To give you a bit of background information so this makes more sense contextually, I grew up knowing VERY well that my maternal grandmother hated the fact that my biological father, Ivan, is Puerto Rican. She made that very clear with remarks over the years that usually ended with her me that she was really happy I looked like her. This was very normal and I knew she hated that part of me. My relationship with my grandmother was not as close as I originally believed. But then it's difficult to have a relationship with someone that is as judgemental as she tended to be.
She was a very strong, dominant type of person. You knew she was in charge of any room she was in. Not because she was physically aggressive (although she could be) but she just carried herself in a way that felt like she was in charge of the show. She was very giving, very loving, and really let me know throughout my life that she thought I was special and I knew she loved me. Her love for me was very evident and she always made sure I knew she loved me.
I don't really remember my grandmother's exact words but I knew from an early age that she was racist. She talked negatively about my dad for being a Spic, about my Uncle Eli for being a Jew, about my Aunt Dot for marrying That Jew, about my (Italian) neighbors for being Whops, about my (Asian) neighbors for being Dot Heads. She often asked why I hung out with black kids instead of only white kids.
When I was really young, she would play with my hair, compliment my blue eyes and tell me that I would always be a white. I had always ASSumed she meant racially, I'd always be white. She said that to me many times throughout my childhood. It wasn't until I was in my 20s that I found out her maiden last name was White. All those years were based on her chatter regarding other ethnicities, races, and nationalities........I had mistakenly thought she was calling on me to never forget I was a white person. Nope, she was telling me that I was her family......a White.
Actually, as I'm typing that last line............. I'm not sure now. Did she mean white or White? Hmmmm
I gained a lot of my strength from her. I don't know how she felt about me over the last years of her life. I know I always loved her even though she despised parts of me. She still loved me in every way a grandmother will love their grandchild. She never told me to hate anyone. Never told me to stay away or not be anything other than myself to everyone around me. She's been gone quite a few years now and I still haven't resolved in my heart how I feel about her. I loved her and that's a fact. But looking back I think I don't have respect for her or that I even liked her that much when I have this filter of experience looking at her now.
Having grown up in a world of drug abuse and neglect the way we did, I think you took whatever love you were able to get in the moments you were able to get it. She loved me and I loved her. As I got older and had my daughters, she was really very nice to them the few times they were around her. She did the odd things you hear white folks doing with touching hair and being someone bewildered by them. But she hugged all over them, kissed them and treated them the same way she did my sister and I.....wiith love. I often wonder because of her about the various levels to racism. Some hate, and some are bewildered by the unfamiliar. I actually do miss her. She was a fighter of epic proportions and would kick the shit out of anyone........I LOVED THAT ABOUT HER!!!
I couldn't find any photos of my grandmother. She was a beautiful woman, I wish you could have seen that as well as know her strengths and not just her weaknesses. I'll write more about her as I ease into this phase. I think I'm ready.
Instead, I'm choosing to link out to the donation site for Black Lives Matter.
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