave me. Some people are meant for romance, some are meant for dreams, others are meant for something we cannot even see. When my grandmother would talk about my future, saying she saw me as a big NY attorney, or as a famous writer, or big into politics, and those sorts of things, she wasn't talking about my career. My grandmother was talking about my heart. Like I said, she knew me better than anyone, and she knew how much I bled.
My heart isn't anchored in this world like some, sitting with a net, ready to catch a mate and love them their whole lives. I admire that, I do. I know the work it must take. But my heart isn't made that way. I bleed for this world, the people in it, the breaks happening each second, the pain inflicted on the innocent, and the maladies we simply cannot stop. Regardless of whether or not I can do a damn thing about it, it is the resting place of my beating, bleeding heart. So no matter what I do, what career I pick, or if I ever pick one at all, know this, that I am using my heart, maybe even more than most people you know. And one day I'll likely bleed out from the pain that I cannot make go away. But I am, truly, very much in love; this world has my heart and my loyalty. And I'm okay with that.