Family, Loss & Grief

Losing What I Never Had

This is a bit of an awkward post for me. I’m not really sure what to say here, but I’ll give it my best shot.  If anything, this post might end up being rather cathartic for me.

The last remaining grandparent I have, my maternal grandmother, has passed away.  I now no longer have any grandparents left.  I received the news in a Facebook message from an old high school acquaintance of mine from back home.  No one on that entire side of the family was able to tell me themselves because I cut off all contact with them awhile back.  So they had to send word of her death to me through an outside source.

Those of you who follow my blog know that I often write about my other grandmother who passed away nearly two years ago, how difficult that has been for me, and how badly I miss her.

But that is not the case with this one.  This death is completely the opposite for me.  Now I don’t HATE my maternal grandmother and I’m not celebrating in joy that she’s now dead.  I just feel…..nothing.  I don’t know how to mourn the passing of a relative I was never close with at all and never had much of a relationship with.  I feel mostly apathy instead of sadness, anger, or satisfaction.

My maternal grandmother and I never had much of a relationship, and what little familial relationship we did have with each other was very distant and extremely strained if not outright weird.  She was never at all like the warm, loving, supportive grandmotherly type that my other Grandma was.

Whenever my brother and I would go to our paternal Grandma’s house as little kids, we loved it.  Grandma always doted over us and spoiled us and let us be kids at her house.  But it was a stark contrast from that whenever we entered the home of our maternal grandmother, which wasn’t very often at all due to the fact that our mother had a VERY hate-filled, grudge-carrying, dysfunctional relationship with her.  Whenever we stepped into the home of this grandmother, even as little kids we instinctively knew that something was very off-kilter and to keep quiet and toe the line until we left that house.  The tension and bad vibes in that house just permeated right through us.  We always felt very uncomfortable in her presence.  She never hugged or kissed us, and the first thing she would do whenever she saw us was to interrogate us about whether we were attending church or not, how often, etc.  In fact, the relationship between me and my maternal grandmother was so distant and awkward that I never called her “Grandma”.  My brother and I always referred to her by her first name as if she were a non-related adult we knew.  Of course we made sure to call her “Grandma” to her face whenever we spoke to her or else it would raise a big stink that we didn’t want to deal with, but in all other circumstances we referred to her by her name.

The strained relationship between me and my maternal grandmother goes way, way back long before I was even born.  I’ve heard many stories from many different people about what kind of person my grandmother was like as a young woman.  To sum it up, she was a VERY difficult woman to deal with, whether you were one of her children, one of her husbands or boyfriends, one of her co-workers, or pretty much anyone who dealt with her in any way.  Of course, being a divorced single mother of four kids back in an era when divorce and single motherhood were frowned upon and when it was very difficult for single mothers to support their children on their own probably made life more difficult for her and in turn made her more of a contemptuous person.  Some people have even described her as something of an immoral Jezebel back in her younger days.  Based on stories I’ve heard from several different people who knew her in her younger days, my grandmother had no qualms or hesitation when it came to getting involved with married men.  The mental picture I’ve formed of her as a young woman in my mind is a stark contrast to the devout church-attending, Bible-thumping Baptist Christian she became in her later years.  But like I’ve often said, a reckless youth is often one of the culprits that drives people to throw themselves into religion in order to absolve themselves of any guilt they are carrying.

I’ve mentioned Narcissistic Personality Disorder here in this blog before, and I know without a doubt that my maternal grandmother was afflicted with it.  It was glaringly obvious in the ways she treated all of her family members.  I definitely believe that my mother turned out to be the type of person she is due to having had a mother herself who had NPD.  In fact, that entire side of the family is infected with the dysfunctional family dynamics that come with having a Narcissistic family member.  With my maternal grandmother at the helm, her dysfunction spread like a disease throughout the entire rest of the family.  This is the reason why I decided years ago not to have anymore contact of any kind with any relative from my mother’s side of the family.  They are simply too toxic to deal with, and they never really cared about me or my brother anyway.

My grandmother had four daughters, and somehow my mother became the Black Sheep of the group.  My mother always claimed it was because she was her father’s favorite daughter.  And knowing that my grandmother and grandfather had such a rocky, tumultuous, drama-filled marriage and divorce, there may be some truth to that claim.  But I think there’s more to it than just that.  Knowing that my mother has severe NPD as well and piecing together bits and pieces of stories I’ve heard about how unruly my mother was as a teen and a young adult, it’s very likely that she and my grandmother badly butted heads against each other constantly.  My mother probably earned herself a reputation amongst the family as “The Problem Child”.

