Last night before I went to sleep I asked God to help me figure out to do about the source of my guilt. I have eliminated most of my guilt over the years but still have trouble justifying the fact that I am estranged from my grandmother. As you know may know, my uncle has torn the family apart with his endless dysfunction but it’s not just that. Growing up I was at the bottom of the totem pole when it came to favoritism in the family. Despite this status, she still had enough manipulation and nastiness to go around. She is one of those people whom strangers love and wonder why her family doesn’t talk to her because she’s so nice to them.
Despite the long list of justification I had for not really talking to her anymore I still felt guilty. I am not the type of person who can do mean or hurtful things to a person even when they treated me abusively. The reason I stayed away was to protect myself: I couldn’t take the way she made me feel when I was around her. Even if I did something nice or thoughtful she was so mean that I always left her home feeling bad. I didn’t need people like her and my uncle in my life. Somehow, I still felt guilty for this choice.
Usually when I feel guilty I find that it is because I am either doing something I know I shouldn’t be doing or not doing something that I know I should be doing. The solution is always simple: do the opposite of what’s making you feel guilty, but this time it wasn’t so clear cut. Last night before I went to sleep I asked God to once and for all help me figure out what to do about my situation with my grandmother.
This morning I was awoken by a ringing phone at 4:30 AM. It was the hospital. My grandmother had had a stroke. Are you kidding me? I could not believe the timing and feared the worst. Would she die? Would I feel guilty the rest of my life for not talking to her much if she did die?
Last night I googled “I Feel Guilty.” The first thing that came up was very insightful. For one, it said not everybody feels guilty, only people who are compassionate- people who have the ability to feel. The next thing that stood out was this sentence, “Forgiveness means to stop blaming or being angry at another for what they have done.” I realized immediately after reading it that I’d been holding a grudge. I was resentful because she didn’t love me and loved everyone else more. I was resentful that whatever she did to my own mother left her so spiteful and emotionally vacant that she took it out on me my entire life. I was resentful of the monster she allowed my uncle to become. The way she defended him as he walked all over everyone, the way he destroyed important heirlooms that belonged to the entire family not just him. The way she gave everything to him and did nothing but put her hand out when it came to the rest of us.
I could forgive her for this because it didn’t matter anymore. Nothing could be done about any of it. I soon felt this pent up tension dissipate from my chakras. I had not realized how tightly I had held onto this negative energy and for so many years. I felt absolved of my guilt but was still unsure about what to do regarding a relationship with her. I went to sleep with it on my mind but then the phone rang. She was in intensive care, my aunt said.
This morning I got into the car and picked up my parents. It was a crisp Sunday morning reminiscent of a Sunday I remember from twenty years ago. She and my uncle, his daughter, my cousin who I never see, and my parents all piled into the car. We were going to the park to fly my new kite. It didn’t go as smoothly as planned. My cousin ended up ruining my kite- she got it stuck in a tree. I cried the entire way home.
I went to the hospital this morning nervous, expecting the worst. When I walked around the corner and saw her she looked so helpless and small. She had a big black eye, having fallen when the stroke occurred and hit her head on the nightstand. But other than that she was completely fine. She was able to move her arm and leg with ease on the side the stroke occurred. She was coherent. She remembered numbers, even the name and age of the paramedic who took her to the hospital that morning. She knew the names of the nurses and all the aids. She was as surprised to see me but happy.
It was one of the few times I’d seen her in the last few years. I think that I got my answer, as far as last night’s prayer was concerned. I knew what to do about my guilt. I didn’t have to be her best friend to visit her every once in a while. I’m sure she hasn’t changed much, but I have, and I decided this morning, after God almost immediately answered my prayers, I would visit her more often but certainly continue to proceed with caution. If only he worked that fast when I need a date….