Sunday, July 3, 2011

My heart hurts

Last night we got together with my husband's family for a long-overdue family dinner. We used to get together at his parents' home every so often, but recently my mother-in-law has been saying she is too tired and old to cook for all of us. She just wants to be together and not have to worry about cooking or dirty dishes. I can understand that.

I adore my mother-in-law. She is the farthest thing from a monster-in-law there is. Apparently she had reservations about her son marrying an American (only because of the high divorce rate that American marriages have). But she never said one word about it to me. In fact she only mentioned it in passing once to my husband. She has always, from the very first time I met her, been the kindest woman, poised and gracious, charming and carefully-spoken. She was the one to reach out to me in the early days of our marriage trying to make a bridge between us. You should have seen us two in those early days - she not speaking a word of English and me speaking very childish and broken Japanese. But the more we were together, even without words, we found that we share so many personality traits and preferences.

She has never once over-stepped her boundaries my butting into our family matters. She has offered loving advice when asked for and very few times when not asked for, but only ever in a soft, brief and loving manner. She is bright and cheerful, positive and caring. Like I said, I adore her.

When we met up at the restaurant she got out of the taxi and she was hobbling, using a cane. She has always been so healthy. Yes, she tells of her aches and pains from an aging body, but just as soon laughs them off and says growing older sucks. She's never had any visible physical pains or restrictions. So when I saw her my heart stopped. She told me that she overdid it carrying her groceries home up the hill to her house. By the time she had climbed the stairs to their 4th floor apartment her knee was killing her, hence the cane tonight. She is convinced it will get better and if it doesn't she will go to the doctor. But for tonight she was just happy to be together.

We had a lovely dinner, all of us together. But over the course of the night conversations revealed that my niece is going to be moving to Italy - near her older sister who is already there - to study university. That was sad because that means that my daughter and son will be the only two grandchildren here in Japan. My children will be missing both of their cousins. We also discussed how my husband's uncle's health has so sadly deteriorated and he is back in the hospital fighting for his life.

In the car on the way home, my daughter was staring out the window for a bit too long and would not look at me when I called her name. I reached over and felt tears on her cheek. When we got home she burst out in sobs that she had been holding in so bravely all night. She was heartbroken to see her beloved Baba (grandma) in this condition. Suddenly old, suddenly weakened. In that instant, I was reminded of my own Grandma and how much I missed her after it was too late to tell her so.


If I could go back, I would go back to you. To the night that you asked me to stay, that night that you asked me to stay just a little longer and brush your hair. To the last night I ever saw you.

I have lived with the regret that I didn't stay, that I never went back. I am so sorry Grandma. Please forgive me. You were always so vibrant and cheerful, until the end when you just couldn't take care of yourself anymore and you had to move into a nursing home. You were never a rich woman so your final home was not an elegant place. I visited you there once. I was about 22 years old and so preoccupied with my own life. I visited you in the nursing home and was overwhelmed by the smell, by the darkness, by the sadness of your new home. It wasn't your fault and you hated it too. For the first time ever I saw fear in your eyes. You thought you had been thrown away and forgotten.

I visited you one night. I don't remember much, only that it was a short visit. I remember that when I told you I had to leave you asked me to brush your hair. I did for about five minutes and then said again that I had to go, but that I would be back. I still remember the look in your eyes. The look begging me not to leave you there. The look that understood all too well that I wouldn't be back. Even if in my own mind I intended to go back, I just never did. I couldn't handle seeing you like that. So old. So broken. It wasn't you.

I am so sorry Grandma. I didn't go back to you. If I could go back in time now I would. I would go back every night and read to you and brush your hair. I would go back and stay with you as long as possible. You were always there for me and yet in the end I wasn't there for you.

I know that I will see you again. I know that you have already forgiven me. I know that you understand. I know that you are waiting for me too. Since I can't go back, I will just wait until I can go forward into the next life to see you again. Still...

If I could go back, I would go back to you.

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As seen in the June Artisan Notebook: Just Write challenge
most papers and elements from Spring Love and Spring Love Add-on by ViVa Artistry
frame, clock and sm white flower from Douceur by Laitha's Designs
envelope from Old Letters by ViVa Artistry
brush is extracted from a personal photo
font is Quilline Script

Standing there, holding my daughter, crying together. So many thoughts in my mind: aging parents, being away from loved-ones, the passing of time. How one day I will be the one old and weakened. Change.

"Things change. They always do, it's one of the things of nature. Most people are afraid of change, but if you look at it as something you can always count on, then it can be a comfort." (Bridges of Madison County)

I'm one of the people it frightens.

8 comments:

Heather T. said...

Oh man, Holly. You got me sobbing. For you, and for your daughter, and for all the lost and missed opportunities to express our love and caring... so easy to get caught up in things that don't hurt, that keep our minds busy so we don't have to live through the emptiness...

Amazing, expressive journaling, and blog entry. Big hugs.

Donna said...

Oh Holly! I'm so sorry for the heartache you're feeling, and the heartache your daughter is feeling. It's so difficult. :-( Just know I'm thinking of you. I wish I could make things better.

Bellaidea said...

Holly,you made me sad too...Lt1s just all remember to be really "with" our loving ones...

Lulutoo said...

That is just the nudge I need to get me to call my grandma tomorrow. I've been putting it off because all we talk about is the weather (over and over, in the same conversation), but it doesn't matter what we talk about, right? So long as I can still call her and hear her voice. :) I hope that your mother in law is really only having a temporary setback and is back to her regular self soon.

Your page about your grandmother is so touching and beautiful! I truly feel that she would not want you to beat yourself up about that. We can only handle so much when we're young and we all have regrets. You're normal. :)

Big hugs to you and your daughter, Holly.

Sinead said...

Oh Holly. (((hugs))) It sucks to see those we love get old and infirm, and it sucks to remember the times when we were too young and immature to fully appreciate those we love. What a beautiful way to tell that story, though, Holly. I know this--whether you went back that night or not, your Grandma knew the wonderful person I'm sure you were and could probably see who you have become, and she was proud. (((hugs))) my friend.

Sinead said...

Oh Holly. ((((hugs)))) I'm sorry for your pain and your daughter's pain. I've been in the same place you were in the memory you shared. What beautiful journaling. (((hugs))) my friend

Ingrid said...

Oh Holly, the story of your mother in law being so weak got me sobbing too ! I'm so sad and sorry for the heartache you and your daughter are feeling ! Your page about your grandma is wonderful... So touching and beautiful ! It reminds me of my own Grandma, i miss her so much and i myself have regrets ! So i think i can understand what you're going through ! Hugs to you my dear far away friend ! :)

Jennifer B. said...

beautiful. ((hugs))