When my unmarried mother announced she was pregnant with me at age 27, this did not sit well with my grandmother and the rest of the family who by then had all turned into Jesus-freaks.  And, understandably, they were also concerned about whether or not my mother was mentally stable enough to care for and raise a child.  So, as the story goes, a secret plan was hatched to take me and hand me over to an orphanage for adoption after my birth.  Of course, that would never have happened anyway, because only the State can come and forcibly take away someone’s baby.  So when my mother caught wind of this plan after delivering me and when my father came to the hospital to meet me and was confronted by my grandmother, a nasty fight broke out between all three of them at the hospital, or so I’ve been told.

So my birth brought forth a new and bitter battle between my father’s family and my mother’s family.  Grandma (my father’s mother) hired a lawyer and went through some sort of legal adoption process that changed my last name to make sure that they retained legal rights to me, and my parents eventually married when I was about six months old.  So my maternal grandmother and the rest of that family had to accept the fact that I was here to stay…..and I’ve always been able to sense that they weren’t really happy about it.

As I grew up, I keenly sensed that my grandmother and all of my aunts and uncles on that side of the family looked upon me and my brother differently from the rest of my cousins.  I didn’t begin to understand why until I was an adult, but I knew it as a kid.  I’ve heard rumors that several of them used to say out loud that they never expected either of us to ever amount to anything.  Grandma saw and heard everything that went on, and she often told me that those people WANTED to see me and my brother fail.  I don’t doubt that for a second.  Nothing that my brother or I ever accomplished was good enough for them, and they often looked for any little thing they could find in order to criticize us.  And if they couldn’t find anything, they would go as far as to make shit up, such spreading lies that my brother was dishonorably discharged from the military (he wasn’t) or that all of my beauty pageant titles were “make-believe” (they most certainly were not).  When my only other female cousin on that side of the family shocked everyone by suddenly becoming pregnant out of wedlock at age 20 and bringing “shame” upon them, she and the rest of them tried their hardest to deflect that shame onto ME by insisting that I was a whore who was sleeping with everyone around town.  As Grandma often (correctly) told me whenever she mused about that subject, “That family expected YOU to be the one who got pregnant out of wedlock, not her. And they’re mad that it wasn’t you.

All of this scorn that has been directed at me from those relatives since the day of my birth all boils down to two reasons: I was my mother’s child–the Black Sheep’s offspring–and I was born out of wedlock. That’s it.  That’s the reason for all of it, and that’s the reason why they will never fully accept me into that family as one of their own.  As a child, naturally I WANTED them to like and accept me, so I did what I could in order to win their approval.  I was always well-behaved around them, I made sure to be as nice to them as I could, and I tried to participate in family functions as much as I could (or as much as my mother would allow).  And sometimes they would treat me nicely and I would begin to think that I had finally won them over.  But eventually their old attitudes towards me would return and I’d be right back where I was before.  As a teenager and a young adult, I continued to make an effort to get on their good side because I naively thought that eventually I could win them over through being civil to them and proving to them that I was a normal, successful person.  I thought that eventually they would realize that there was no logical reason to dislike me and they would finally come around and view me as an equal.  But that affirmation never came.  They would be warm and friendly to my face, and then I would discover that they were talking trash about me to others behind my back.  So I finally woke up and accepted that no matter how successful or nice I was, those people were never going to accept or respect me.  I could cure cancer and AIDS or win the Nobel Prize, and those people would still look down on me.  So I decided to rid my life of that drama and stress by completely cutting them out of my life.  And it’s been for the best.

My grandmother seemed to mellow out somewhat in her older years and act a little more like a normal person, and there were a few times when it appeared that she was trying to take an interest in me and my life.  She and her husband came to watch me compete in my pageants and videotaped the entire events from the audience on their camcorder.  She and some of the other relatives forwent attending their own church one Sunday in order to come to my church and witness my baptism.  And there were a small number of times when I visited her to talk to her and seek advice from her.  But her NPD and any other issues she might have had within herself prevented her from ever fully opening herself up to me and loving me in the same way that my other Grandma did.  And despite those few times when she appeared to be trying to reach out to me, I was never able to believe that it was 100% genuine.  I was never able to fully trust her and let my guard down around her, because I had an intuition that she could turn on me in a heartbeat.  She often turned against the people closest to her and caused a lot of damage, and I feared what she might do if she were to ever turn on me like that if I were to ever let my guard down to her.

Out of all four of my grandparents, she held out and lasted the longest.  But now she is finally gone, too.  And now I have no grandparents left.  I can only imagine how my mother is handling the news of her death.  I can only speculate because I have not had any contact with my mother in many years and don’t ever plan to again.  But I’m well aware of the bitter lifelong feud between them, so it would be interesting to see how this plays out.  Now that she has crossed over to the next world, hopefully she has become enlightened and overcome whatever inner issues she battled with all of her life.  And who knows, maybe now she will finally be able to look upon me in the way she was never fully able to while alive.

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