“Your grandmother is a hypochondriac!”
“You’re just like her.”
The work of generations in clearing out what came before. The work of my lifetime. Slow forward.
I never had patience or respect for my grandmother’s manipulation, the pathetic searching for love through giving things with strings, the wounding. But the older I get, the more sympathy I have for my grandmother’s physical conditions. We are, thanks to the Wicked Genetics Fairy, entirely too much alike.
Here’s what my maternal grandmother and I share:
- A hyetal hernia
- Colon polyps
- A shellfish allergy
- Severe osteoarthritis at a relatively early age
- Spinal pain
- High blood pressure
- Worrying about all of the above (i.e., anxiety)
What we don’t share are the aftereffects of horrendous cancer surgery that she underwent in the 50s, causing her to have a “big arm” for the rest of her life because she wouldn’t do the necessary lymph drainage to get rid of it. She had scarring from the top to the bottom of her abdomen. I do believe she lived in constant pain. Ibuprofen hadn’t been invented until about a year before she died. Antidepressants consisted of Valium, which she rightly feared.
The Hypochondriac label haunts me. No one will ever say that about me. Instead of my grandmother’s constant need to complain about her aches and pains, Dave tells me I don’t communicate enough about them. I find this amusing. Most of my day is an internal struggle to forget how much various parts of me are hurting. Work helps. Walking in the woods helps. Having a hot tub and NSAIDs keeps me moving.
It’s ironic. The work of the younger part of my adult life was in shedding my sharp tongue and learning to inhibit my worst thoughts. Someone the other day wrote about “the truth that doesn’t need to be told.” That’s it. That part of me now seldom sees the light of day, for which I’m very grateful. (I’m sure Dave and Anne are, too.)
Now, the primary work of my older adult life is in accepting what is, physically. In stretching every day. In talking rationally about that which needs to be shared. In letting go of worry about the future and staying present.
Generational work, from mothers to daughters to granddaughters.
And on it goes. Slowly, slowly stretching what we inherit, until we can shape it into something else and let it go.