14 years ago
The last time I spoke to my Nana was New Year’s Eve. I called her in the middle of the night because I was upset, left alone, trying to get my toddler brother back to sleep. I was upset that I was left alone like this almost every night, left to care for a toddler that needed so much more than I could provide at 12 years old.
“You can always come back home, you know that.” One of the last things she ever said to me. I had been begging to be able to go back home to her, to get away from my mother. She wouldn’t let me go. If she did, who would watch my brother? Part of me still resents her for this to this day. As things developed, she began repeating she is “glad she didn’t let me go, she knew something bad would’ve happened to me too.” For years, I wished she had, and I wished at least if something bad was bound to happen to me, I would’ve at least been somewhere happy and not made to suffer for years to come.
My Nana’s birthday was January 5th. It was also my first week at a new middle school in a town I had never been to before. It was terrifying even though I’d been down this road a dozen times. It was a really tough week all around. Staying up with my brother while my mom and her boyfriend stayed out at the bar every night. But I can never sleep when people are out anyway, I’ve always had that worry.
By Monday, January 9th I was really beating myself up that I hadn’t called my Nana yet, even for her birthday. It was rare we went days between talking. I hadn’t talked to her since I was upset and ranting, I felt bad about that. When I woke up on Monday morning I was already running late. I was going to barely make it to the bus stop on time. But from the moment I woke up, she was on my mind. I kept telling myself, you HAVE to call her, I can vividly remember sitting in school anxiously waiting for it to be over so I could get home and call. This was in the time of “long distance calling” and it could only be done from our home phone. Before the ease of cellphones and constant communication.
Even on the bus ride home, I was counting the minutes to being home to call. Four stops away from where I get off the bus I see my mom parked at her new “friends” house, which was right around the corner from our house. When my bus passes by I see her get into her car and start following. The bus stops the next street over from us to let other kids off and I see my mom come up to the door of the bus and talk to the bus driver, then they tell me it’s okay to get off here.
I exit the bus and we’re walking back to my mom’s car she says to me, “Nana died, her house burned too.”
I have zero idea how to process this. I don’t even know what she just said. She can’t be dead, I hadn’t even called her. I hadn’t told her happy birthday. She has to be fine.
We got home and my mom kept calling people, no one was talking to me. My mom never hugged me, consoled me, nothing. This information was dropped on me and I was left there, alone. Really alone this time, I couldn’t even call my Nana.
I logged in online since I still had some friends from various places and I had no one else to talk to. I didn’t know what to do, how to process. Nothing. I remember telling one of my “friends” about it and she says – “if my grandma just died, I wouldn’t be online talking about it.” So I left. But I had nowhere else to talk. I had no one else to listen. I remember crawling under the desk in my room and just crying.
The only time anyone spoke to me was to tell me more detail. No, she didn’t die in a fire. My dad murdered her. I remember everyone discussing the stab counts, how many times he stabbed her, which one was the one that killed her, the obscene details of everything. He was missing, no, wait, they found him. Everybody hates him, but we have no idea what is happening, why it’s happening. No one is talking to me.
I wanted to leave, I wanted to be there now, I had nothing, no one, nowhere to go. I just wanted my Nana to be there, but I knew she never would be again. I was stuck, stuck with this life, my mother, her boyfriends, this chaos. I had no safe zone anymore.
I tried to go back to school, but everything fell so far apart. My mom got worse than she ever was, we had so much more drama and chaos than ever before. Everyone lost it. From that day I realized, if I’m going to make it, it’s on me. Every single day is about survival. It took many, many years before I felt a drop of joy in life again.
I still get upset when I see people with their moms and grandmas and my heart breaks a little all over again when I wonder why these are my cards. Why I don’t get to have that, why my life seems to be a continuous struggle. I have come to terms with the fact that unless you live this life, you’ll never truly understand this life.
Over the years, I pieced the rest of the stories together, I found peace with the circumstances. There isn’t a single day that has gone by that I haven’t wished she would call. Part of me died with her that day. My life as I knew it was ripped to shreds, but against everything I ever thought, I have survived these 14 years.