Monday, February 14, 2011

goodbye Vibe

It's been a strange week.

On February 10, my maternal grandmother died, just after her 88th birthday. This was not a surprise (she had been increasingly frail for several years and wasn't expected even to make it this long) and I can't claim she and I were close. In fact, she was nasty to me (or to someone else in the family) on every occasion on which I ever spent time in her company, until she was too out of it to interact much.

It is sad for her children, especially her five daughters. I don't believe any of them ever got to sit down with her and tell her how much her behavior had hurt them and how they wanted to resolve the matter, although I am sure they now wish they had made the effort some time in the last few years. I'm sure there never appeared to be a right time (and I know she never said she was sorry). Her husband, who drank too much, brutally beat his kids (especially one of my uncles) the whole time they were growing up; his two modes of conduct toward his seven children were ignoring them or enraged with them. I have never heard a single story in which either my grandfather or grandmother was affectionate toward, kind to, or proud of a single one of their children, during their childhoods or in the forty years since. Not ever.

My grandmother didn't actually beat anybody (she wasn't that big), but she slapped them regularly, screamed at everyone constantly, threatened them with their father's wrath when he came home, never defended them from getting beaten up, and ran the household like a Nazi (that may be unfair to Nazis, perhaps). My mother and her sisters were not permitted to enter my grandmother's kitchen while they lived under her roof, nor, after they moved out, until she was too sick to chase them out any more. I'm afraid she was a very nasty person, and now she's dead.

My mother, who, as aforementioned, is mentally ill, was guaranteed to find some passive-aggressive way to work out the fact that she is clearly not grieving the loss of her mother. (I can hardly blame her, but I imagine the loss is greater given how bad their relationship was. Though my mother claimed they got along famously - she was my grandmother's favorite - obviously, and understandably, she hated my grandmother.)

So I had a surreal conversation with my mother yesterday afternoon. She is in a convalescent home, something of an odd fit in view of the fact that, at 62, she is physically very healthy. This was considered the best way to get her the requisite care and supervision, which she certainly needs. Rather than showing improvement once out of the poisonous influence of her parents' home, she's regressed more. Despite having her own phone and quite literally nothing to do, she never calls her children - not a single time since she has moved to this facility.

She has bonded with an across-the-hall neighbor named Debbie, who has been lobotomized (really), and is the functioning member of that dyad. My mother never answers the phone in her own room (even when she is there. This is part of the passive-aggressive streak). But she's practically never there - she's always in Debbie's room watching movies. (I am happy she has a friend, but refusing to speak to her family should not, in my view, be tolerated. She isn't seven, mentally or otherwise.) She also insists that my sister and I, when we call, talk to Debbie, and will hand over the phone even after we expressly refuse. (I have nothing against Debbie, obviously, but again, my mother is being manipulative. She knows we don't know Debbie and only called Debbie's room because my mother never talks to us otherwise.)

I should probably have called with extra patience since I knew her mom had just died, but after calling her room and the front desk and finally Debbie's room, I was not in a patient mood. I asked her to predict when she would be in her room so I could call her, or to call me from her room when she had some free time. She said that she wasn't up to dealing with "modern technology" (including the telephone, invented in the 1870s), so I told her that if she didn't want to talk to me, she shouldn't call. My aunts would say that it's my obligation to call her, but I don't agree. The problem is that nobody acknowledges that she has any obligations, and she likes it that way. I'm disgusted with the whole situation. I don't deny that she's sick, and I make very substantial allowances for that, but any sick is not infinitely sick. That's like saying that because I'm infertile, I also can't walk. Shameful.

On Saturday morning as I was driving to meet one of the girls to head to the DC-area Catholic infertility support group meeting (or, as I call it for short, the "infertile coffee"), I was hit by a driver running a red light. While I'm not the world's best driver, anyone who even later does not know what color her light was, fails to brake as she's heading straight for another car, does not notice that her passenger is in shock (I assume - I'm not a doctor, but the woman spent a lot of time in the fetal position), doesn't ask whether the driver of the car she hit is OK, and doesn't call the police or her insurance company (just her husband) - should not have a driver's license. By the way, she isn't 17 - she's 37.

