When my Grandmother died I was on the cusp of 28. My memories of her were bittersweet, and lingered somewhere between fondue parties and a not-so-subtle disdain for my Mother. Despite this, I was heartbroken when I lost her. Maybe it was guilt in having not spent enough time by her bedside? Maybe it was seeing a piece of my own childhood die as well.
…Maybe that’s why she keeps coming to visit me?
It’s been twice now. The first time, I was paralyzed with fear. Who among you wouldn’t be after seeing your Grandmother appear exactly as she did the day she died; mouth slightly agape, the pain of a four year battle with Cancer still present despite having finally receiving her so-called “sweet release.” When she disappeared I was all too certain it was a waking nightmare. This explanation pacified me, but on a more visceral level I knew it was a load of shit. Something wasn’t right…
The second time it happened, I was clutching my windowsill and trying desperately not to vomit after yet another night of binge drinking. My Grandmother appeared beside me. I knew she’d arrived, but I was too petrified to look this time and I didn’t have to. I could feel her presence and I knew she wasn’t there to comfort me. Sooner or later I had to turn around if I ever wanted to leave the bathroom. The urge to vomit was replaced by fear, and each breath I took was more cumbersome than the previous.
I faced her, and that was when I saw her burst into flames. Her arms were outstretched, and her head was rotating in a grotesque carousel-like fashion just slow enough for me to make out her features, which were contorted in pain. I vomited everywhere, and she disappeared. I slowly shimmied my back down against the cool tile of my bathroom wall and laid down. Never before had I felt equal parts shame and fear–even as an alcoholic.
There is something fundamentally wrong with my life, and in a post-puke moment of rare clarity I understand this. But there is something wrong with my Grandmother’s afterlife, and I am not sure what to think about that.
I pondered telling my Mother, but why? She didn’t shed a single tear when her Mother died, and in the true Pappas family fashion, it’s likely I will carry on that tradition at her funeral, too.
Two days passed without a “visit” and I was starting to return to normal. I succumbed to my desperate lifestyle that I tried to pretend was alluring and chic. My previous moment of clarity disappeared faster than the plastic seal around the bottle of bourbon I was about to nurse for the next several hours. I lifted my glass to my lips and they began to burn. I closed my eyes in ecstasy. This was the first drink I’d had since the “incident” and it was everything I needed in that moment. I tipped the glass all the way back, and it hit me.
Not the glass…the realization. It hit me so hard my entire life passed before my eyes in an instant. Wasn’t this supposed to happen only to those who were dying? I started to hyperventilate; I learned the purpose of my Grandmother’s visits. She was in Hell and she wanted to tell me something.
My Grandmother; a virgin until marriage. My Grandmother; a tri-weekly Catholic church attendee. She was in Hell for eternity, and if she’s in Hell… what chance have I got of not joining her one day?
Credit To: MacabreMacaroni