My grandmother had twelve children, eleven of whom survived through infancy. She lived with an alcoholic husband, and dealt with all of the hardships that come with such a life; poverty, violence, heartache, fear, before finally realizing her power. Each May, she’s in my thoughts. Her birthday was the 17th and her favourite flowers were lilacs. Even after the polar spring we had, the lilacs are bursting forth, and my heart is full of Grandmaman.
What would she say to me if she were here right now? She’d tell me to pray, because her faith was her shield. She’d tell me to take good care of my heart. Grandmaman would give me a crushing hug and her glasses would dig into the side of my face. She’d smell like garlic and brown sugar, Sunlight laundry detergent and that rich, earthy smell that was uniquely hers. She would tell me to never be sorry for trying to love someone.
There’s a shift in my turmoil. Each day presents a new version of moving through this pain. Now, when I’m suddenly hit with a wave of panic or despair, I take a moment and remind myself to breathe. I hold on to my love. I feel it so deeply and completely, and even though it’s not reciprocated, it’s mine. I am full of love. I don’t have to be ashamed of that, or try to stuff those emotions away. I feel love, and that love will shift and change. If I don’t bury it with anger, with questions I can never answer, with fear of what I do not know, it will remind me of all the reasons why I tried in the first place. It will heal me. It’s okay that I continue to feel this love. I just have to accept that it belongs to me now.
I can do this. I can put one foot in front of the next and re-invent myself. My grandmother got up again every time she got knocked down by life. What other choice do you have when you’ve got eleven kids? We are strong stock, the women of my family. We are survivors. I don’t pray, but I can accept that this is where I am right now. I can take back my power and move forward with grace.
I can sit in the food court of a sunny mall with my bestest besties and recognize the appreciative glances I receive. I can imagine a future me, sipping drinks on a patio with a handsome stranger while my shoulders collect more freckles. I can almost feel what it’s like to breathe and not battle tears.
After my grandfather died, my Grandmaman bought herself a new nose (she’d always hated hers), rented a tidy little apartment, and had a string of boyfriends to take her dancing until her dancing days were finally over. She wore heels until it was impossible, had her hair done every week, and never stopped flirting.
And each and every May, she filled her home with lilacs.