May 5, 2015

The Terrible Secret My Grandparents Hid From Our Family

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Flickr / Seth Morabito
Flickr / Seth Morabito

A month ago, my grandmother passed away. It wasn’t exactly unexpected, she had been 94 and suffered from dementia. It some ways, it was a blessing. No more worrying about whether she remembered to turn off the oven or her going down to the basement to do her laundry. To everyone’s surprise, Gram had left the house to me. Lots of anger and resentment over that part of the will, but I was so grateful. Gram knew I was struggling with rent and raising a young child on my own. This gave me a home, rent and mortgage free. No more low cost apartments with shady neighbors, afraid to stumble on a drug deal in the hallway or a stranger walking down the hall with the neighbors television.

Pulling up the shaded driveway always brought back lots of good memories of my summers — the white dogwood tree in front of the living room window, the blackberry bramble high on the hill in the back, the trails in the small wooded patch between Gram’s house and my Aunt Sherri’s. I took to the steps that wound around the back of the house to the sliding glass door that led directly into the kitchen. Unlocking the door, I stepped into the dated eat-in kitchen, breathing in the smell of the house, it still smelled of Gram, a unique smell all its own, fresh baked bread, skin cream, and pastel mints.

The house itself was on the smaller side, just the main floor, basement, and an attic. Gram built the house in ’68, right after Grandpap was killed in a construction accident, and she couldn’t bear to live in the “big house” on the top of the hill with all of the memories. So this smaller house was built for her and my then 12-year-old mother, my aunts and uncles already grown and on their own. I decided to first do a walk through and see what needed done, what few items were left over from the battle over possessions and what repairs would need to be done immediately so my six-year-old daughter Amy and I could move in as soon as possible.