The inevitability of my grandmothers abuse and the apology we owe her for receiving it

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I will not allow my son to have contact with people who have abused me, my family or my friends.
My rule to anyone looking after my son — my father and grandmother are at the top of this list.

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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.

“With no consequences for her abuse my grandmother takes over once again; April 22, 2010.

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She was standing a few feet away from her abuser — from the woman who abused her, her brother, her two sons and even her father — bragging about her abuser’s crab apple jelly and then, not ten minutes later, she grabbed my son, and shoved him into the old evil bitch’s face to make a point about how everyone in the family loved my son… and, what?
“Blood may be thicker than water but you can still drown in it”; September 5, 2010.

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Abuse is abuse. I don’t need bruises to prove my father left me disabled for life. I don’t need to see scars from cigarette burns to prove my grandmother nearly destroyed my mother.
People just don’t stop abusing. They don’t wake up one morning and decide what they’ve been doing has been wrong. You can’t stop an abuser by serving them pie but, you know, with a dirty look in your eye.
You can’t stop an abuser by letting them into your home and serving them tea without the biscuit. Eventually they’re going to poke you in the eye with a very sharp stick and you will have no choice but to bleed.

“We celebrate the abusers in our family with smiles and cake”; September 9, 2010.

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My mother told me a story not too long ago.

We were in the middle of a yelling argument over my refusal to allow her long-term abusive mother near my baby. My mother and step-father were trying to impress upon me the family philosophy of “get-along to go-along” that, in my opinion, had allowed my grandmother to abuse our family without consequence for 61-years.

Seven months ago my grandmother — who had abused me for a long time as well — sat me down and told me “you should be ashamed of yourself for allowing [my son] to be born” because, she believed, there was a chance he could later have manic depression.

She also told me my son should have been aborted because he was a mistake, just like my mother.

She said a lot of other things as well. That was enough for me, I was done with her abuse. So I told her to “go fuck yourself”, told her she’d never touch my baby, and that was that.

At first my mother was cool with my decision, but that changed. And during our confrontation she told me a story to illustrate how I should just accept the family history of ignoring the abusers amongst us — forgive them as they poke us with sharp sticks, then excuse ourselves to wipe our own blood from our faces in private so the abuser never has to feel uncomfortable.

My mother leaned in real close to me, to tell me her story, and said “do you remember the phone call? You remember, I know you remember.”.

When I was nine or ten-years old my brother and I were staying with our grandparents in Montreal when my grandmother struck me. She slapped me. It wasn’t the first time, but when we got home — over breakfast — this time I told my mom.

My mother asked me to repeat myself, then picked up the phone and yelled at her mother for ten minutes before telling her “you’ll never touch my children again”.

It was an entire year before we saw my grandmother again.

As my mother recited the story to me I kept thinking “this is proving my point, you did for your sons exactly what I’m doing for my son”.

But a year after essentially telling her mother to “go fuck yourself”, my mother sat down with her father. He told her “we’re family. We’re all we have. Your mother has lived a life that has made her who she is, what she does is in her nature. We can’t change that. What we do is forgive and move on.”

After that speech my brother and I were once again sent off to spend time with my grandmother. She never hit me again, but what she would do is exaggerate and outright lie to my grandfather… she would practically force him to take my brother and myself out to the woodshed (literally).

In there my grandfather would sit on a stump, with a stick in his hand, and ask us if we knew what we had done. Were we sorry for what we had done?

Of course, we had no idea what we had done… because, most of the time, we hadn’t done anything at all.

So we would stand there, my brother nine-years old and me maybe eleven, sobbing in deep, almost uncontrollable sobs, with snot hanging down to our knees and… I remember one time where my knees were shaking so hard I could barely stand, and I just kept pointing at my little brother and saying, over and over again, “hit him, not me. Hit him, not me. Hit him, not me. Hit him, not me. Hit him, not me. Hit him, not me. Hit him, not me.” and my brother looked so terrified.

And my grandfather would always make it a huge wind-up, but hit us with hardly any force. But my grandmother didn’t know that, so when we came back into the house with huge, red, puffy crying-eyes, I do remember she always looked satisfied.

So a couple of weeks ago, my mother — during our little session together — told me a story where she found out about her mother abusing us; my mother made sure there were consequences for the abuser; we went a year without any abuse; she got talked into allowing the abuser to have access to her children again, and; the abuse picked up right where it had stopped.

