Initially this post was going to be about the time when I got stood up on a date on last Saturday. Typically enough, these things happen to me because, well, I am not exactly sure why. Something else happened the following day which made the unfortunate event less important, if it ever had any importance. I lost my grandmother. It doesn’t find anywhere in the current context of this blog, but this is part of this lifetime, and it’s bigger than anything I’ve ever written.
Her life wasn’t easy. Grandmother always said – going through life isn’t the same as crossing the field – it’s a literal translation, it carried more profound meaning when it was said by her, in Russian. She was born in 1940 Russia when the hardships of war and post-war trauma was weighting heavily on the generation betrayed by the ruling class, the same class which was sent to be slaughtered by Stalin and his parasite huntsmen. The lack of faith in the future and bitter memory of the past was passed on with mothers’ milk to the youth which had no future other than mere survival inflamed by boredom, hard labour and alcoholism. Yet one thing which always remained untainted was love.
My grandmother had a tough start to her life. Being born into peasant family, she got married at the age of 17 to the love of her life, a handsome young man, my grandfather whom I never met. By the age of 25 she already had two young boys and an alcoholic husband. Alcohol, infidelity and violence was a shadow placed upon young woman’s life who didn’t know any better, in fact nobody knew any better, this was the characteristics of the era of the post war small Russian village. However love that she had for my grandfather soothed her existence over the years. Even after his death, she would often speak of him, the love of her life, Nikolay.
Widowed at the age of 33 she remained faithful to him till the end of her life. She lived alone in the remote town called Energetic, Orenburg. She’d come visit both of her sons for a few months every couple of years to look after her grandchildren. I remember her being incredibly stubborn and stern, sometimes clumsy and very protective of her sons which drove my mother mad, but she was also kind and unconditionally loved her grandchildren.
I also remember heated arguments I had with my mother who’d often compare me to grandmother. She criticised my adolescent bitterness, stubbornness and defiance as if it was an inherited flaw. I desperately tried to shake it off, only to realise years later that a so called flaw in character is a flaw my grandmother had no control over. Can you blame somebody for being born into a society which was destroyed and demoralised by war and poverty? A flaw which drove a desperate woman to find herself at the edge of the cliff with two young boys and as if by the same flaw she found her way back to the long lost faith in the future.
I treasure every bit of that flaw I have in me because I am the woman today because of this woman and I am sorry I will never be able to tell her that. I’m terribly sorry. I am sorry I haven’t seen her in more than ten years, I am terribly sorry I didn’t say ‘I love you my darling’ enough. She died in a care home alone, two days before her 77th birthday, far away from where she was born and lived all her life. She often spoke about how she wished to be buried next to her beloved Nikolay, I am sorry her wish didn’t come true. There aren’t enough sorries in the world to redeem the hard life she had. I only hope, that wherever she is right now, she’s at peace in the sweet embrace with the man she loved. R.I.P my darling. I will miss you forever.