It’s been about eight years now since my therapy sessions ended. During my time in therapy, which spanned the better part of seven years, off and on, I learned much about myself and what drives me to make the choices I make. I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), something I previously only associated with people who had served in wars, like Vietnam. Prior to meeting Marlene, my therapist, I never saw myself as a survivor of anything. Actually I had no idea how I got to where I was. Somehow I just landed in a mess of a life, unable to make the connections between the person I’d become and the child I once was. After spending a year unraveling my life story to a relative stranger, my therapist remarked that although she had worked with many individuals before me with tough stories, she found it amazing that I’d met with any kind of success in life at all, at one point telling me that someone with my past could have just as easily found themselves living in a broken down shack somewhere, collecting Social Security Disability payments. Was it will and determination alone with a little help from the hand of God? Did my grandmother, who was always my rock and strength my whole life, serve as that bright beacon in the darkness of the sea, showing me a life unlike mine, where things were calm, organized and constant?
I will be 50 years old on Friday. I have lived at 46 different addresses. In my whole life, my grandmother lived in just four. No matter where she lived, everything was always just the same. I don’t mean just the same staid furniture in the same preordained places, I mean every lamp, every doily, the bowl of wax fruit, I mean everything, set out in exactly the same place and the same way no matter where she lived. This was nothing like the life I knew. Going back and forth between my mother and father so many times, each of them moving with unwavering regularity, never living in one place long enough to form any meaningful relationships, I learned to move from one thing to the next at a breathtaking pace. It is no wonder then, wherever I arrived at my grandmother’s place, I would fall fast asleep on her couch moments after arriving. Her home was the port in a sea of discontent, the relief and respite from a life of constant turmoil and change.
I have immense gratitude for what my grandmother was able to give me. She passed away 16 years ago today, so naturally I can’t tell her to her face how much she meant to me. Sometimes, as I’m driving to or from work, I contemplate our relationship and how she may have been the one person in my life who knowingly or not gave me the hope and the strength to continue, to push forward, to create meaning in a life where every headwind blew full force onto to my efforts to succeed. I dare think about how my life might’ve turned out had I not known her presence. I do believe in a universe that will conspire in our favor. I do believe in a higher power, a being who is not a manipulator of outcomes, but a force much greater than ourselves that will use people and events to show us the way through whatever we may be going through. Certainly my grandmother was that light in my own life, a beautiful soul who had her own demons to deal with but still somehow found her way to love me, to comfort me and guide me when I had no other significant role models in my life. Thank you grandma, thank you. Know you are missed so much and know I’m forever grateful for who you were and what you’ve done for me.