My maternal grandmother.

I never knew my maternal grandmother.  She died three weeks before I was born.

I never knew her, and I always felt connected with her anyway.  She was fair skinned and red-headed.  She had two marriages and three children.  My mom says that my grandmother’s moods went up and down: she was depressed at times, and seemed sped up at others.  I know that she went to psychiatric hospitals several times.  When I took a class called Women and Madness in college, case studies of women with mental illnesses from the 1950s sounded similar to parts of her story:  received electroshock treatment.  Likely misdiagnosed.  Prescribed anti-psychotics that seemed to somewhat numb her out, but didn’t address other symptoms (in her case, likely manic episodes).

A few years ago, my mom and I sorted through remnants from her childhood:  old letters, pictures, class assignments.  There are hints of stories never spoken much about, questions that may never be fully answered.  I remember seeing a letter my mom wrote to my grandmother from camp one year:  “I miss you.  I hope you are settling back at home and feeling better.”

I wonder about my grandmother.  Whether she had fire in her personality and had dreams other than what her life became.  Whether she was highly sensitive like my mom and me. What she thought about when she looked out the window.  What it was like for her to raise two daughters who were both spirited in their own way.  I have heard that she was looking forward to my birth.

They say that even if we don’t know the specifics of relatives’ experiences, it may still be in our DNA.  Even though I don’t have physical memories of her, my grandmother is part of me.
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