What you don’t know is I was feeling a little bit like shit lately. Where most vacations are a time to release yourself, from yourself, I was in my head a lot. Jamaica proved to be a testament of the importance of family. This nine day, two country excursion began with Montego Bay for the purpose of family. For the first time in about 15 years I was face to face with a country that I’d gone to yearly as a child, and did everything but rejected as an adult.
I saw my grandmother, whose body had slowed in contrast to her sharp mind. She and I had spoken though, so I was prepared for it. It was two other parts of the trip that I wasn’t prepared for; my grandfather and a newly acquired little sister.
The memories I have of the man are plentiful. Riding around is his red pickup truck. Vivid, are the recurring images of us up early in the morning sipping coffee (yea he hooked me to the stuff around 6 years old), eating Jamaican biscuits, and ‘reading’ the newspaper. He was one of the first people in my family that made me feel like more than a child, and that was something I longed for. I always wanted to grow up, impressing the adults; asserting my motivation to work as early as six years old. An old soul, in a very infantile vessel. This ethic is something that has not left.
So I’d been warned about his ‘mental’ state and that his memory was fading. What no one told me was that he pretty much has Alzheimer’s and would vaguely remember my name, let alone who I was. One minute you’d think he’d had it, then he’d mix me up with my mother, and then he’s lose all recollection and call me ‘Lady’ while offering me the same drink four times on four different occasions. Our conversations began to mimic themselves over the course of the days I was there. It felt great to show up, and be there for them, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that I needed my own escape from it all. The call to make the later part of the visit, a ‘couple’s trip’ was a good one. My backbone was weak, and tears were privately plentiful as I had to rush to the bathroom to let them out for not wanting to break down in front of my grandparents. I needed my man there. There’s a sense of protection that I get from him that lets me know that I’ll be alright. Something I’m eternally grateful for and will never take for granted.
The other surprise, came in the form of a four year old little woman. Biting, self-assured, vibrant, challenging, and emotionally fragile. I don’t think she realizes how much she has in common with her big sister, nor did I realize how much I’d have in common with a child. The last/first time I saw her she was merely months old and I had trouble even picking her up. Here I was, occupying her bedroom, and her mind. Instantly, we bonded. Her announcement, “This is my sister,” to her classmates caught me off guard, yet clearly defined where she had placed me in her life. In reality (even through my step-Dad) there is no actual blood relation. Yet and still, it was apparent. Dad was replaced with big sister, and a disconnection with a new born gave way to a solid relationship with a child beyond her years. When it was time to leave Jamaica, we cried. Her on my lap, tears streaming, and me as her seat, a new bit of foundation in her life.