Tag Archives: Guilt

Does Love Mean, Having to Say I’ll Kill You?

As I’ve written here before, my Grandmother Nellie was a tough old bird.  Things went her way or else.  This worked fine as far as where her furniture was placed or what to have for dinner, but it didn’t work so well with the people in her life.

In high school she dated Lawrence for several weeks, until he was late to pick her up.  Then she dumped him.  Lawrence’s younger brother Walter asked her out and learning his lesson from Lawrence, did everything demanded of him — for the rest of his life.

I imagine things went pretty smoothly for Grandmother, until my mother was born. Children are notorious for not following our plans for them.  Instead of marrying for money as demanded by Grandmother, she married for love; a poor farmer and a Catholic one at that. She then proceeded to have way more kids than proper society (or Grandmother) accepted.

Mom battled her weight her entire life with Grandmother berating her at every turn. When Mom was diagnosed with cancer and told her chemo treatments would be harsh Grandmother sent a get well card. She’d written inside “At least now you’ll be able to lose that extra weight you’ve been carrying around.”

She probably did love my mother and she tolerated her husband. But she adored her pets – at least, as long as they behaved.  One week she’d mention that Fluffy had a cold.  The next time we talked she’d tell me how cute Tabby was.

“Tabby?  I thought your cat’s name was Fluffy.”

“Oh.  I put Fluffy down.”

When Tabby jumped up on a shelf and broke one of Grandmother’s precious knickknacks, the cat disappeared.

A dog she’d had for years that peed on her rug?  Gone.

My dad used to joke that he was afraid to sneeze around Nellie in case she decided to put him down.

Now I’m in the position of having to make that terrible choice with our dog, Lola.  Not because she’s a nuisance, but because she’s in pain and can’t get around.

We met with our vet this week and he says it’s close to time and explains how lucky animals are that we have the power to put them out of their misery.  I’ve always agreed with that philosophy but have never had to put it into practice.

The power, I’ve discovered, is now a curse that haunts me as I look into Lola’s brown eyes and I beg her to tell me if she’s ready to go.  I do love her.  In fact, I love her enough to kill her

I pride myself on being nothing like my Grandmother Nellie, but I wonder.  Am I really?

Missed Manners

I found this note, in my mother’s handwriting, as I was digging through a box that belonged to my grandmother. I swear, that woman can still make me feel guilty.

My grandmother, “Don’t you dare call me Grandma,” Nellie, had one goal in life — to teach her wild grandchildren to have good manners. As a child, I sat through hours of angst-ridden instructions on the proper handling of silverware and napkins. A lesson on how to hold your glass properly so as not to end up with a milk mustache seemed particularly useless. My only concern at home on the farm with my sister and brothers was how to obtain the actual milk before they did.

One Thanksgiving dinner Grandmother Nellie assigned me the chair to her right to “control Teresa’s fidgeting,” as she said. She spent the meal correcting my every move. “Pass the food from left to right. Don’t gulp your water, sip it. Quit fidgeting!” Toward the end of the meal she whispered between gritted teeth, “Get your elbows off the table..now!”

I yanked my arms away and slid my elbows through the slats in the back of the chair, where they promptly got stuck. I sat quietly through the rest of the meal. My arms were tucked tight against my sides, my elbows held firmly from behind by the hateful chair slats. I politely declined any extra food offered to me and although Grandmother expressed her unhappiness at the food left on my plate, she did praise me for sitting so upright and proper.

People began to notice something was wrong when I left the dessert, angel food cake (my favorite) untouched on my plate. Grandmother immediately demanded that I remove my elbows from the chair but I could not get them free. I’m not sure when the tears started, probably when my older brother suggested we cut off my arms.

Disgusted with the entire scene, Grandmother marched into her bedroom and returned with her face cream. She slathered up each of my elbows and they finally slid free. She hurried to the kitchen and returned with a soft dishtowel. Grandmother knelt down and murmured, “Oh dear, I hope there’s no damage,” as she gently wiped the greasy face cream from the slats of her chair.

Thanks to Grandmother Nellie, I am comfortable at any formal gathering. I know how to use the proper fork and which direction to pass the food. I can even drink a foamy latte without getting a milk mustache. And my elbows? They’re right where they belong. Safely resting on the table.