And my mother wanted this story to be a parable about how family should forgive without consequence to the abuser, therefore I should give the family abuser access to my baby… and hope. Actually, to just put hope out of my mind, and accept the inevitable. My grandmother will abuse again, it’s in her nature. The only questions are: how bad, and who gets the pointy stick in the eye.

This week I received the same talk my mother received when I was ten-years old. My grandfather took me to a coffee shop and used the same words he used when he convinced my mother to forgive my grandmother for hitting me.

My grandfather told me we’re all family. We’re all each other have. My grandmother had a difficult childhood, with a father who never really loved her… so how could she have turned out any different? She abuses, he told me, but that’s her nature. She’ll never change, so I should forgive and more on.

He actually told me to apologize to my grandmother, but I think he meant “forgive”.

I didn’t remind him that my father emotionally abandoned me immediately after I was born, and then went on to abuse us all for eight years.

My grandfather told me he was aware of the abuses heaped onto my mother by his wife. But then he told me some of it was justified.

And then he told me my grandmother wants to leave him. That she has been abusive towards him, belittling him, cursing at him. That she wants to get a second room / apartment in their retirement home so she can be away from him.

My grandfather told me his wife makes him depressed and anxious. He wants to see a psychiatrist. He hasn’t been able to get a decent nights sleep in over a year.

My grandfather and I had made plans for lunch last Saturday. When he told my grandmother she wasn’t invited she flew into a rage, calling him names, insulting me, my girlfriend and our baby. My grandfather called to cancel, and sounded utterly defeated. After I hung up, I turned to my girlfriend and said “I think my grandfather was about to cry”.

My mother made the right decision when I was ten-years old, to keep her mother away from us. And I do remember the phone call. I remember the eggs were overcooked, and the toast was half-burnt. I remember, as she was dialling, thinking how much trouble I was going to be in the next time I saw my grandmother. But when she got off the phone I remember thinking… “holy Christ, someone’s on my side. She believed me, and she’s on my side.”

And that’s exactly how I felt when I told my mother seven months ago about what her mother had said to me, that I was done with the evil old bitch. Because my mother told me she was on my side, and would support me.

But instead of a year, it lasted just a few weeks.

Everybody in my family wants me to hand my child to my grandmother, smile, and ask her if she wants some tea. But everybody in my family keeps telling me about all of the abuses done to them by my grandmother, then they nod sagely at the abuses done to me. But then they tell me the only peace our family can have is if we continue to just forgive her, because it’s in her nature.

According to both my grandfather and my mother, for the past 61-years people in our family, and the friends around us, have been asking this woman to stop the abuse, only to eventually give up, and give in to the inevitable: she will not stop, and she is too stubborn to want to try.

[edit: I’ve deleted the last two paragraphs because I felt they were just redundant, and I’m too tired to write anything more.]

[Edit: I just had the first opportunity to think about this since waking up, and realized it needs a bit more explanation.]

Last week I told my mother she can babysit for us when we need one, and I also told her — like every other grandparent in Western civilization — she can invite herself over to visit with our baby whenever she wants.

I don’t foresee any future need for a babysitter, but the option is there for my mother to be alone with my son.

I haven’t heard from her since telling her this. I think it’s been close to a week now. I’m pretty sure, and I can only assume here, that my mother has identified me as her new abuser. Which, considering the life I led with untreated and unmedicated manic depression might not be that far off.

Despite my not asking anyone to make a choice between us, I do believe my family is in the process of shutting me out in favour of my grandmother’s continued abuse.

It’s like the world’s slowest, and most unnecessary car wreck… and my whole family is in the trunk.

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...thanks.

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About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression in 1989, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. I have an 8-year old son, and a 4-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Granny, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The inevitability of my grandmothers abuse and the apology we owe her for receiving it

  1. schpaksie says:

    It seems that as long as it makes the decision easy for them most people are just happy to take any stick they are given. Props to you Gabe, I really hope you do ditch the old woman, for good. Sometimes all it takes is one man to start a revolution. It’s hopeful, but the best you can do is try. Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll end up with some of them on your side. Even if you don’t, at least you can live safe knowing that you did your best to give your child the best possible start in life.

  2. Rhiannon says:

    Is the concept of healthy boundaries and natural consequences really that hard to understand? At least you have your head on straight regarding this issue. If you feel pressured into changing your mind just tell us and we will totally help you gain perspective again.

  3. Meg says:

    I can very much relate to this. Stay strong for your son. I know we have had to cut off from people in my family and I think my son is so much better off for it. Even he knows it now and he is only 13. It’s really important to take your child’s side. You are all they have to protect them in this world.

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