And I don’t know how to feel about it.
(Apparently) I should feel bad. I don’t. I’ve thought long hard and hard about it and I just don’t. Which doesn’t mean to say that I feel good either. I’m indifferent. Maybe my anger is clouding my feelings somehow. Maybe I’m so angry I can’t see beyond it. Maybe.
I found out about a month or two ago that, after a long battle with cancer, it is now terminal. She is dying. And I don’t feel sad. At all. Again, maybe my anger is getting in the way of truly dealing with her impending death. I don’t know.
All I know is that she is mother to several sons I can only class as disappointments. I’m not being harsh. It is simply the truth. One of those disappointments is my own father. He is a liar, a cheater, a gambler, an abuser, a failure of a father and as a man in general. My grandmother didn’t raise just one of these. She raised several. Some might say that’s her business. Yes, it is. But I am one of many grandchildren who had the misfortune of being fathered by one of her children so the very fact she raised these boys to be poor excuses for men is my first beef with her.
Am I being harsh? The Warrior thinks so.
She was a vile woman when I was growing up. Always yelling, always having an opinion (usually pointless or silly) on things that didn’t concern her and she thought the sun shone out of her precious son’s backsides.
I sound bitter. Perhaps I am. Bitter and angry.
The Warrior says I’m letting my bitterness rule me. After all, my grandmother doesn’t know just how angry I am with her. She has been none the wiser my entire life and this, The Warrior says, gives away my power. I know that. I know that. But I’m still angry. This woman was a vile person to the Warrior, who married my father with no family in this country as a young twenty year old. It was a stressful marriage. A marriage my father did nothing, absolutely nothing, to work at. He contributed pain, stress and a sense of entitlement (I attribute partially to his parents but mostly to his stupidity) simply because he was the man in the relationship. That’s it. This was this precious son’s offering to his wife and children. Pathetic.
She was vile to the Warrior, who at the time, was the youngest daughter-in-law in the family (my father’s youngest brother was a mere teenager at the time and has grown up to be just as obnoxious as his brothers). This woman, who has apparently had every ailment known to man, could do nothing for herself. So a young twenty-something (and at some points pregnant) woman did it all. She berated her. She yelled at her. She was an abusive woman who treated the Warrior like her own slave.
Except for her precious sons. Of course.
It was the scandal to end all scandals, both within the family and the community, when my father, who was married with two children, left for the daughter of a close friend of the entire family. She was younger than he was, closer in age to his nieces than to himself but what did he care? Off they went to make their own lives together, leaving his young wife, who had no other family, no job and two girls aged 5 and 2 alone.
But what did he care?
Part of the reason I call my mother, The Warrior, is because she took a deep breath and worked herself to the bone, got herself a degree and raised us. And she did it alone. But that’s a separate blog post entirely so I won’t get into all of that now.
Back to the deadbeat. Despite the fact his behaviour caused such a tremendous scandal and shame (because of course, what would people think? Appearances are everything after all. That whole family is deluded if they think they have any sort of good reputation within the community) the family rallied around him. To the Warrior’s face my grandmother said she would never accept this girl as her new daughter-in-law. To her face she said this other woman was not, and would never be, welcome in her family.
When I was 12, I decided, along with Li (who was 9 at the time) to distance myself from my father’s family. I wanted no part of anything. Nothing to do with them at all. That meant no more cooking, no more waiting on my elders hand and foot, no more bowing to the men of the family, no more worrying about being covered up. I wanted nothing to do with any of them and I didn’t care. I felt free.
So what happened? The Other Woman became the accepted wife of the second youngest son. The woman every single person in that family said would never be welcome, was. The three children they had (the two youngest girls creepily named after myself and my little sister) became part of the family.
Just…poof! As if by magic the family became different and there she was as one of the daughters.
Does it matter to me that the supposed head of the family, my grandmother is a hypocrite? Sure. Does it matter to me that she treated the Warrior so badly when she had done absolutely nothing to her except marry her son? Absolutely.
It shouldn’t be any of my business what happened between the two of them. But I love The Warrior so deeply that even I can’t understand it. There is no one, apart from my sister that is so profoundly precious to me than she is. I’m her eldest child so I naturally want to protect her and with that has come some kind of rage towards my grandmother I can’t shake.
It was over a year ago that I visited my cousin’s house. One of them had just gotten married and the Warrior and Li had attended the wedding, despite my father being there. I felt obligated to go so I did. For once. But unbeknownst to them my grandmother was also there. I steered clear of her, dressed in jeans, a baggy jumper and a beanie pulled low over my head, I just wanted to disappear and not be the focus of anyone’s attention. Least of all hers.
So naturally, after an hour of dodging her, she found me cornered in the living room by my aunt (the true head of the family who was once married to my father’s oldest brother). My grandmother grabbed my hand, squashing it in her own cold, clammy palm and proceeded to ask me 20-30 times if I remembered her. It irritated me. Of course I remembered her. She was the horrible old woman I had grown up hearing screeching all the time. I said nothing. I just stared at her and gave her nothing. She held onto me tighter, trying to get in my face. Did I still love her? I remember thinking: still? What do you mean still? I never did in the first place! What on earth gave her reason to believe I ever loved her? What had she ever done to deserve my love? To me, love is so precious I don’t give it away to just anyone. It’s not free.
But I could say none of this. Because from the corner of my eye I saw the Warrior, leaning casually against the doorframe, watching me and telling me with her eyes to keep my mouth shut. At the time I felt she asked a lot of me that day. After all, why shouldn’t I say something to this dreadful woman? To me, being old doesn’t excuse you from treating people poorly in the past. But the Warrior didn’t want me to. I knew she didn’t. So I said nothing. I simply looked at my grandmother and told her very simply that I remembered her and refused to answer any other questions about whether or not I loved her.
Her realisation of everything the Warrior fought for, and did, to raise us girls on her own was too little too late. So whilst I’m sorry that she has terminal cancer, I’m not sorry that I won’t be going to visit her before she passes. Despite many questions from the rest of the family, I’m not going. I have so much to say to this woman but for my mother I won’t. She says it’s a kindness to not say everything I have to say. It’s a kindness I think she is undeserving of, but the Warrior is my heart and I will do what she wants. And even though I didn’t understand it at the time, I do understand now why she asked me not to tell her everything. It won’t change anything. What my grandmother did, her behaviour, it’s all in the past and I can’t change it.
As far as forgiving her goes. I might move past all of the hurt she caused, both directly and indirectly one day. But I don’t need her to be present when that happens. I’ll make my own peace with it and move on without having to talk to her. And without sparing her more thought than I need to.