If it had been beautiful outside then it would have only added to the confusion of the feelings that day.
Woanche Nahdzhii… Grandma said staring blankly at the window from her chair. I nodded and reached my arm out to pat her back, my hand resting for a moment on the shoulder of her faded blue shirt spattered with small flowers.
It is a big wind, I replied When it’s big like that, they said it comes through to help the spirits move along, her voice was flat like the stagnant waters of a partially dried up creek, the remaining waters left isolated and trapped.
When my cousin and I were little we would sit in Grandma’s bed together for weeks watching cartoons on her television. Grandma would feed us cereal and noodles on demand, rabbit soup when there were rabbits, and anything else that my Grandpa would cook. Grandma didn’t cook much and she told my Grandpa when they shacked up that she didn’t like doing it. Papa told her that he would cook for her, and he did, for most of their lives together. He would roll up his sleeves and make fresh bread, apple pies, and the best cinnamon buns I have ever tasted. Papa would always be frying potatoes in his cast iron skillet, telling me about why he liked double tinned pans. When he got sicker he would pull a chair to the stove and sit while he fried them. When he got even sicker is when Grandma started to cook for him. My Papa kept his promises. My cousin and I would emerge from Grandma’s room like wild unkempt animals, our hair knotted and frizzy, wearing only our underwear. When one of the aunties or grandma would comb our hair we learned not to whine otherwise we would get knocked in the side of the head with the brush. Knot, comb, hair pull, grit and bear it.
Grandma started to weep again, her small frail body shuddering under her heaves. I stood behind her and placed my hand back over her shoulder and rubbed her back, much alike she did mine when I was a small girl and she was putting me to sleep.
I know Grandma, I know, I said, my voice breaking under the truth that I knew nothing and nothing made sense right now.
When we lost Papa, Grandma held her sorrow in her bones and grew smaller with each passing month. Now with my cousin taking her life, I was afraid my Grandma would disappear into nothing. It was like watching a tree transition into the fall time, losing its sign of life leaf by leaf until only its skeletal frame was left.
Grandma’s body shook again. I don’t know if it was the diabetes or the eye issues she suffered with but Grandma had been unable to produce tears for years now. When she cried they were dry sobs and knowing that her grief was trapped behind her eyes hurt my heart even more. I wanted to sing to her like my mother and my aunties sang to me and then later sang to my son. I wanted to sing, but I did not have a song.
* I want to write a story about the impacts and reality of suicide in Indigenous peoples lives. I will also weave the reality of resilience and love and laughter into it. I will do it installments. This is part one. I have never lost someone close to me to suicide, but I have witnessed the losses of many of those in my life that I love and those in the communities that I work in, or feel a part of. I have had many people in my life close to me attempt suicide, including myself.