As I was getting out of the truck I saw her. She was slowly moving around her car to pump gas. My heart started beating ninety to nothing….I had not seen her in three years. I had not spoken to her since the day she told me how I would be responsible for my son being a retard because he was on medication for ADHD. I had not had any contact since I returned her large checks that she sent us for Christmas. That had always been her way of smoothing things over. Now…three years later…here she was…
I always looked at my Grandma with awe. She was so beautiful and seemed so smart. I always craved her affection and attention, and I always wanted to please her. The problem was I never could. I’m not the lone ranger…to hear it told my Daddy couldn’t please her either. To hear it told I wonder why she ever had children, because she sure didn’t seem to like Daddy, and she definitely has nothing for me.
My parents married out of necessity. Daddy went with Mama to tell her parents that she was pregnant, but he wouldn’t allow her to go with him to tell his. From what I understand my Grandma went nuts. She always thought my Mama was trash because they had no money. She tried to pay Daddy to leave Mama, but he wouldn’t. Probably the only reason he stayed with her was to spite Grandma. Mama moved in with them after they married. I can not imagine what she went through, but she said as soon as I arrived Grandma had changed her tune. She said that she loved me and was so proud of me…then came my brother.
My brother has been the apple of her eye as long as I can remember. I’m not saying that is a bad thing, but sometimes I think she went out of her way to prove it. As a little kid I did not understand it, and one day when I was about twelve I asked her. “Mamaw, why do you give him all the attention and I get in trouble for what he does.” Her response was that they had me for four years and I got the attention. It was now his turn. I’m telling you he could slap my face and I would get fussed at.
My parents were not well off by any means. They struggled and had it not been for my grandparents we would not have had a lot of things that we had. My Grandma was very ANTI-Name brand. Well, she was for me. I remember in junior high and high school, before clothes shopping at Walmart was acceptable for teenagers, that is where she would take me. I was grateful that she would buy anything for me so I did not complain. Sometimes she would make me put it up if it had a name brand on it.,,.even at Walmart. You can imagine how difficult it was to find things without a label. But I made the best of it…I tried to pick items that pleased her…and tried to show her how much I appreciated it. Then my brother would go the next weekend and he would get alligator boots, and name brand everything. I was scared if I questioned it I would be told I was ungrateful. So I didn’t for a while.
In college I started competing in pageants. The first year I entered three and I placed in one. I loved the feel of the stage and performing. My family was very supportive, but after I lost my local competition she made it known that I would NOT enter another one and they would not attend if I did because as she put it she was “tired of jumping every time she poots.” I, of course, did not know that she had said this. The next year I entered again, and it was then that I learned of her remarks and her feelings about it. This was the first time that I remember my parents really acknowledging how she did me. We didn’t say anything about the pageant, but she heard it from an Aunt and then it was on. The next thing I knew my Papaw would not speak to me. I had no idea why. He would literally ignore me and it broke my heart. I asked Daddy and he told me that she told my Papaw that I did not want them at the Pageant and all kinds of stuff that was not true. He wouldn’t listen to anyone that spoke against her or told anything that contradicted what she said. So I suffered.
I won that pageant and I represented our town at the State Competition. The woman who did not want anything to do with supporting my efforts now could not get enough of me. At first I enjoyed it because for once she really seemed to like me, but then it started getting old and I saw it for what it was. I no longer was M* her grandaughter….I was introduced as “This is my grandaughter, Miss V***”. Yeah…she was proud, but not of me….just my title.
Growing up I heard her bad-mouth my parents anytime they were not around. It was awful and I guess because we were younger we thought it was normal. As we got older we realized it wasn’t. We also heard the stories Daddy told about growing up and he was a tortured soul. One day I had dropped by the house on my way to College. My Papaw always had me stop by so he could load me up with drinks and stuff to take to the dorm. He had gone back to work and I headed over. She and I were talking and visiting and she proceeded to start slamming my parents for nothing. I stood up to her….for the first time in my life…I stood up to her. I told her I did not appreciate her speaking about them like that and I don’t remember what all was said but her personality changed instantly and she denied ever saying anything. I told her she was lying. She talked and smoothed it and was sweet and loving. I instantly told my parents because it was not like me to speak up and I felt bad because I felt like I had disrespected her, but I was so tired of her disrespecting them. Daddy told me to get ready because she would look for a way to get me back and put me in my place. Wow…he wasn’t lying.
