Essay Non-Fiction posted April 24, 2022

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A confession to my grandmother

Dear Nana

by Mary Vigasin

Dear Nana,

You have been gone for years, yet I want to apologize to you for so many of my mistakes.

You came to take care of us when Ma died. I wish I could say I welcomed you with open arms, but you were a grandmother I barely knew. I had only a fuzzy memory of meeting you only once.

Our reception was cold as my sister Rose told me you came to live with us because you had no other place to go or thought it would look bad for you if you did not offer to help Dad. Ma did not like you, so why should we. I realize now that I should not have believed Rose. At the time, she was a defiant teenager and saw you as an invader. I am sorry, I listened to her.

Admittedly, you were not a grandmother who read me bedtime stories or gave hugs and kisses, but what you did do was recite poetry, tell us about Newfoundland, and bake sweets for us. You were from the age of one-room schools; you remembered when the distress signal was heard from the Titanic. Your family suffered losses in WWI and WWII.

The nightly Rosary caused you to believe I was an impossible and wicked child. You would have me and my sister Cathy get down on our knees and say the Rosary. Admittedly, as 8- and 9-year-olds, we hated it. Often, we would climb into bed and pretend we were sleeping to avoid you, but you were not fooled and dragged us out of bed and on our knees. What ended the Rosary sessions was when you caught me laughing. I can tell you why I was laughing; Cathy would make faces or tickle me behind your back. You would turn and find me giggling.

I apologize. I am now sorry I could not give you fifteen minutes out of the day for the Rosary.

Then came the event that haunts me to this day. I have seen your daughter, Tangie, in action; when she starts an argument with her husband, she will attack like a machine gun rattling out words she knows would wound deeply. For Uncle Lou, their oldest son died in a car accident riding with a friend. Tangie would use it as a weapon to remind Uncle Lou that he had refused to let the son take the car.

I do not remember why Tangie was visiting us from Upstate New York or what set her off to start screaming at you. Tangie accused you of being a neglectful mother by caring so much for your mentally ill son; you ignored her.

She accused you, who had been widowed and had to raise five children on your own. Years of anger were spilling out in the vilest way even though she was now the mother of eight grown children. You were trembling and crying. Instead of coming between you and her, I fled. I ran from the house, jumped in my car, and went to my sister's apartment. Back then, when I had a choice, I took flight rather than fight.

I failed you, and I am sorry.

I am now questioning whether we gave you dignity and care in your final year of life.

It hit you suddenly. In the middle of the night, you tried to leave the apartment to go to Mass or look for your baby Frances who died in infancy. After weeks of trying to keep you from leaving at 3am, Dad and I were exhausted.

Nursing homes were not as much of an industry then as it was today. The only home we found was 20 miles away, and it was a snake pit.

The "nursing home" was an old, converted army barracks with open wards and bathrooms. A few private rooms had just enough room for a bed. At least you had one of the tiny rooms.

Looking at this situation through 2022 eyes. I am now questioning whether we gave you dignity and care in your final year of life.

At home, there were times you were delirious; could you have had a fever that contributed to your delusions?
You cried when we visited you and you begged to go home. Could we have taken you home? Would you have recovered?

Today, there would be specialists in caring for the aged. Did we do enough? Were Dad and I so uneducated or lacking curiosity that we couldn't have found another solution?

I am so sorry, Nana, your last few months of life were in the snake pit where you collapsed suddenly and died of an embolism.

I cry when I have lost one of my cats, yet I cannot remember if I wept for you.

Today, Nana, all I can do is ask for your forgiveness and offer a prayer in your remembrance.

Your granddaughter,


Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry



Nana came to live with us when I was 8 and she was 70.
The picture is of Nana and her niece Winnie, named after my grandmother and the niece's husband, Bud.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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