Thursday, July 9, 2009 and cold.

* a rare pic of my grandparents together

As a lot of people who read this blog might know...I grew up with a crazy father who kept us fairly isolated from people specifically and the world in general as much as he could. Most of the places we lived when I was young were either very small towns or isolated areas in which there were few neighbors. It was rare for people to come visit us...and rarer still for us to go visit them...or to spend the night with friends etc. Most of our friends were too scared to even come to our house for the most we didnt do a lot of asking for slumber parties any how...but it would have been nice to have those sorts of memories.

My Mothers family never came to see us for the most part during my childhood...any visiting that was done was by us going to see them. It didnt happen a lot but enough so that us kids knew our grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. (they all lived in pretty much the same area in OK) When we went down to visit we usually stayed with my grandparents...and counted the days until we were ran out of the house and headed back home. It went something like this....

My grandmother was about the most anti social person Ive ever personally known in my life. She suffered a lot in her life so I figure that had a lot to do with it...but I also assume she had personal issues and personality hangups that made her who she was....a person that rarely smiled...never laughed...and had nothing good to say about anything. All my childhood all I can remember from her was a constant babble of complaints about everything and anything under the sun. Whenever we came to visit my mother braced herself for a constant onslaught of finger pointing and nagging from sun up to sun down...and late into the night. Grandma never seemed to run out of things to complain about...and didnt sleep much either...sigh.

Grandpa, on the other hand, dealt with life (and maybe his wife) by drinking...a lot. While she sat at the kitchen table (I rarely saw her anywhere else in her house other than the bedroom for sleeping...and she only went in there when she wanted to sleep) he would sit outside on the porch in his broken down chair sipping on beer and ignoring the complaints that were constantly being thrown out the screen door at him. They very rarely spent time in the same room together other than when passing through...and I never heard a single word between them that could in any way be considered civil...Mom says its because of the hard life they spent together and the era they grew up in. They were like enemies that couldnt live together...but wouldnt even think of living life apart.

Now I had two very different relationships with these two people. Like night and day...or hot and cold depending on how you look at it. As I sit here and think about the both of them (both have since passed on) I only have negative memories with my grandmother and only positive memories of my grandfather. Its possible because I was a child my memories are somewhat distorted but I will explain and you tell me...what was going on with those two?

As I mentioned, my grandmother was a bitter and angry woman...this was her personality and she pretty much treated everyone to a tongue lashing if they dared come too close. Most of the family had learned that a quick visit was just about all that could be had if you didnt want to get dragged into a tirade that lasted hours. Whenever we stayed there for more than a day...Mom would make frequent "trips to the store" just to give herself (and us) a chance to regroup and calm down. I was usually the first one in the car when she suggested we needed something...I couldnt get away fast enough. You see, my grandmother hated me...we all knew this...including my Mother...but none of us knew why.

Picture this. My grandmother rarely showed affection to anyone...even her own a hug from her or even her reaching out and touching someone on purpose was just something so rare that it caused heads to turn and eyebrows to raise when it happened....and something remembered for a very long time. Growing up my older sister Tammy was favored by grandma, which was ironic considering Tammys rebellious streak and penchant for trouble making. I can remember on several occasions when gramma would call her over and pull her onto her lap...for just a few seconds but thats all it took...that contact was a signal that Tammy was about to get a treat (money, a trinket of grammas etc) and Tammy knew it..and soaked it up. Throwing me a look of such superiority that ordinarily I would be jealous...but I wasnt...I knew how she felt about me and knew I would never be asked to sit on her lap. I didnt miss it.

Years later after Tammy was gone little sis took over her spot and could be seen sitting on grammas lap now and then...and receiving some token or bit of money. In all my life I do not recall gramma ever touching me...nor do I remember her ever saying my name. She completely ignored my presence in her house for the most part....except for three occasions that stand out in my mind.

One time I was very bored...there is nothing much to do in a house in which two old people live...and this neighborhood had no children in it...and so I was searching for something to do. Grammas living room (a room she NEVER spent time in except to dust once a week) was like blast from the past. Every bit of furniture and collection of knick knacks in that room remained in exactly the same position for as long as I could remember. Nothing ever changed...nothing was ever thrown out or moved. The same furniture...the same books on the shelf...the same picture of JFK was on the wall for as long as I could remember. Nobody ever really sat in there except to watch TV...and she didnt like the TV to be on all that much so it was off most of the time as well. You learned quick when being in grammas house not to touch things...move things...or even show interest in things...she had her eye on every last object in her house and took inventory often.

