01 October 2008

Grandma's Birthday

Today I was thinking about my grandmother. Today would've been her 95th birthday. She died only two days after she turned 68.

A few years ago, my mother said, "I still think about her every day. And Grandpa, too. I don't know why; I can't stop." It's so untypical of her to speak this way: as someone who "can't" do something. As best I could, I reassured her that there's no reason why she should stop thinking about her mother and father, and that nobody has a right to put a timetable on her feelings. I don't know whether she believed it, but I noticed that it was one of those moments in which I could see our communication changing.

I think about Grandma all the time, too. She's probably the person who knew me best, besides my mother. And, of course, there were times when I felt that I could talk only to her.

Sometimes I wonder what my relationship might've been like if I started my transition earlier in my life, or if she had lived long enough to see it. When I thought I might be gay, simply because I didn't seem to fit into any of the other categories, I remember "coming out" to my mother--and her. My mother admitted that if it were true, it would disappoint her because I wouldn't give her grandchildren. (I never did, and one day five years ago, what I revealed changed everything more than possibly any grandchild, career choice or anything else could have.) And Grandma said that it goes against what she believes in. However, they both promised that I was their child and grandchild, and if I were indeed gay, that would not change. And it didn't.

Now, my mother has been nothing short of a saint since I revealed that I have been living by the name she would have given me, had I been given that "F" on my birth certificate. She will deny that she's been that good, but nobody could ever give me anything that means more to me than the emotional support she has given me and the material support she and my father have offered. And my father has been encouraging in ways that I never expected.

How might Grandma have responded? I can't imagine that, really, any more than I could anticipate the reactions of any number of people. She may have responded as she did to my first "coming out." Or she may have acted in some other way. I'd like to think that her unconditional love would have won out. But I never will know, will I?

I find myself thinking, at times, about what my relationships with people who aren't here now might've been like. I remember "coming out" to Uncle Sonny, too. He said, "Well, it was good enough for those ancient Greek writers. So you're in good company." Maybe he'd respond in a similar way. After all, he never seemed to have trouble in accepting people who were different in all sorts of other ways. Though he wouldn't watch a movie featuring "Hanoi Jane" Fonda, but he wouldn't miss a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. He was the world's easiest-to-figure-out enigma.

About other people, I don't know. Trying to resume one friendship with someone I knew before I started my transition didn't turn out well: That person wanted Nick back.

Of course, that has no bearing on what might have been with Grandma. The relationship I had with her was the best it could have been, given who and what I was at the time. But I still wonder what might have been.

Well, at least she was in my life until I was 24. That helped me to get through some of the emotional turmoil I had to experience without the skills, such as they are, I have now.

I shouldn't demean those skills. After all, she helped me to learn some of them.

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