For a while everything seemed fine. Then Christmas came and I had decided to move overseas and get married. Christmas was always big around our house and my Grandparents always either stayed with us Christmas Eve or came bright and early the next morning as we got up. This particular Christmas Papaw had wanted to take me shopping for my Christmas stuff, but he was not feeling well so he couldn’t do a lot of walking. So Grandma went with us and he would sit in the mall while we shopped. There were two things that Papaw wanted to get me…a trench coat and my carry on piece for my luggage. We got those two things and got them on a really good sale. Then he wanted me to shop for some clothes. I would look for items on sale and when Papaw was out of ear shot she would remind me I already had a piece of luggage and trench coat. When he was around she acted like she was really excited about shopping with me. She wanted to get me a “gunny pack”…you know those purse looking things you strap around your waist. I wanted NOTHING to do with one of those and told her that I really didn’t think I would use it. I ended up getting a sweatshirt out of the “old lady section” and pair of jeans that were on clearance. I may have gotten another sweater…..And that was about it. So Christmas morning comes and they are bringing in loads of presents. Mom, Dad and Brother had these huge stacks and stacks of stuff. I had a very small stack. Papaw kept asking, “Sugar where are yours?” And he’d look under the tree. My brother got Carhartt everything and a gun and hunting stuff. Tons of clothes. My parents got $500 each then stacks of gifts….clothes, hunting stuff and things for the house. My presents were labeled from Mamaw and Papaw and they included the luggage piece, coat, sweater, sweatshirt and jeans. Then there were two presents that were labeled “from Mamaw”. One was the gunny sack and the other was disposable panties. Brother was upset and pulled Daddy to the back and asked if I was getting anything else. Mama was furious and Daddy was waiting to see if Papaw had planned to give me money when he left. Papaw seemed confused and I felt awkward. After they left Mama went and got her money and gave it to me. She said she didn’t want their “d**m money.” She never curses. Found out later that Papaw thought the reason I only had a few presents compared to everyone else was because Grandma gave me money instead. The one time Daddy stood up for me was after I flew out and it was about Christmas. He and Papaw went toe to toe about it because Daddy spoke against my Grandma. The next day Papaw was in congestive heart-failure. Daddy made sure to let me know that it was because he stood up for me.
Papaw died about two years later. It was devastating to us…actually I don’t know that is even an accurate enough description. I stayed with her. I was really worried about her and despite the way she treated me I loved her. I weathered the little remarks that she made to me about how Papaw didn’t like how I did this or that. She really made some bizarre comments that made no sense to me. After the funeral I soon went back home to Belgium. When I first moved over there I had orders to call them once every few weeks…I thought it was orders from them….it was actually from him. After he was gone it was pretty clear she really didn’t care for me calling. I called one day very upset, homesick, missing Papaw and confused because of the things that she had said. I asked her..”Mamaw do you think Papaw knew I loved him?” Her response…”I don’t know if he knew you loved him or not.” Conversation was short and basically one sided. I didn’t call again.
Fast forward a few years….I had moved home, divorced and remarried a man with a beautiful little boy. His wife had died and I adopted this precious child. She was now living in another state and the only time I heard from her was when I called. Sometimes the conversations were good and she was a sweet loving person….other times she was short and cold. I pretty much knew how to gauge her and I had learned from an early age to be careful of what you say when she’s nice because when her mood changes she will cut your throat with it. My parents always tried to teach me that, but it actually took me experiencing it myself.
With us only having one child, she ate him up. Of course, she made it a point one day to tell me I needed to get a book on how to be a Mother when I corrected him in her presence. My second child came and for some reason I wished she was there. I had some fairytale dream that she would change her opinion of me through my children. Sad…I thought the same thing about Daddy, but that is another story.
She moved back home and basically next door to my Dad and brother after my parents divorced. I remember when I went to help her move I would make suggestions, but she would have to run them by my brother first. Everything had to have his approval. I finally just left. My sister-in-law and I went and painted the house before she came down and I figured that was good enough if my opinion was not worthy of hearing.
Even with her home I didn’t hear much from her unless I called or went to visit. She ate my second child up, but now the first one was forgotten. He could do nothing right in her eyes…at all. When I unexpectedly got pregnant with our third child we were surprised but very excited. I went to tell her and her response was NOT what I expected at all. “OH M** don’t you know what causes that! Goodness…Hmmph…I guess I’m going to have to change all my money around.” I was flabbergasted. She was not happy at all….you would have thought I was a 15 year old high school student pregnant for the first time… not a married mom of two. I just played nice and left.
When my third child came she came to the hospital and I was so excited to see her there. She stayed for a while and made a fuss over me not being fed for so long and them taking too long to do my “tubal”. I so enjoyed her being there, but I think that is the last happy memory.
