Almost six weeks ago I told my grandmother to go fuck herself. When I was a child I often thought of telling her off, and now that I’ve finally made a complete break from her it feels as though my life is less complicated. Like there’s one less person in my life waving a knife in my face.
The last time I saw her was three days after I jabbed my finger close to her nose, and angrily said what I said. It was my son’s baptism. My mom convinced me there would be too much drama if I told her to stay away, so she showed up at the church and I bit my tongue hard.
There were a lot of abuses, a lot or manipulation in the years leading up to the moment where I felt so much like bashing her head in with her brass lamp. But it was that specific day, and her questions about my baby boy, that finally broke me.
She demanded to know why I hadn’t insisted my girlfriend have an abortion; she told me I probably wasn’t even the father; she demanded I find out the total cost of the pregnancy, as a lesson in why I shouldn’t have allowed it to continue. Then she claimed to have heard I was telling people that, to support my son, I was just gleefully waiting for my grandfather to die.
When I told my mother what her mother had said, her first reaction was to comfort me. But then she started to defend her mother. To rationalize her behaviour. Maybe it was dementia, maybe it was the steroids or the antibiotics.
I looked at her and said “this is the woman who has abused you for sixty years.” And that seemed to be that. I told my mother, after the baptism, there would be no more visits between my grandmother and my son.
And then Easter came along. When I told my mother I would not be attending Easter Sunday dinner, and neither would my son, if her mother were there, and she again tried to rationalize away her mother’s behaviour. It was probably the most honest discussion the two of us have ever had.
I can’t remember her exact arguments, but they basically came down to me “rising above” the situation. It was as though my mother were defending someone else. The things she was saying were almost about an idealized version of her mother, or maybe an idealized version of her mother’s psychosis.
I do remember her saying something like “she’s yelling at people now in the Home; she’s acting more and more bizarre; it’s possible the medications have done away with the barriers between thought and speech…” and that’s when I finally stopped her.
My grandmother, I told my mother, has spent sixty years building a framework around this family, and everything she said to me fits in that framework. That’s sixty years of premeditation.
The main problem, the real problem, was if my mother told my grandmother to stay home, it also meant my grandfather would stay home. So I told mom I’d take two days and think about the situation.
Two nights later, as I walked to mom’s house, I still had no idea what to do. Show up with my baby and be forced to interact with my grandmother — concede defeat once again, lose an incredible amount of self-respect, allow my grandmother’s malevolence to once again be ignored and forgiven.
Or put my family into a situation where they have to make a statement and outright chose between my son and I, or my grandfather, in order to teach my grandmother a lesson.
It wasn’t until I was in my mother’s living room, and my mouth began to move, that I decided to tell her I was sorry, but there was no way I wanted my son near my grandmother.
Her reaction was remarkable… at least to me. I was mostly expecting a fight, or some huge sigh of resignation loud enough to let me know I was crippling the family. But what I got was “okay. We’re on you’re side in this.”
I almost fell over. All the way home it kept repeating in my head… a side, my side, there are people on My Side. They understand, my parents understand what I’ve been going through since the incident with my grandmother.
So the decision was made to just not invite my grandparents to dinner. I was a little disappointed that a larger point wouldn’t be made but by not inviting them, as though it were an oversight, was probably best for everyone I cared about.
Besides, I’d never felt like that before… like people were on my side, like I had backup. I actually felt lighter, like my feelings about my grandmother had been justified, and confirmed.
It was a great feeling… and it lasted until yesterday.
My mother has been babysitting my son on Tuesdays. It’s as much a favour to her as it is to my girlfriend and I.
This past Tuesday, I just found out, my mother took my son to the assisted-living facility where my grandparents live. In her words “because the old lady’s there have been asking about him.” And guess who walked up, touched his forehead and called my baby “beautiful”? The same woman who, just six weeks ago, demanded to know “who made the decision not to have an abortion?”.
I don’t fucking get it. I’ve been absolutely crystal clear about how I do not want the old bitch near my baby. The same old bitch who abused my mother, and my brother, and me, and even my grandfather. And yet, there’s my mother bringing my baby straight to the abuser.
And now I have to tell her again, go over the ground rules one more time, because I don’t think we’re on the same team anymore.