Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Mourning the Matriarch

Before she died in 1999, I thought of my family as a unit, a large umbrella spreading out around dear Grandma who was the central peak. It isn’t like that anymore. In the 10 years since she left us, we have gradually fragmented and strolled our paths to destruction. If I ask myself why this is so, the first theory I arrive at is one based on respect. We respected that woman; we all adored her and clambered for her approval and attention. I always thought that I had gained hers, she always made me feel that I was special; it never occurred to me for a moment that she had the ability to make others feel that way too.

After she was gone my Aunt told me how angry Grandma had been at me at one point in my life; my second sister told me how she considered herself Grandma’s favourite, and my brother related stories she’d told that she had never shared with me. I simply couldn’t believe it. I had always, and still secretly believe, that Grandma loved me the best. I was the one who she told stories; I was the one who she understood the best. I was her favourite!

There is no doubt she had a profound effect on all of our lives. Her paranoia over what the neighbours would think was fed to us before solids, her pride and snobbery have been a ‘log’ on my shoulder for as long as I remember. She is with me every time I hear someone say ‘youse’ or ‘somethink’. She dots my ‘i’s’ and crosses my ‘t’s’, and I stifle a giggle when I realise that three of her closest Granddaughters ended up marrying Catholics, I comfort myself imagining her stifling a wee giggle too.

She left behind her a large and mostly successful family. This family is not without its tragedies, and scandals, but it is without its matriarch. Like all teams, we flounder without our captain. We all play our own game and forget that we can’t win without the support of our co-players. When my eldest sister deleted me on facebook, Grandma was not here to tell us both to mind our P’s and Q’s and pull our heads in. She wasn’t here to stop and listen to why we were upset with each other, and unfortunately, she didn’t tell us how to fix it. So the standoff remains, and I know that it shouldn’t.

Is it possible that the real problem since her passing has not been her absence alone, but the lack of leadership itself? The internal jostling for dominance continues and ideally a new matriarch should take position. Alas, after ten long years of testing, we are too raw and bruised from poor on field behaviour to consider an election. It seems that working together has become less of a possibility. We continue to lose respect for each other as each player’s true colours are revealed. And that’s just it, rather than reforming the old team, it is perhaps more realistic that we should move to take on our own colours, and concentrate more on our own teams…our own families.

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