Out of extreme boredom and in an act of desperation (mom had gone out with my aunt for several hours...I was alone with gramma that day) I entered the sitting room and pulled a book from her shelf. It was a very old copy of Tom Sawyer. I sat in a chair and read the whole thing in about 2 hours (I have always been a quick reader). When I finished I placed the book back on the shelf and went about my day. Unknown to me gramma had quickly noticed me entering the sitting room and had been complaining the whole time (most of her complaining was done as if she were talking to herself...not necessarily directed at anyone...but loud enough so we knew she was hot about something). As soon as my mother arrived she was hit with an onslaught of accusations that I had "tore up" the sitting room...I had "gotten into everything"...and I had probably "damaged" her book. Mom defended me telling gramma that I was very respectful and wouldnt hurt anything etc...but later on she kicked my butt telling me I knew better than to antagonize gramma over her things. Its just the way things were...sigh. I never touched anything in grammas house again if I could help it.

Another time Mom, gramma, grandpa and I went somewhere (a very rare occasion for them to both be in the same car as I recall) and I sat in the backseat with grandpa. When we arrived I chose to stay outside in the car with grandpa rather than go inside the house and visit some "old lady" who was sick. The entire time they were in the house...gramma stood near the door and kept her eye on the both of us outside (I didnt realize this at the time of course)...and on the way home she complained loud and long about me (in an indirect fashion)...wondering why I preferred sitting in the car with HIM...what did I do while sitting could mom just let me sit went on and on until we reached home. Her complaining from one and grandpa telling her to shut up from the other...I never said a word because I didnt understand why she was so mad at me. I hadnt done anything but sit in the car and talk with grandpa to pass the time...sigh.

The last incident was actually the last time I visited my grandparents home as a teen. I had been suffering an incredibly bad headache for much of the day. I had gone to Mom asking if she had any Tylenol...she told me to go ask gramma as she had a bottle somewhere. Of course I didnt. I couldnt bring myself to ask her for anything...I could barely bring myself to speak to her since she had spent my entire life either ignoring me or complaining about me. I suffered a few more hours hoping it would go on its own. It didnt.

I went back to mom, who at this point was in a very bad mood (I dont recall what was going on but do remember she was very mad about something)...and when I asked her she exploded at me to just "go and ask YOUR GRAMMA" I went...with a heavy heart and trepidation. Of course it didnt go well. I do believe it was the first time in my life that I directed a request to her...asked her for something...wanted something from her...she didnt take it well. From the moment I asked for some Tylenol she went on a rant about how I was "using up her medication" and she would be "left with nothing and she was an old woman" and how I was "inconsiderate to take her medication when I could get my own"...and similar complaints.

I slunk away to a dark room and laid down hoping the headache would go away with some rest. It didnt. Mom found me an hour later in tears, grabbing my head and unable to open my eyes the pain was so severe. She asked me if I had taken any pain pills. I hesitated...then told her gramma had not given me any.

All Hell broke loose that day. Before an hour had passed our bags were packed and we were headed back home....but not before mom had let gramma have it about making me suffer rather than give me 2 little Tylenol...gramma went on her rant and they went round and round until we were slamming doors and headed down the driveway. I didnt see gramma again until 6 years ago while visiting my family in Texas (she and my older sis passed away a year later within weeks of each other...a double blow for my mother)...I never seen my grandpa again. He passed away the first year I was in Bahrain. The last image of my grandpa was him standing in the driveway with tears in his eyes waving goodbye...because he felt as if this would be our last visit for awhile considering gramma had done her best to run us off for good this time. 2 years later I was in Bahrain and he passed away.

*to be continued. I will talk about my grandpa and our relationship.


Ordinary Housewife said...

I know other grandmothers of that generation who drastically favor one grandchild over another. No one in my family, but when I was younger, families in our neighborhood. That is really weird to me.

Anonymous said...

Hey RED,

No wonder you left the country. What a world of misery family can be. I feel for your Mother, what a childhood she must have had.

It is to your great credit that you have been able to create a loving warm family with your own kids. So often people end up passing along the pain and mistakes to the next generation.

Fat Too.

Yasemin said...

My first thought as I read this was that your Grandmother may have been jealous of your relationship with Grandpa.

And of course, she liked your alcoholic granddad, so it makes sense she would prefer Tammy, the not normal sister.

I definitely wouldn't feel bad about the "loss" of any relationship with her Red. The fact that she didn't seek one proves that you were the sane and normal one, something far better and healthier than her doting on you. Lots of love and can't wait for Part II.

coolred38 said...

Ordinary...I dont get the feeling she favored them per se' more like she was passing on a message to me...maybe thats my warped interpretation of Could be wrong.

Fat Too...well cant say Ive gotten over it lol...but I guess my kids love me well enough...must be doing something right...ha ha.

Lisa...thats about the only thing I can think of too..jealousy...but for what? There were about 30 of us grandkids...he liked us all well enough and but Im the only one she treated as such when around him.

Anonymous said...

