When Grandmothers and Hong Kong Grandmonthers Team Up And Go Bad
Posted on January 12, 2012
Grandmothers are believed to be warm, kind, cookie-making wisdom-sharers willing to embrace the future while keeping us grounded by reminding us of our past. Can’t you just smell the ham or turkey cooking in the kitchen and the sweet voice of reason reminding us why should keep perspective on life when things don’t go our way? Ah, and what a shame it’s all just a bunch of bullshit. It’s the thing Grimm’s fairy tales are made of. In the same way that I’ve come to realize my parents are just as messed up as everybody else–in a good way, mind you–grandparents seem to have it a bit worse…and they’re still related. (gasp!)
I find that the older I get, the more set I become in my ways and I imagine this won’t change. It’ll get lots worse and won’t that be fun??? The irony is that as set as I am in my ways–what time I like to get up, go to bed, when I like to grocery shop, how long I’ll let an employee at Best Buy talk to me before I send them on their way etc–the more open-minded I’m getting. Experience has been kind to me in that I’m more likely to look at a situation from another perspective as opposed to going into stubborn, closed-minded mode. Again, this could change. We’ll see. It probably will.
My experience with grandparents as a whole has been pretty lackluster. My father’s mother passed away while I was still in grade school. I do remember her as a kind, affectionate woman, which I find remarkable considering what a borderline sadistic prick of a husband she was married to. Grandpa never changed, even after we stopped speaking to him when I was 12. I’m actually relieved that my father no longer remembers the horrors of growing up in that family. The Alzheimer’s has done him a service and allows him to remember a life he’s made up because he thinks it’s just like everybody else’s. It’s the one damn good thing to come out of the disease.
When it comes to my mother’s side of the family, well…her side makes dad’s side look the Cleavers in their behavior. Mom’s father also passed away when I was in grade school and based on what I’ve heard, it wasn’t much of a loss. There was one less wife-beating, alcoholic womanizer on the planet. Grandma’s second husband wasn’t a physically abusive drunk, but rather verbally so. He passed on and she married the best of the three. Unfortunately, he passed away a couple of weeks ago.
Ralph’s Hong Kong Grandmother is the stuff Stephen King novels are made of, but she loves her grandson with a fierceness I’ve yet to see with anyone else. It’s taken almost 17 years for her to accept the fact I’m in the picture and not going anywhere. She’s going to get another chance at feeding my white ass to the fishes in a couple of weeks, so let’s hope she’s mellowed a bit between now and then. It’s said that when Hell is full, the dead will walk the earth. Sometimes hell doesn’t want one particular individual, so she’s forced to stay here and irritate the shit outta me.
As for my own Grandmother, we stopped speaking 15 years ago. It seemed important at the time, but not really so much now. In all honesty, I’m not sure why we’ve maintained a grudge. Grandma dropped off a cake, small gift and card to my mother a year and a half ago when she (mom) turned 60. It was the first contact they’d had in 15 years, too. Mom wasn’t going to respond, but I suggested that it couldn’t hurt. Grandma was reaching out, so why not meet her halfway even if nothing else came of it. At least they’d both have the satisfaction of trying.
Their relationship has improved a bit, but there have been a few complications. First, Grandma’s note to my mother included a bit about things coming between their mother/daughter relationship. That thing, as I read into it, is me. Mom missed that at first and didn’t think it was so. However, a year ago Christmas, my folks were invited along with the rest of the family to attend a holiday gathering at grandma’s. Mom wanted me to go with them, only I asked for confirmation that I was invited. She didn’t think that was necessary, but called grandma anyway and asked. I was not invited.
Mom and I talked about her giving the relationship with grandma a year, then addressing the issue if it wasn’t resolved by the time the year was up. That year has come and gone. I decided this past Monday to break the silence. Call me slightly chicken, but I waited until I knew grandma was at an appointment, then called and left her a polite message suggesting that perhaps we meet for lunch and just talk.
There’s been no return call.
Finally, as I started writing this post (it’s Wednesday evening right now), my mother called to say that they’d stopped by grandma’s tonight and she passed a note along to them for me. My folks are on their way over to drop it off and I have no idea what it says or what to expect. Maybe she needed some time to think about what she wanted to say or maybe, like me, she didn’t want to falter on the phone, so she chose her words carefully on paper. I don’t know. I just don’t know.
Will it be the fairy tale ending or a Grimm’s ending? Or maybe she’s been talking to Ralph’s Hong Kong Grandmother. God help me if the two of them start plotting my demise…
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.
6 Responses to “When Grandmothers and Hong Kong Grandmothers Team Up And Go Bad”
Dorien Grey says:
January 12, 2012 at 9:58 am
Don’t leave us dangling, Kris!!! What was in the note? What caused the rift in the first place? (Never you mind that it’s none of our business…you tell all!)
Sorry you have so much dysfunction in your family. We all have a little, but you got more than your share. A good thing you decided to laugh at life rather than let it stomp all over you.
January 12, 2012 at 7:53 pm
As it turns out, dear Dorien, the note thanked me for watching my father so my mother could help her (Grandma). She also stated that she did not wish to speak to me right now until she’s had a chance to sort through her husband’s passing. There is a kernel of hope in the message, but I’m going to let her take the next step.
Tom Webb says:
January 12, 2012 at 12:14 pm
Like they say, we can choose our friends, not our family.
I was lucky – my grandparents on Dad’s side were loving and kind and had a million grandkids and there wasn’t any strife. On Mom’s side, my grandfather died in an accident before I was born so I never knew him, but everyone always spoke of what a gentle man he was. Which made up for my grandmother – we always called her by her name, even to her face. She was just Robbie.
Now we would diagnose her as bi-polar. Then she was just a plain bitch. My dad was have us duck down and hide when she would knock on the door so she wouldn’t see us and make a game out of it. Till Mom caught on and THAT was fun.
One Sunday morning she called to speak to my Mom and he answered the phone. She asked what Mom as doing and he said, “She’s stroking her pussy”. Robbie squawked and hung up. Mom made him call back and explain she was brushing the cat.
So, yeah, I get it.
Don’t worry about it. The relationship that matters is with your Mom. And Ralph. The rest will be work itself out, one way or the other.
January 12, 2012 at 7:59 pm
I’ve gotten along without her just fine for the past 15 years and I can do another 15 with no difficulty. Would it be nice to work things out? Sure. But it’s not a necessity. I have my own family to worry about (as you mentioned).
January 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm
I too had a riff with my fathers mother. It was very unfortunate circumstances yet keeps our family divided to this day. When she passed a few years ago I went with my dad to see her and was there for her last breath. It is a shame that she had to pick divisiveness instead of unity against the wrongs that were done. Hope the letter brings peace.
January 12, 2012 at 8:00 pm
It brought hope. Even if things work out for the better, it’ll be interesting to see the look on her face when she finds out I’m gay.