Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Grandma's Birthday

Long ago, my grandma called me in tears. She had just received a certified letter from her daughter telling her that she had thirty days to move out. This notice arrived on her birthday. She was, as you might imagine, devastated. I was furious at my aunt. How could she do this to my grandma, her mother? I asked grandma if she wanted me to talk to my aunt, but she said no. She said that she didn't want things worse by having the family fight. That was my grandma for you. She always thought of her family before herself.
Grandma moved into an apartment, and she seemed to adjust well.  Four months later, she discovered that she had cancer. She died in less than a week. 
The pain in her voice when she called me on her birthday has haunted me ever since. I have no answers as to why my aunt did what she did. However, I wrote a short story about how I imagine my grandma's 73rd birthday morning played out. While it is purely my imagination, my scenario is based on the many mornings I spent with my grandma during my childhood and when she spent a week with me after I got married. Here is the story. 

                                               Ginny’s Birthday
    Ginny awoke on her 73rd birthday, as she did on every birthday, happy to be alive and grateful for her family.  She sat up and reached eagerly for the stack of unopened birthday cards that awaited her delighted opening. Ginny loved cards, and her many grandchildren always remembered to send them to her early, so they would be waiting for her to open when she woke up on her birthday.
   After reading her cards, laughing at the funny ones, and shedding a tear at the sentimental ones, Ginny dressed and headed to the kitchen to have breakfast with her daughter. Ginny lived with her daughter and son-in-law.  Several years earlier, the daughter had wanted money to buy a bigger home, so she had made a proposal to her mother: you sell your home and give us the money, and you can live with us rent free for the rest of your life.  Ginny’s husband had died when she was 56, and Ginny loved her family more than herself, and, though she hated to admit it, she was lonely living alone, so Ginny agreed, despite the misgivings of other family members. Now, as Ginny saw her daughter drinking coffee at the kitchen table, smiling, and saying, “Happy Birthday, Mom,” Ginny believed for the millionth time that she had made the right choice fourteen years earlier.
   Ginny prepared her favorite breakfast: a half of grapefruit with sugar sprinkled on top, toast with jam, and a cup of tea. She sat at the table across from her daughter. They chatted companionably for a bit, shared the paper, and discussed how they were going to celebrate Ginny’s birthday that day.
   Suddenly, and unexpectedly, the doorbell rang. The daughter went to answer it, and called to her mother to come sign for a piece of certified mail. Ginny was excited; what could it be? A birthday surprise from one of her grandchildren no doubt. Ginny eagerly signed for her mail and returned to the kitchen table to open it. The daughter sipped her coffee, her face hidden by the open newspaper, incurious about her mother’s mail.
   Ginny carefully slit open the envelope and pulled out its contents. She gasped as she read the words, and tears began to form in her eyes, which were wide with disbelief. “You have 30 days to find another place to live.” The daughter sat silently, never lowering the paper, as Ginny, choking back a sob, stumbled her way to her bedroom, which was hers for only thirty more days.

Take care,
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