She’s a fanatic about medicine and fumes and many other things. One day after I went back to work K** got sick. She said she would gladly keep her for me so I took her and told her what to give her as far as tylenol and instructions on feeding her. When I went to pick her up she had not given her the medicine because she said she didn’t need it…and she had fever. She instructed me that I had not been feeding her properly and I needed to learn to feed her better. My baby never stayed with her again.
After a little while it seemed that our oldest could do no right, our middle one could do no wrong and our youngest one didn’t exist, unless of course other people were around. I recognized it plain as day as how I grew up, and I just could not allow someone to do that to my kids. I could not allow my kids to give their hearts and unconditional love to someone who would turn them inside out like she had done me.
My middle child was diagnosed with ADHD. He was always extremely skinny and tall. The doctor said it was nothing to be concerned about because his weight would catch up with his height. I did not want to put him on medication because I didn’t feel comfortable with it, but he was not learning at school. As soon as we started the meds…that changed and he was catching up. During this time I got raked across the coals by not only her but Daddy about my son’s weight and him taking the meds. If he stayed with either of them he usually didn’t take the meds because if I sent them it would be a fight and a hassle that I just did not want to get into. I heard that she thought that I would not feed my child, I did not take care of my kids, and I allowed the TV to babysit them….unreal. My sitter lived behind her so that made it worst because then she said that my sitter was raising my kids and not me.
I finally had it…I went to visit her one day. She had a sewing box full of stuff that she was going to give me. Then she started in about my son and pointing out all the things I was doing wrong and how I was not a good mother. There was no explaining his condition to her. She would not listen to what the Dr said or how his educational achievement had improved. She was just letting me have it. Then she told me…and I kid you not…that he would grow up to be a retard and I would be responsible. I BLEW….I very nicely asked, “Why do you hate me so much? I have loved you unconditional, but you have done this to me all my life and I want to know why. What did I do to you?” She said she didn’t know what I was talking about that it was all in my head and everything had to revolve around me. We got into it and I told her I did not need any parenting tips from her because the last time I checked she didn’t get no Mother of the Year Award. I told her that I was not a fool and that Mom, Dad, Brother and Sister-in-Law saw how she did me. I told her I knew a lot more about things than she thought I knew. I knew she tried to pay Daddy to leave us. I told her she needed some serious medication for her mood swings and she told me if I wanted to see crazy to look in the mirror. I left all of the stuff there and left. I was furious, but I felt good because for the first time I stood up to her…for myself and for my kids. God knows no one else ever did or ever would. Daddy said he was glad and that he had told me for the longest time to stay away from her and I would not listen. Mom was surprised and thought it was great. To this day I wonder why they never did it for me when I was a kid. They admit it was not my imagination….they just couldn’t do it.
Her way of smoothing things over is to throw a check in the mail. Money fixes everything…but not this time. She sent my oldest his birthday check and I mailed it back to her unopened. She mailed us a Christmas card with a very large check and I sat down and penned her a letter. Put it in the envelope with the check and went and taped it to her door.
From the best of my memory my letter went:
Thanks but no thanks. Until you can start respecting me as an adult, mother and a granddaughter your money is not wanted nor needed. Until you love and recognize all three of my children your money is not wanted nor needed. If you ever do have a change of heart and would like to have a relationship with me where you can respect me as I respect you please come by or call and we will have coffee.
I have never heard from her.
So now I’m sitting at the gas station, 3 yrs later. My heart is racing and I’m watching her through the mirror. I want to take in the site of her because I DO love her and it‘s been so long since I‘ve seen her. She’s my Mamaw. I run in to get my things, very nervous about what type of reaction she will have if we bump into each other. I’m at the counter and in she walks. I look at her, smile and say “Hey”….she just nods. She pushes her buggy by me. Determined to try to talk to her I turn and say “How have you been?” She never stops….just says “Fine.” and walks by. As she walks by she pats my arm and says “I didn’t recognize you.” She never stopped. She never asked how things were. She never asked about her great grandchildren….she just kept walking.
I have no regrets. I stood up for myself and my kids. Nothing hurts worst than loving a family member that doesn’t love you back. I thought it was hurtful with her, but it was just a drop in the bucket compared to what I’m going through now. My parents never stood up for me….I wonder why. The only thing I can figure is that they felt so indebted to them both, didn’t want to upset Papaw and didn’t want to face her wrath. Sometimes it makes me angry and it hurts, but it’s ok. I stopped it with mine. I have good memories with her and those are the ones I hold onto and in my mind I pretend that she did love me and she just couldn’t control the other side of her personality. It’s sad that she never really knew who I was and her only idea of me is a person she made up in her mind. I loved her…I love her now and I hope that she is happy and well in all things.