Hey Red,

From the sound of your Twitter notes things are not going well. I hope the kids are all ok and you too of course. Fat Too

Yasemin said...

Perhaps you were the pretty one who was around more than the other 30 grandkids? I think it's likely he talked about you a lot, maybe even mentioned giving you money or an extravagant gift to your Grandmother, who was not amused.

I just read your twitter and hope you are okay. My first thought was "did something happen with the neighborhood boys and their parents" in that photo you had of all of them....Love you and stay strong dear.

Chiara said...

It seems like your grandmother needed a target, and you were it. Most often the need comes first and the reasons for targetting are invented later. Sounds like middle child syndrome: you weren't the first of your mother's issue, and you weren't the last of her babies either. You were just the child who couldn't be favoured because your grandmother needed heroines and vilains.

Take care with whatever is going on. You have been making such positive gains, as have your children. This too shall pass!

coolred38 said...

Fat things are not going well over here just now. One of my kids dropped a bombshell...dealing with it.

Lisa...thanks but I know I wasnt the pretty one...that was all Tammy. Still thinking she may of been jealous for whatever reason but why would a grown woman be jealous of a child? coudl be...but we only came to visit now and then...she had other grandkids that were around all the why was I a target if I wasnt a constant target...wouldnt she prefer one of those? Know what I mean?

Suroor said...

Your grandmother is like my mum. My mum is bitter, angry, antisocial and very mean.

Her target is my daughter. I just hate her for that.

Chiara said...

Coolred--naw, bullies are opportunists who need a constant feed, they take what they can get and in any group find and stick to the same one, which is part of the targetting--repetition and isolation. They can choose the target for whatever reason--jealousy, intimidation, the one who won't talk/hit back, the second one who comes along, the one standing beside the door when they first enter a room, the one who is too nice, too ethical, too... well anything, because when they're looking for a target anyone will do. Part of the bullying is that it is so unclear to the target, so emotional, irrational, unfair, inexplicable, it makes it hard for them to defend themselves, have anyone defend them, or cope. Trust me I've studied this one from every angle, anthropological, religious, literary, philosophical, psychological, sociological, clinical, work place, academics, family, pediatric, adolescent, adult, and experiential.

I was the one standing closest to the door when the evil surgery professor came in looking for a target. Since he was a misogynist it "helped" alot that I was female, and the only feminine petite-enough female among the new student offerings--the other woman was a 5'10" body builder with a mustache. Otherwise, he would have chosen the youngest, smallest, quietist, smartest, preferably visible minority male (happened to a number of friends by the same surgeon--different student group and timing).

Maybe your grandmother, the unquiet(in all senses)one, hated your quietude (after she hated you just for coming along of course)? I suspect that among your cousins each family had the obviously least favourite one--but targets don't like to talk about it, reinforcing the bully's advantage unintentionally. Quiet smart people make others nervous, even if they aren't thinking anything negative. Joseph Conrad premised a novel on it "Under Western Eyes"--an excellent read.

Child and bombshell you say--hmmm can't be the aviation one, they don't teach bombing civilians until much later. Oh, but you being an Air Force vet would know that! LOL :) I trust you to deal with whatEVA, even if it is the aviation one. If it's one of the unphotographed ones (to us), after you deal with it--tell all in a photojournalistic reportage, and make us guess!

Not meaning to make light of the situation, just know you will deal with this, even though no one needed it, least of all you or the bomber.

All the best to you and all children, especially the bomber.

*not apologizing for being long, you started it by waving a bully in my face, on my screen, in one of my favourite blogs...well you know, it's your own fault LOL :P :)

Chiara said...

Suroor--yes well targetting your daughter (or any grandchild) would just be the coup de grace wouldn't it! Bullies don't get older, they just get meaner (and more devious).

coolred38 said...

Suroor...I know how you feel. Recently had to pull my daughter out of tense sitution with my sister and her husband. I really felt they found a target to complain about and she was it....grrr! Im sure your daughter will do well enough with "just" you.

Chiara...I agree...I was an easy target since I never opened my mouth and fought back...which pretty much explains my life up until recently....sigh.

Bomb hit hard and left quite a bit of destruction...but I hope I managed to keep the damage under control. So far not sure...maybe a few days will tell the tale.

Yasemin said...

I just awarded you at my public blog! Love you lots!

Rasputin said...

Your series of heart rending stories continue. I seemed to have developed a morbid fascination for them. The kaleidoscope of emotions seem to come through so clearly and your lucid writing style is indeed commendable.

coolred38 said...

Lisa...thank you. Will definitely check it out.

Rasputin...Someone mentioned that I only seemed to have sad Ive been thinking these past few days of any "happy" stories I can tell. So far...hmmm!! lol. Will have to give it some more thought.

Thanks for the compliments.