Emma sometimes channels her, too. One day we were shopping together—school clothes for her, a new backpack for me. My partner, Kenneth, and I were planning a trek in the Ozarks. As the clerk rang up my pack, Emma fixed me with her green-eyed gaze and said, "Gramma? How come you don't stay home and make cookies and knit like other grannies?"
Actually, I used to. I knit my way through my divorce, with great heart and lousy technique. I spent a lot of time unraveling my messes and starting over. Finally I gave it up. And even though I'm a better-than-average cook, it's true that I rarely bake anymore.
Grandma Faye knits. Grandma Faye bakes. Grandma Faye has been married for nearly fifty years to one man—Rosie's father. Faye believes divorce is a sin. And even though Kenneth and I have shared a home for fifteen years (sans vows), she seems to tolerate me anyway. On the other hand, when Rosie went through her brief but intense fundamentalist phase, I became her poster woman for sinners standing in need of prayer. I suspect she continues to take a dim view of my lifestyle.
Kenneth and I are a good match. We're wild about birds and other critters. We're environmental and political activists. Sometimes we stand on street corners with protest signs. My grandchildren find our behavior amusing. Rosie and John, not so much. In fact, Rosie once told me that she finds our public activism extremely offensive and that we must choose between it and the family. We choose both.
As Emma, then Gracie, moved closer to adolescence, this laissez-faire granny decided it was time to redeem herself. Thus began my era of trying too hard. I started showing up for everything: Emma's swim meets, Gracie's flute recitals, family fun nights. I bought lavish quantities of refrigerated cookie dough, magazine subscriptions, and enough paper and ribbon to gift wrap their school. I extended countless invitations to the girls to spend time with me—separately and together. We ate; we shopped; we played miniature golf; we saw movies and plays; we walked in the park. They talked; I listened. I began to get a really good handle on who my granddaughters are. We were having fun and everyone was happy!
Well, maybe not everyone.
During the era, I even attempted to thaw my relationship with Rosie. I suggested that we get together for lunch, for coffee. She pointedly sidestepped each invitation. Then, in what was to become a permanently revised tradition, John and his girls made the annual Mother's Day pilgrimage to my house without Rosie. Ditto my birthday. Rosie was boycotting me.
Even so, I showed up at one of Emma's swim meets, decked out in her school colors and carrying a little "Go Dolphins!" sign I'd made. Emma laughed and introduced me to her coach. That evening, I received another blistergram from John. He e-mailed to tell me that whatever I was trying to prove was undignified and unwanted, that I needed to back off and just be a normal grandmother.
How could my good intentions have been so misinterpreted? I felt shamed, hurt. I wept onto my keyboard. Surely things could not get worse.
It started with unanswered e-mails. Then text messages were ignored. I couldn't get a bead on what was happening. All I knew was that I hadn't heard from Emma for a while. It seemed as though she'd gone missing from me.