My grandmother was in the hospital the summer I was thirteen. My mom was working, and it was my job many nights to cook for my grandfather. My mom would leave me written instructions on what I was to make, and how to cook it, and that is what I would do. It helped that we had cooking classes with Sea Cadets that past year, and that Home-EC was my favourite course at the time (and also the only one in which I received honours marks for my eighth grade graduation.)
There was the one day – and it must have happened often, as I was not surprised or thrown off by it – that my cousin was with us for dinner as well. It was July 3rd. I won’t forget that, as the whole time I was cooking and cleaning up after, I was thinking, I know this day is special – only I couldn’t think why.
July 3rd was his birthday, and always after I felt really bad for not wishing him a happy birthday. I think I made Pigs in a Blanket with mashed potatoes and tomato soup sauce (I also think I added water to the soup, making it too runny to use as sauce.) For years after, every time I saw him, or thought of him, I remembered that day and felt bad – but talking, even to my cousins, was still very hard for me. I never did tell him I was sorry.
On the day that my grandmother was released from the hospital, I was supposed to make roast beef and mashed potatoes. The trouble was, I had stayed up the entire night the night before (something I have never in my life been able to handle.) It wasn’t on purpose. It was the result of a bunch of thirteen/fourteen year old girls getting together for a sleepover birthday party. Even then, we would have slept – only horror movies were “in” at the time, and we were too scared after to go to sleep.
So I was peeling the potatoes, feeling very sick and exhausted from lack of sleep, when I cut my thumb with the potato peeler. I don’t remember ever doing it before or after, but in that moment, I passed out on the kitchen floor – and that is where my grandmother found me. Despite the fact that she had just been released from the hospital after a heart attack, she finished preparing the meal for me, and wasn’t even upset.
It has been nearly 26 years, and all of these people are gone now. My cousin, and his younger sister, had Cystic Fibrosis, which claimed his life at the age of 26, and hers at 21. I put a birthday card in his casket, apologizing for that time that I forgot. It may not help him, but it was something I had to do.
It doesn’t seem so long ago. Not really. Yet so much has changed from those days. I miss my family. More than anything, I miss my family. And this passing time, that continues to take people from me – as it does for all of us, I suppose – breaks my heart.
I have Aspergers. I have Autism. But that doesn’t mean I cannot love, or feel attached to my family. And it is times like this, when I am mourning the loss of my grandmother, and all of those taken before her, that I know. I know that in this, I am much like everyone else.