Christmas Blues

My grandfather is in the hospital. He is 86 years old and very fragile, because he had tuberculosis and poliomyelitis when he was a child, so, his whole life he used crutches to walk. He was very poor and overcame a lot to raise all his nine children. My mother is the oldest, and she is so sad lately that it hurts.

I don’t like to use this blog to cry or vent (ok, sometimes, I vent a little). I like to keep it “my personal beach”, a safe place where I can enjoy and have fun while I do something that I love — writing.

But today it feels so heavy that it occured to me that maybe I keep things too much for myself. That I carry too much alone. I don’t really like asking for help, I feel like a burden, and feel like no one can ever help me anyway.

I’ll just write and share how I am feeling. I am not very close to my grandfather. I was the second grandchild from a really big family. My mother raised us in such a way that I was at my grandparents house almost every sunday, when the adults gathered to drink and play music (the men), and the women would cook and talk about many things, including problems in their marriages. So, it felt like if my mother’s family was our family too, or like our “smaller” family — mom, dad, me and sisters — were nothing more than an extension of her own family.

I didn’t like to go there. I was a very shy child and there was too many people, so, I didn’t feel comfortable. Too many people make me feel uncomfortable. I went there, and there was not many children: basically it was only me, my oldest sister and my oncle, because I have an oncle who is one year younger than myself.

We tried to play, but the adults were everywhere, and each one gave an order, or an opinion about us. I was all the time trying to find a place to hide. As the two only nieces (I have six aunts), me and my sister received a lot of love and attention. My grandmother was particularly tender with me. She found me beautiful, sweet, intelligent. I liked the attention, but, again, made me feel anxious. And guilty. Because I didn’t enjoy being there, and I should. I felt ungrateful, and just plain mean.

The house was poor, in a poor neighborhood, and I found there to be ugly. I felt so guilty. I still feel now, more than 20 years later, but I have no reason to lye.

My grandfather is a shoemaker. He creates rustic and traditional sandals, very typical from the land of my region. They went through a lot in their lives. And I always felt proud of them. I adored when my mother talked about how poor they were and how they overcame the many difficulties.

My mother also shared so many funny stories about that time. For example, when one of her sisters bought a popsicle, and she saw it, and her sister didn’t want to share it, and hid it under a pillow. And my mother saw it, and started a conversation with her until the popsicle melted. None of them ate it!

I know it was a sad, difficult, dangerous time. But I was born in a comfortable position. I didn’t experience poverty that way, and the stories my mother shared sounded like old tales, from a different time. She was wealthy now, and could share it from a safe place. I enjoyed them, was fascinated by them.

I also felt that, as I was “richer” and more fortunate than my mother, that we, the grandchildren, should do more, overcome more, be outstanding. Inside me, there was this pressure to succeed.

For a while, I thought I could do it. I had a wonderful education, I studied abroad, I learnt languages. By 20 years old, I had a curriculum that almost any company in my region would be happy to accept. I was pretty, intelligent, determined, emotionally mature. And then, I colapsed. That was it. I failed. That is how I feel when I think about that time of my life.

Although I love my path and all, sometimes I wonder “What if…” What if I had suceeded, and became the Le Monde reporter (and later, editor) I wanted so much to be? What if I filled my family with pride? What if then?

And then I go back to life. Reality doesn’t give us much time.

My grandfather has a strong faith, and he is rather positive, and “trusts the invisible”, which I think was determinant to support him and my grandma, against all odds. They have suceeded. All their nine children are more than fine. They have houses, money, they take their children to Disney, their grandchildren go to Europe in honey moon. Above all, they are honest, and good people, all of them. They lived even in a slum for a while, and my mother told me there were days when she and her sisters had to go to bed earlier, because there was no dinner. And even tough, they suceeded. They didn’t complain. They did what was right, and walked their paths bravely. I feel so proud of them!

My mother’s family overcame the difficulties also by uniting as if all of them were one. They are very cohese and strong as a family. So much that sometimes I call them “the Mafia” (it is a rather pejorative nickname, I know). But it’s because they have their own rules, leadership inner competitions, and sometimes I feel this structure to be cruel and manipulative, rather than loving and protecting.

I am not close to my mother’s family for a long time. It has been a long time since I stopped going to the family gatherings, to Christmas, to New Eve. I detached myself almost completely. I feel more comfortable so. The family grew and now there are about 40 people. I can’t. I have my own issues, and don’t feel comfortable there anymore for a long time. Many of them also don’t feel comfortable with me anymore. But some miss me too, I am sure, and I miss them. As the second oldest, I’ve hold many of my cousins and cousines in my arms. I watched them growing, getting older, and with some of them I had a special connection. Now, I barely see them, that hurts. And I know some of them might miss me too. I have a eight years old cousin that is particularly attached to me. He noticed that I don’t go his birthday parties anymore and this year he said that his next party would be here, in my room. That made me laugh, but I know it’s sad actually.

The way I share it so openly is also because I know I am not alone in this. So many of us have disfunctional relationships with our families and this “hits” us heavily during the holidays.

I have no hopes of being cherished by my family anymore, but this holiday, I want to see my grandfather. I don’t know how much more he is going to live. And to do so, I need to face my whole family. Feeling so so afraid.

And there is also The Dream. Now is when crazyness gets crazier. Many years ago, my little sister had a dream, where she found my grandfather in heaven. “Oh, you came, my child”, he said to her. She said “Yes”. Than, he said “Andressa is coming soon”. And then, she looked “down” and saw me talking to my mother in the kitchen. And she said that I seemed to be “revolted”, disturbed.

Me and my little sister have been haunted by this dream for a long, long time. I know I shouldn’t and I am not supersticious, but I totally can’t help it. Everytime my grandfather gets worst, I feel afraid, and I know it’s selfish.

So, this year, because I know he is in pain (he says that he is already “seeing his own father”, and that he is telling him to not eat anymore) and that maybe he wants to go, I made a prayer, and I don’t pray for a while, but this needed a prayer. Not a meditation, not an asana hour, no ying yoga. A prayer.

And I said “Grandfather, if you want to go, go. I love you and I want you to be happy and joyful”. That is it, a simple prayer. And if this stupidity of dream is true, I might loose also my little sister, and then I’ll be revolted and then I’ll dye. But I won’t hold my gandpa here if he doesn’t want to anymore.

It made me feel more at peace. But still, we are in that awful period of time when, everytime the phone rings, I get colder. You can feel the tension in the air. My mother is exhausted. She doens’t know what to do. It’s like waiting for the pain that is probably coming soon and we have nothing to do about. But praying. And breathing.

I wish I had a happy Christmas post, but I don’t 😥 I am sure many of you will understand.

But I’m wishing you an amazing Christmas — have fun for me!! And an awesome week 🙂

Namaste.

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