Dear Nana,

My earliest memory was when I was four. I remember driving home from the airport with my Mickey Mouse ears on, sitting straight up so my shoulders wouldn't touch the seat because I just refused to get out of the pool the day before. It was dark still, but I could hear the sniffles from the front seat. I could see my mom's head down hands over her face. "What's wrong?" I said. "Nothing honey, everything's fine." My mom sniffled quietly.

We pulled straight into an empty parking lot where my grandmother's red Camry sat, empty. After that, I didn't see my grandmother for six months. What was supposed to be the best time of my childhood life turned in to a memory of my mother's despair. Six months later you reappeared 200lb heavier. I can remember that day. We drove up to a house lots of other people around I could barely recognize you but for some reason, even at 5, I knew that you brought a thick, heavy air everywhere you went, I could feel it follow behind you as you got into the car.

That was the day we picked you up from your first mental facility.

From then on our lives were consumed by you. A part of my childhood was lost because of you. It wasn't mom's fault. She was so strong. I saw it, I felt it. Her strength radiated from her but I could feel pieces of her soul being slowly ripped away by you. $5 here, $10 there. We couldn't even pay the electricity bill, but you still felt like you NEEDED that $5 from her. You were her mother, what was she supposed to do? Sometimes you asked me, even though I was only 10. YOU should have been taking care of mom and me — she was your daughter, I was only ten. Instead, we struggled because of you.

Christmas, sophomore year, you wrote mom a Christmas list full of things you wanted from her. I told her I didn't need anything for Christmas because I knew she couldn't afford it. She still got me everything I could have dreamed — she did the same for you. She went without. As you opened your gifts I remember you saying "Oh, that's it?" I went into my room that night and cried for mom because you sucked the soul from her, the happiness from her. I felt the pain she felt for her. You were a cancer in our lives. Mom trucked on. Mom kept helping you, supporting you financially and emotionally.

You were more like an immature sibling that I never wanted then a grandmother to me.

You knew how to work Mom. You knew the buttons to press, the sentence to twist to get what you wanted. The guilt you pressed her with.

All I ever wanted was a grandmother to love be loved by, but you were incapable of that.

You still are.

I remember begging and crying for you to change, for you to love us. But you couldn't. Mom had a heart attack. The world was still only about you, though. $200 for your scratch tickets and cigarettes were more important than Mom's mental health and stress. "I'm going to have a good cry," is what you said when I told you she was sick. Not an "Is she OK?"

Then, two weeks later, I begged and cried for you not to ask her for money. Instead, you asked your 22-year-old granddaughter, but I didn't have enough to give. So you burdened your sick daughter. She did it — giving you her last $200 was easier than listening to you whine and press and guilt her for it. She was tired she couldn't do it.

It got too much for us, Mom and I. We distanced ourselves. Began to live our lives. Lives that weren't consumed by your selfishness. It was the first time in life I saw the weight lift off Mom's shoulders. I stopped worrying about her mental health. She seemed GOOD. She was living, thriving. Like so many times before the threats came back.

Threats of suicide just because we were living our lives for the first time. We couldn't call every day, couldn't give you money anymore. The guilt poured on us again from you. I saw it eating at Mom. You are her mother! She lived every day, battling the demons of you — the demons you put her through, the demons you will continue to put her through. She loves you though.

She loves you even if you can't love her back.

I say I hate you. I say I hate all the life we lost because of you. The childhood I could have had if you weren't even in the picture. The mother Mom could have been without you. The woman Mom could have been if you were gone. As I grow older I understand you more, though.

Your brain wasn't built to love. It wasn't built to love us or love yourself. Mom and I's brains WERE built to love. All we can do is love. No matter the pain you cause, we can't stop loving you. Your mind will forever be trapped in a selfish teenager's brain. In time we both now know to love you we need to love you at a distance, or we will lose the love of ourselves. We have loved you as hard as we can and we can't change you. I hope you find the help and peace you need in life.

Love,

Your mentally tired granddaughter