Posted by Anonymous.
My grandmother is an abused woman.
At 65 years old, she has never been shopping alone. She is given an ‘allowance’ of twenty dollars per week, which she almost always uses to supplement the seventy-ish dollars per week she is given to purchase groceries for my grandfathers, herself, and my cousin (the lazy, unemployed 20-something mooch, though this is a rant for another day). My grandmother is treated like a child, and has been since the day she was married at 19 years old. My grandfather treats her so poorly, that his sister has actually gone as far as to suggest that my grandmother may be mentally handicapped. Nanna is belittled daily, criticised for her every action. "You dress like a slob, you dress too well, you’re a pig, the house isn’t clean enough (do it again!), you’re stupid, you’re worthless, you are nothing without me . . ." etc. My father has vivid memories of his mother being punched through walls, pushed down stairs, and being kicked until she simply would not get up. He remember her being forced to eat off of the floor because she failed to feed the grandfather’s dog in a ‘timely’ manner. I have a half dozen illegitimate aunts and uncles fathered by my grandfather to other women, over the years. The youngest is only a few years older than I am. He is an undeniably cruel, insensitive husband, and she is too far gone to see this.
That being said, 8 months ago, she finally worked up the courage to leave him after she caught him cheating on her in their bed.
Nanna packed her bags, and moved into my father’s house. Immediately, despite the restrictions put on us by the economic issues swirling about, my father began working on an addition to the house so that she would have her own space in our home, and so that she could feel like she wasn’t intruding on anyone else’s space. For the first time, she went grocery shopping alone, with her own money, and loved it. She went out in her own car, and got her dog groomed for the first time in over a year, and was so thrilled that she could do so without being belittled for spending money on ‘that damned mongrel’. She went to a counsellor, and hashed out all of the feelings she had been battling with for decades. Her friends and extended family called and told her how proud they were that she finally grew some courage. She was happy, blissfully so, and she had every damned right to be.
Yet some of my family didn’t see it this way.
Her other son and daughter began calling and emailing her daily, harassing her about leaving their father. They claimed she was being selfish, accused her of trying to tear the family apart. The grandfather’s sister called and condemned Nanna to hell, saying in no uncertain terms, that the only reason a woman would ever leave her husband was to be unfaithful, and that God would see her burn for what she had done. The grandfather himself called my father, and insisted he was only helping Nanna do ‘this’ because he was after his money. The grandfather claimed that my father ‘didn’t understand’ what it was like to crave sex so badly, and to have a wife who was ‘too busy cleaning’ to help him out (cleaning at his demand/ ‘or else’ threats might I point out).
Yet the rest of us stood by her. We reassured her, we continued to help her do the things she wanted to. She continued to see her counsellor. My aunt, furious that her attempts at guilting her mother were failing, began threatening to take away her children. She promised Nanna would never see them again.
Even so, Nanna persevered. I quickly became her confidante. She told me horrible things about my grandfather which will never let me look at him the same again. She told stories about my cousins, aunt and uncle which were unforgivable, and filled with cruelty. She cried about how hard it was to stay strong, knowing how many people were angry with her, but claimed that she could do it if she just had enough support.
The final straw however, came when the grandfather’s brother, the pastor, came into the picture. He assured Nanna that she would go to hell unless she reconciled with the man that treated her so poorly. He had the nerve to look her in the eye, and say the words ‘God will surely award you in Heaven for all the suffering you have been, and will go through.’
Two days after that conversation, she went home. And as selfish as it may sound, I was truly devastated.
Everyone who had supported her in leaving, were in uproar when she went back. She called the day after she’d gone home, and tried to act as if everything was normal. She wanted to pretend that the nine and a half weeks she had escaped him were some sort of terrible dream, and not reality. The grandfather shared this view obviously.
Which brings me to the reason for writing this. I am furious. I am so angry with both of them that I haven’t been able to articulate it before now. He is a lying, cheating bastard, who has committed terrible atrocities against someone so defenseless, and he makes me sick. She has destroyed any respect I have ever had for my entire extended family on my father’s side. She took every image I had of elders I adored, and cousins who were my friends, and ran them so far into the ground that I will never be able to feel any sort of bond with them ever again. And now, she wants me to pretend none of that ever happened, and to go on living like nothing ever happened. Bullshit!
I have not spoken to either of them since her delusional phone call all those months ago; I don’t trust myself to do so without saying things I know I will regret. I am hurt, I am angry, and I am just so disappointed in both of them. They are supposed to be people I can love and admire. They are supposed to be a soft place for me to land, people who I can go to for advice or comfort. Instead they are a walking freak show that is so self involved that they cannot see how fucked up they truly are.
I overheard a phone call between she and my father a few weeks ago, where she asked about me. He told her that I was hurt and angry, and said he didn’t think I would want to talk to her. Her response? ‘She’s young, she’ll forget soon enough, and then we can get back to being a family again.’ I am 22 years old, and a grown woman God damn it! I am not going to forget what happened, and I sure as hell see no way that we can ever ‘get back to’ being a family ever again. I will not be sucked into their dysfunctional spiral, I will not put on my nice face and pretend everything is okay when it definitely isn’t. I won’t enable the grandfather’s abuse by turning a blind eye.
Even as I write this, I know how childish it must sound. Maybe I am overreacting. But how can I forgive the man who is slowly but surely killing my grandmother? How can I interact with people who are so happily abusing an elderly woman? How can I laugh with relatives who are so self involved that they harass an emotionally traumatized woman into returning to the abuse? And how can I sit and discuss the weather with Nanna, now that I know all of the deepest, darkest, most intimate details of her own personal hell? Am I being too self-centred? I just want all of it to feel right again, but I don’t know how it can.