It was almost a year ago when I got your letter. I remember it vividly. There are certain events that happen that change your life forever, for better or for worse. Receiving your letter was the one of these moments for me.
The first thing that caught my eye was how small the envelope was. I knew it couldn’t be a card as a card would not fit inside. Then I noticed the return address label and the stamped postage mark. I found that to be odd. You had never mailed me anything before this moment. If you had something for me, you would put it in my mailbox or call me to come get it.
Not this time. As I stood in my living room reading your letter I couldn’t help but laugh. I thought this was someone’s Halloween joke for me. You’ve called me Ricki Ann my entire life and this letter started out “Dear Ricki.” As I moved past the introduction, I became more and more confused. This tiny piece of paper seemed to be made up of mashed words. It might as well have been written in a foreign language.
I read the first half twice. I read where you accused me of stealing your pantyhose, a green and white striped pillowcase, a jean jacket (that I didn’t know you had), and a matching skirt and blazer set. I skimmed the rest of the letter. I searched for context clues. What I thought was a joke soon became a knot in my stomach, tying up my insides with confusion and sadness. The laughing was over. I realized this was indeed your handwriting.
The next few moments were a blur. I remember hobbling over to my parents’ house (I was in a leg brace from having extensive knee surgery two months prior to this). I whipped open their front door and demanded my mom read the letter. My dad read it, looked perplexed, and then he handed it to my mom. Your daughter. She read it. Her face gave away the fact that she had no idea what this was about.
My sister had been sleeping. My mom took the letter upstairs to her while I bawled my eyes out in the living room with my dad. A few moments later my dad went upstairs to talk to my mom and to see what was going on. I sat in his recliner staring blankly at the tv while crying harder than I have ever cried.
At this point my hoodie was soaked with tears. I could feel the dampness against my skin underneath. I don’t remember exactly what was on tv. I just remember it being on the Sports Center Channel. My mom came back downstairs. I will never forget what she said to me. She looked at me calmly and said “well your sister is going to bat for you. She’s arguing with your aunt on the phone right now.” I cannot tell you how comforting it was to know that my sister, the moral compass and all-around amazing person in our family, was sticking up for me.
The next thing I knew, my sister came downstairs. She told me that she defended me against your Holier-Than-Thou daughter, our aunt. She managed to give me some clarity as to why I was receiving your letter. Basically, in a nutshell, you thought I had been breaking into your house for a year by using a magical key that supposedly unlocks every door on Earth.
The real kicker of this whole situation was the fact that you believed I started breaking in right when I had broken my knee, September of 2014. In this moment, we both realized that you were no longer the sweet, caring Grandmother we had always known. Somewhere along that past year your sanity had slipped away from you.
My sister went to check on you the next day. You weren’t yourself. You told her you didn’t love her, you didn’t love me, and you didn’t want to see either of us anymore. When she came walking back towards my parents’ house, I could see the tears streaming down her face. I lost all composure in that moment. We sat on our parents’ front steps crying together as she told me what happened. My sister and I have always been close, moreso when we were younger, but this moment bonded us together forever.
The next few days were especially difficult as I had to delete certain family members off of my social media accounts. Our family was choosing sides. My mom and sister tried to comfort me when I asked them, “Who do you think everyone is going to choose? The girl with tattoos who smokes, drinks, and swears or the sweet Christian lady who goes to church twice a week and doesn’t do any of the sinful things I do?”
Unfortunately for me, my family was drastically cut down. The majority of our family who heard what happened sided with you. I knew it was going to happen, but it still hurt.
I have spent the last year trying to find myself and come to terms with what has happened. I would be lying if I said I didn’t still care or that I don’t worry about you. I hate going outside and getting in my car to go anywhere. I see your house and it feels like the wound is being ripped open again.
I used to love having you as a neighbor but now it feels like a constant reminder of what has happened. Memories of better days come flooding back to me. Soon, just like clockwork, those happy memories are tinged with the reminder of your letter and what has happened. Sometimes when I come home from work at night, I see your light on. In one aspect, I feel a sense of peace knowing that you’re at home and okay but in another aspect it makes me sad to know I’ll never be able to come over to see you again.
If I had the chance to tell you anything I would tell you that I love you, I miss you, and I think about you more than I like to admit. I know it’s not your fault. Your lucid brain has decided to take a permanent vacation and now you’re left to use what remains.
I would also like you to know how amazing your other grand-daughter, your daughter, and your son-in-law have been through all of this. My sister and parents have held me together, sometimes by the seams, since this has happened. I have my good days and I have my bad days, as I’m sure you do too. Reading your confused, angry words shattered my heart into a million pieces. I spent months crying myself to sleep at night. I’ve been battling major depression on and off for years. This shift in our family had finally pushed me over the edge.
I could have sank but I chose to soar. I got the help I needed, which I hope you’re doing too. I’m not saying I’ve moved on from this or that I’m by any means cured. I’m not. I lost a part of myself that day when I lost you. That part of me will never come back.
I’m still trying to figure out how to navigate through life on this path you’ve put me on. Most days I feel like I’m walking through a thick fog with no destination in sight. For whatever reason, I keep walking. Maybe someday I’ll figure out where I belong and who I am now.
For the time being, I have put my faith in God. If you taught me anything at all, it was to trust in God and to never give up. I am practicing that. I wouldn’t have made it this far if I hadn’t.
They say everything happens for a reason. I still don’t know why this would happen. Maybe it’s to show me who truly loves me. Maybe it’s to show me how strong I am. I can’t be certain.
What I do know is that I will always love you. I hope you are doing well, as well as can be expected I guess. I will continue to pray for you. I love you, I miss you, and I hope one day you will understand what happened to you. For now this is goodbye. Be well Grandma.