So, last Friday night, my youngest sister and I went out to dinner to celebrate our birthdays. (Hers in October, mine in January.) After our dinner, she was supposed to pick up our other sister, the one who does not speak to me, from our grandmother’s house. Because of the location of the restaurant, grandma’s house and my house, we decided the most sensible thing would be to stop by my grandma’s house on the way.
I knew that I would encounter my sister, obviously, but I am not about confrontation. We arrived at the house and Estranged Sister was in the driveway retrieving something from our mother’s car. I believe I said, “Hi,” on my way to the front door. Once inside, I found my grandmother sitting in her office at the back of the house. My mother sat at the desk and my grandmother sat in front of the desk.
I knelt by my grandma and she held my cold hands and told me how happy she was that I was there. I had no idea but I’d walked into the middle of a dramatic situation–for that was the last night my grandmother was to spend in her own home. She’s been living alone since my grandpa died in 1987. She is 101 years old, nearly 102, and a few weeks ago, she fell.
As she tells the story, she lost her balance while trying to get her nightgown over her head. Next thing she knew, three firefighters were in her room. One said, “Do you know where you are?” because he was concerned that she might of hit her head. She said in an indignant voice, “Of course I know! I am in my bedroom!”
They lifted her up and put her on her bed. She did have to go to the hospital but had no broken bones, just some bruises and scrapes. That fall put into motion a series of events and my mother and my uncles and my cousin had decided that Grandma would move in with my cousin so she would no longer be alone and vulnerable. (Oh, and did I mention that my grandmother is blind due to macular degeneration?)
My mother said, “Melodee, Grandma has some news!” and I said, “Grandma, do you have news for me?” and she acted surprised. “News? No, not really.” And so my mother mouthed words to me and wrote a note and began to cry. (The note said, “Mother is moving to Cindy’s.”) Later, when we were alone, I said to Grandma, “So I hear you’re going to stay with Cindy?” and Grandma said, “Well, we’ve talked about it. I’m going for a few days.”
That threw my mother into a sobbing panic. In the driveway, she said to me, “We’re moving her chair and her bed! What if she is upset?” and I said, “She’s just scared. She’ll be all right.” The transition from living alone, as she has for twenty years, and moving in with someone is enormous. But everything will be okay. At least that’s what I insist on believing.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as I sat in my grandma’s book-filled office, I was aware of my sister’s presence in the other part of the house. How awkward. After a while, I walked out and talked to my cousin. My other sister had told Estranged Sister that we’ll be giving her a ride. (My other sister’s car is at my house.)
Eventually, we say farewell and head to the car. Estranged Sister puts her suitcase and stuff in my trunk. Here are the things I said to her on the way home:
1) When was the last time you saw Grandma? Did she look much different?
As usual, I was the one who made attempts at conversation. Estranged Sister answered the question and that was that.
My other sister and I chatted most of the way home. I may have directed another question or two toward the backseat, but I can’t remember now.
I invited her into my house for a second while my other sister came in to get something. Estranged Sister stood by the doorway, picked up a newspaper from the recycling pile and read it for the few minutes we were inside. She didn’t say hello to any of my children.
We could hire a therapist full-time for the rest of our lives and never untangle the knot that ties us together.
And now, she’s back in Japan.