Two days after my 45th birthday. On Friday, January the 13th, 2012, my grandmother passed away. Surrounding her on the 11th, had been a roomful of… mourners. Nine or so family members gazing lovingly into her closed and slightly cold eyes.
Ruth, my grandmother, would not have had the send off any other way. Even a nephew had attended. Supposedly, he abhorred dying and death. Therefore, it was to understood that he felt no need to visit his great-grandmother, while she was alive. My niece could not be there. She had an excused absence, as well. After all, someone needed to keep an eye on the kids.
Yet, with good fortune, the rest of the fruit for the cake…did arrive. My brother, Bud, even made an appearance for the following week. The women folk fawned over the long-awaited return of, Bud. He held/holds a special place in both my mother’s and sister’s…hearts. Often in my mind’s eye, a ‘strange’ affection had been held for him.
Though, Bud, made very few appearances, he had been revered as, a special kind of guy. Not always there when you needed him. But willing to get upset and angry when long distant family conversations occurred.
Joking, poking fun at one another and for appearance sake, sobbing and paying homage. I am certain, dear old Ruth, had been semi aware of the praise being lavished upon her.
I learned to not love my grandmother. After being shunned for my homosexuality, by my grandfather. And, subsequently, out of respect for Joe Poe’s wishes…my grandmother.
After the accusations of being just like my father. A man both, Ruth and Joe, denounced. After the many years of my addiction’s bad behavior being phoned about the family lifeline. After being told I had been an angry, hateful, dishonest, cheat by the powers that be. After all that, and so much more, I kept Ruth at arm’s length.
She referred to my partner and soon to be wife as, looking like a teenage boy with severe issues. She choose to pick and choose my physical being apart like a piece of sludge through fine knit cloth.
She choose. She picked. She insulted. She name called.
She had been the one and only, Ruth.
Odd, I had been named after her. But after the rubbing off of family lies through cursed truth…I discovered that even, Grandma Ruth’s name had been a lie. Indeed, her birth name had been, Victoria.
Ruth, though, being stubborn and tough, felt she needed a more…biblical-ly correct title. A title that would suit her high standing with god.
Funny story? Or, perhaps, not! I managed to find myself being the lone speaker at my grandmother’s funeral. That is other than the priest. For some reason, my mother felt that the telling of ‘my story’, made me eligible to speak in public.
Often AA meetings like the participants to share, discuss and tell, their stories. Stories of how they began the road to addiction’s hell and how they hoped to get off…the road. Somehow, this personal perk made me allowable as, Ruth’s eulogy preacher. Course, my sister had boo hoo’d this. She, Sybil, deserved this honor. After all, she visited my grandmother more often. Six days a week. As opposed to my two or three. Plus, she shared with Ruth.
When Sybil took a tumble-down a flight of stairs. Ruth had been able to see the photos Sybil took of her bruised and naked ass. Many photos, many bruises, too much information, as Ruth put it.
Sybil also volunteered to clean, trim and file, grandma’s besieged, ancient toenails. Sybil made a day out of it. Bringing special treats to the nursing home. Watching something special on the tiny television set. Prepping and readying, Ruth for the ‘nail’ treatment.
How I wished my mother had chosen Sybil. I ended up with the neuovirus. My brother and sister-in-law did to. I barely made it through the paying of respects…a couple of nights before. Sweating, shaking, nodding instead of speaking, etc.
Upon approaching the pew at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic church. St. Mary’s where my mother had once attended church and school. St. Mary’s where only the good catholic’s of Waltham go. When I finally managed to place my placid self down. There had been a not so gentle reminder of frankincense burning. Burning my eyes, my soul, my stomach and helping to shut down all defenses. Thank christ there had been toilets in the front and the back.
I spoke, as my wife later recalls, quickly, insistently and with vigor.
The matriarch of the clan had passed. She had gone for 91 hard years. Hard years of a punishing husband. Hard years of turning that belted abuse toward her daughter, Janice.
Again, I am uncertain of not having an intrinsic love for her. I did respect her. She demanded it.
For awhile, I had not wanted to think about how unfortunate events…unfold. Live in the pool of ignorance. My life has never been blissful. That is until recently. When I had made a conscious decision to unmask truth.
It had been sometime in February. Shortly after the funeral. My mother’s side of the family had been dying slowly. As is usually the case with age. I knew little of those who through, the filtered blood that ran into my veins.
I knew that the Quinn’s, the Stukoni’s, had been hard-drinking, hard talking, ravished souls. A history of persons trying to live a good life. A good life often laced with tragedy. But what of the Bowley’s? Where, what, when and how did they come about? My father never gave attention to his side of the family. Going as far as, avoiding them, physically. We very rarely visited anyone with Bowley blood. Though, we all lived in the same small state of New Hampshire.
February, ancestry.com, and my stubborn inquisitiveness, were about to change that mystery.
EARL'S PLACE: "AN OPEN & RESPECTFUL ONLINE SPACE TO DEBATE OPPORTUNITIES & CHALLENGES FACING THE GLOBE," CURATED BY AWARD-WINNING COLUMNIST, EARL PLANTE, AN UNFLINCHING ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL & ECONOMIC JUSTICE