One of my first memories with my maternal grandma is her helping me memorize words for an upcoming spelling test.
We lived in apartment building, my mom, siblings and I upstairs on one floor and my grandma and my disabled aunt, on the one below.
She was always present in the morning and she was always there when we would get home from school. She would make us PB & Butter sandwiches and let us watch TRL.
I found relief in her role in my life. And I didn’t know it at that time but she was filling in gaps that my own mother, her daughter, was and is still incapable of fulfilling on her own.
And as we got older, as we moved from that apartment and into our own home, even after my father finally showed up, my grandma was still always there.
She picked up the phone whenever I needed to vent about how ridiculously strict my dad was being or about how much I couldn’t handle how devastating that week’s episode of grey’s anatomy turned out to be. (if you’ve ever watched greys, you know the emotional rollercoaster i’m referring to.)
We sometimes would escape to her house when things got really dramatic or my mom drank too much or when my dad’s anger was unstoppable that night.
Her apartment was always our safe space. She stayed up late, drinking Pepsi (diet for me) with us contemplating thoughts and ideas. She wrote, ‘always believe in yourself,’ in my birthday cards. She knew everything about my life and her compassion and my trust in her carried more weight that I could realize as a teenager.
She taught me how to drive.
How to do laundry
How to write checks
How to make coffee in the morning
She was the only person I let hug me for a very long time.
She helped me feel less lonely.
And one would argue that she was a substitute mother figure for me. She was emotionally available, kind and nurturing.
I loved that about her. I miss that about her.
But things, changed. Really changed. And I’m still working on the acceptance around that.
As I got older, after I moved 2000 miles away from home to get away from all of it, (only to have my mom follow me for the next nine years, ..) I eventually ended up learning so many lessons the hard way, that I had no other choice but to wake up.
I started asking questions. I started asking for help.
I talked to a few people who helped me uncover the layers on layers of bullshit that I had bought into after being raised by extremely emotionally negligent and abusive parents.
It was earth shattering for me and I didn’t know it at the time but I was getting clearer and stronger. Real boundaries were forming. The truth was coming out in ways that I wasn’t prepared for.
I shared a ton of what I was learning with my grandma. She was very receptive. She’s highly informed and intellectual at her age and was stunned at my progress. We quickly became really great friends. I felt very grateful to have someone who understood me, to share this new world with. This went on for years.
We shared thoughts on elections, our parent’s childhood behavioral patterns and why my brother was always struggling. She was open about things she could have done differently and we always chose to look at the lessons. It felt amazing.
We had other conversations about how my mother was always very needy and reliant on her. (I wasn’t clear enough at this point to connect the similarities in my mother and grandma, yet.)
Even in my own resentment towards my mother, I welcomed my grandma’s truth and let it challenge my visions of what I thought of my mother during childhood.
And it didn’t stop there. I even flew back home to introduce her to the man of my dreams and let her be there for me when I decided his demons needed his full attention.
And shortly after, I found out she had lied to me.
I’ll admit that living in a house of mirrors my entire life, I was unfortunately used to the half truths, and the rest coming out later but I couldn’t comprehend this.
My grandma. My savior. The one who knew all my secrets and the reasons behind all my pain.
Being lied to by her was betrayal I never expected to feel.
In short, she lied about my brother’s health and location (he struggled with drug abuse and being in and out of jail his whole life) and that in turn affected my mother which directly affects me and my well being as we were living together at the time. Point being my brother showed up at my front door (for the 3rd time in 5 years) after I said no. Weeks of stealing and heroine withdrawal would follow.
I was angry.
It took weeks but I managed to work through it and I was open to her again a few months later. As anyone from an abusive background would understand, forgiveness has not always been on the table. So to me, this was huge.
She was grateful but became absent minded. She started to require reminders and follow ups about basic tasks. I thought maybe she was naturally declining but I would call and talk to her and she was very clear. Other times it became frustrating as it felt like I was talking to someone completely different. She would complain a lot and didn’t really have much to say unless I was bitching about my mother. A conversation topic that I needed a break from.
She used potential health scares to buy a cover for her continued off choices and acted as if I was coming out of left field when I told her how strict I have become on toxicity and that I needed to make some big changes around what directly can affect me. I stopped feeling good when I talked to her. I started to get nervous. Did I trigger her? What’s happening? This reminds me of my own mom. Shit. Was she always like this?
I battled my own thoughts for awhile;
Was I being too rough?
Can I bend here?
Am I being dramatic?
She’s getting older. Should I be more forgiving?
And it wasn’t until I saw her a few months ago that I made a decision.
This is what I know for sure:
As a young child and adolescent, I admired my grandma.
She was thoughtful, attentive and cared for us in ways that I don’t know where we would be if she wasn’t around.
The most painful aspect around all of this is that I think I just outgrew her. I think I’m also the first one to look the generational narcissistic pattern in the face and say no more. And I’m sure that can be incredibly frightening to be opposite of.
And I know I could be questioned on this. ‘It’s your grandma, be nice, what do you really expect?’
But my life wasn’t traditional and either was our relationship.
What I think really changed was that I didn’t need her in the way she requires to be needed. I wasn’t co-dependent anymore.
I do my own laundry, cook my own food, and manage my emotions more effectively, now.
I learned to parent myself and love myself unconditionally.
I don’t rely on anyone anymore and maybe that’s the biggest difference.
I didn’t need to call and complain about situations that I realized I had the power to change.
I wanted stimulation, joy and consistency. I wanted to continue healing and do what I needed to do to make better choices. I wanted her to make better choices, too.
That meant to really support my brother and to stop enabling him.
That means to tell the truth.
It means to be kind and thoughtful and forthcoming when decisions are made that can hurt other people.
That means to take care of herself.
She became elderly entitled and tried to use that when I would ask her what was going on.
She called me a bully, lost and told me my life would fall down if I didn’t start humbling out. It didn’t seem like her. But maybe it was me whose changed.
And then it hit me. Although my grandma is healthier than my mother, it wasn’t until she felt threatened by my knowledge and articulation of it, that she began to try and diminish any feelings and challenge my boundaries.
Its difficult to even write this without sounding like an ungrateful brat. But it’s my truth.
My mother treated me the same way.
They both have spent so long playing a role that once someone comes along and threatens that role, it becomes a war zone.
I told my grandma that I can’t keep fighting anymore. That the comfort I once felt sharing the same stories on our mutual pain and frustration was no longer needed for the woman I am choosing to become.
That I wish things were different but right now and forever, I’m choosing differently for me.
I don’t know how I’m managing it but I am.
I don’t feel sad about it as I know myself and I trust I’ve done everything I can. I don’t want to keep learning the same lessons twice.
But regardless, there is something to say about the decisions one needs to make as they continue to heal and grow from their past grievances. It’s not easy but it does get easier.
I lost an identity.
A beautiful boyfriend
Two best friends who are great people
And now, my grandma.
That’s all in a year and a half’s time and I can confidently say that every choice needed to be made.
I stopped second guessing what I want in life and finally feel secure enough to ask for it without apologizing or any guilt.
I don’t need to make someone wrong to say yes to myself.
They are all great people but they aren’t great for me.
And while situations can change. My boyfriend can work on his demons, my friends can choose growth and my grandma can uncover her own blocks. And I do wish for all of this.
It still doesn’t change what’s in store for me.
I asked for this life. I choose it everyday. And I trust that if I make decisions out of love and intention, then the rest will unfold how it’s supposed to.
So it been a few months since I broke up with my grandma and I’ll tell you I’m feeling way better …
As the only thing I’ve lost recently,
is my fear.
What kind of changes have you had to make in your family? share below xo