I am not hurt (well, sore, and if I remain sore, I will see a doctor and make sure), and the two women in the other car apparently were not hurt, but had I braked a little less hard, she might have hit the driver's door instead of the panel in front of it, and I might be dead instead of blogging. For real - she hit me going, I think, about 30mph. As indicated by the title of my post, I am probably mourning the loss of my beloved Neptune-blue Vibe, which is totaled (engine won't work and the front is smashed) more than my grandmother. The Vibe never hurt anyone, certainly not children, and it was patient, kind, and forgiving. Would that the same could have been said for my grandmother. (I ought not speak ill of the dead and ask for her intercession for my infertility problems, right? This is the point where I get the rage. No amount of humiliation or bargaining will likely ever get me children, and I'm not lying about my grandmother. Or anything else.)

On Sunday evening, my husband threw me a surprise birthday party (actual birthday is tomorrow), and when I opened the door to a darkened living room full of shadowy people yelling "surprise!" my heart may have stopped for a second. I actually screamed, but later realized that, since they were yelling, they didn't hear me. I didn't stop shaking for several minutes. But it was super-sweet, and I got not one but two delicious cakes, and a few people even brought presents (which was totally unnecessary, but now I have lots of chocolate), and one of our bachelor friends actually washed our dishes because my DH ran out of time before he had to scoot me away to dinner (ostensibly for Valentine's Day), and I am mortified, and clearly owe him one. But my DH did do enough straightening up to hide my undergarments before the guests arrived, so I put my neurotic concerns to rest and had a really lovely evening.

Wednesday evening, I fly to Warsaw to spend the weekend with the beloved siblings. This probably means I will miss the funeral (though despite promising, my aunt has not called back to tell me when it will be - of course, this would be easier for her if my mother would call her own children), but my aunt clearly thought I should not cancel the trip, and as long as it will not hurt the relatives' feelings, I think I should go. I can actually do some good seeing the siblings, I think. And I will post pictures.


  1. Wow. Your grandmother has certainly left one heck of a legacy. I'm really sorry for everything you're having to deal with right now - whether you mourn the loss or not. Family drama is always stressful.
    Happy (early) Birthday! How awesome of your husband to throw you a surprise party!! I'm sorry, but I laughed out loud when you said they scared the crap out of you - I know, it's mean, but that is a REAL surprise party, LOL! I've only had one in my life - for my 21st birthday - and my little brother accidentally let the cat out of the bag about 20 minutes before I got home.
    I hope you have a fantastic trip this week, and a great visit with your siblings! So excited to look forward to pictures, too :).

  2. i think it is perfect timing for you to get away with your sibs. you really need and deserve a break in all the crap that keeps landing on your plate! i wish you all the best and the most fun on your trip!

  3. So sorry about the family issues you're going through now. I know that can't be easy to endure. But I AM jealous about the surprise party since I've never had one thrown for me before :) Happy early birthday! It sounds like you had a great time!

  4. I am so sorry for your loss, Misfit. Although your grandmother (and your mother) has caused so much pain, it is still difficult to lose a family member and all the stuff that entails.

    I am especially sorry for the loss of your car!!! Mr JB got into an accident with his 8 month old Vibe (the last model year it was made, at that!). It is such a great car and we were sad to have it at the repair shop for two and a half weeks. I hope that you're not too injured!

    Happy early bday and bon voyage! Can't wait to hear about your trip!

  5. Wow. Talk about mixed feelings with both your grandmother and mother. You sound like you've been much more patient than I could be in such a situation, especially with your mother.

    Your husband was a sweetie with the surprise party. It sounds like something you really needed. The extra chocolate never hurts either. :)

  6. oh my word what a weekend.

    Happy Birthday to you, dear!!

    Thinking of you, and prayed for you today at the Infant of Prague statue at my parish.


  7. I think you should go on your vacation without thinking twice about it. I missed my similarly uncaring/cranky/unkind grandmother's funeral last year and I don't feel sorry for it. Just because she contributed to my DNA doesn't mean I owe her my presence at her funeral and the same goes for you. That's not to say she's not loved by God just like you and me, but I don't think the Big Guy requires that we LIKE those we are called to LOVE (or go to their funerals).

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY and I hope you have a WONDERFUL trip! I can't wait to hear all about it!!

  8. holy cow! what a crazy weekend! Happy Birthday :)

  9. You have a lot going on. Wow! I am in awe of you as a daughter. I too believe that we have to hold the mentally ill accountable and not let their disease totally define them.

    I say, travel, and enjoy! Our relationship changes with our loved ones when they die. Sometimes it is after death that the real healing starts.

    Come Home Soon!

  10. Echoing what Praying for Hope wrote! XXX