My grandmother was a woman of grace. She bore 11 children in a 2-bedroom home, cared for her husband through a decade of Alzheimer’s, and lost her eyesight near the end of her life, and the only time I ever heard her complain was when I mixed the fruit salad with my hand instead of a spoon.
It actually wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized she’d had 11 children. Before that, I only knew my mom to have 9 siblings, but in poring through old pictures with my grandmother, I came across a photo of half a dozen pint-sized aunts and uncles sandwiching a toddler who I didn’t recognize, and when I asked her about the mystery child, all she said was, “He was a boy.” What boy? “A boy that was.”
That was it. No yearning. No grief. Not an ounce of longing for the boy that was. Just a graceful nod to what is.
Now it would be romantic of me to imagine that my grandmother was inspired by some Buddhist philosophy of non-attachment on the path toward liberation from suffering, but closer to the truth would be to admit that she was – like most third-world women knocked-up at 15 by men twice their age – repressed. But I don’t care. I still admire it. Her style was so elegantly dignified that nearly 20 years after her death, I remain haunted by the ease with which she could raise her chin, inhale a single breath, and turn her head toward whatever direction lay acceptance.
I am not this way. Unlike my grandmother, when I’m confronted by grief, I curl up into a ball of despair and wallow in my want. My donor egg IVF cycle fails, and I sob a small mountain of tissues until it peaks at an elevation that mirrors the depth of my sadness, and then I cry some more for shame that I could want anything so profoundly.
But that’s the irony of the thing and the part I’m most ashamed of: I don’t even really want a donor egg child; I’m only chasing this ghost because it’s the next thing to hope for. So not only do I long, but I long for something that I want and don’t want in equal measure. Desperation for a broken paddle in an ocean storm.
Was she stronger than me, my grandmother? Was she smarter? Wiser? Braver? Or was it instead that she gritted her teeth because she knew that her armor would crumble under the weight of a single tear? Whatever her secret, I yearn for that most of all because right now I’m lost in this canyon that divides what can’t be with what might, and the vastness between the two is causing my trans-generational fall from grace to echo with an ever-fierce and violent crash.
In the meantime, I ask myself and I wonder, but nothing comes. There are no answers. No truths revealed. Just the occasional whoosh of my want as it flails about without composure. And the waiting. Always more waiting. Waiting for peace, waiting for my period, waiting for the bundle of something that could end up being joy.
Or perhaps just waiting for the crash. That might be good for me, too.