When I think of her, the memory that keeps on coming back to me is the time when I was three or four years old and she made me cry. She’d poured a bowl of cereal, drowned the sugary loops in milk, and then yelled at me when I refused to touch it. I kept on trying to tell her why I wouldn’t eat it, but she just yelled louder.
“But Grandma-” I shouted through a torrent of tears; she never let me finish. She just kept on yelling at me, and I yelled back at her, and as I sat, a crumpled heap in one of the brown leather chairs we used to keep in our Brooklyn kitchen, she began to sweep the floor and mumble about what an ungrateful child I was. When her broom finally reached the spot where I was sitting, she shoved the heavy chair to the side and glared at me. I remember feeling worse than dead: what I felt was my first taste of animosity. Someone didn’t like me, and this realization made me cry even harder.
Eventually, my grandfather came and scolded her for making me cry. When he asked what was wrong, I explained that I’d seen worms in the cereal. I didn’t want to eat worms, and grandma was yelling at me, and I didn’t do anything wrong, and and and-
The tears just came down harder, and I felt more and more consumed by a dull ache that my grandmother had caused.
That was more than 20 years ago, and in that time, only a handful of solidly good memories about my grandmother have survived.
Now she has pancreatic cancer, and I have a feeling she won’t last long. I’m trying to sort through my feelings about her, her life, and the effects she’s had on me and my life.