Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nanna's Hell

Posted by Anonymous.

My grandmother is an abused woman.

At 65 years old, she has never been shopping alone. She is given an ‘allowance’ of twenty dollars per week, which she almost always uses to supplement the seventy-ish dollars per week she is given to purchase groceries for my grandfathers, herself, and my cousin (the lazy, unemployed 20-something mooch, though this is a rant for another day). My grandmother is treated like a child, and has been since the day she was married at 19 years old. My grandfather treats her so poorly, that his sister has actually gone as far as to suggest that my grandmother may be mentally handicapped. Nanna is belittled daily, criticised for her every action. "You dress like a slob, you dress too well, you’re a pig, the house isn’t clean enough (do it again!), you’re stupid, you’re worthless, you are nothing without me . . ." etc. My father has vivid memories of his mother being punched through walls, pushed down stairs, and being kicked until she simply would not get up. He remember her being forced to eat off of the floor because she failed to feed the grandfather’s dog in a ‘timely’ manner. I have a half dozen illegitimate aunts and uncles fathered by my grandfather to other women, over the years. The youngest is only a few years older than I am. He is an undeniably cruel, insensitive husband, and she is too far gone to see this.

That being said, 8 months ago, she finally worked up the courage to leave him after she caught him cheating on her in their bed.

Nanna packed her bags, and moved into my father’s house. Immediately, despite the restrictions put on us by the economic issues swirling about, my father began working on an addition to the house so that she would have her own space in our home, and so that she could feel like she wasn’t intruding on anyone else’s space. For the first time, she went grocery shopping alone, with her own money, and loved it. She went out in her own car, and got her dog groomed for the first time in over a year, and was so thrilled that she could do so without being belittled for spending money on ‘that damned mongrel’. She went to a counsellor, and hashed out all of the feelings she had been battling with for decades. Her friends and extended family called and told her how proud they were that she finally grew some courage. She was happy, blissfully so, and she had every damned right to be.

Yet some of my family didn’t see it this way.

Her other son and daughter began calling and emailing her daily, harassing her about leaving their father. They claimed she was being selfish, accused her of trying to tear the family apart. The grandfather’s sister called and condemned Nanna to hell, saying in no uncertain terms, that the only reason a woman would ever leave her husband was to be unfaithful, and that God would see her burn for what she had done. The grandfather himself called my father, and insisted he was only helping Nanna do ‘this’ because he was after his money. The grandfather claimed that my father ‘didn’t understand’ what it was like to crave sex so badly, and to have a wife who was ‘too busy cleaning’ to help him out (cleaning at his demand/ ‘or else’ threats might I point out).
Yet the rest of us stood by her. We reassured her, we continued to help her do the things she wanted to. She continued to see her counsellor. My aunt, furious that her attempts at guilting her mother were failing, began threatening to take away her children. She promised Nanna would never see them again.

Even so, Nanna persevered. I quickly became her confidante. She told me horrible things about my grandfather which will never let me look at him the same again. She told stories about my cousins, aunt and uncle which were unforgivable, and filled with cruelty. She cried about how hard it was to stay strong, knowing how many people were angry with her, but claimed that she could do it if she just had enough support.

The final straw however, came when the grandfather’s brother, the pastor, came into the picture. He assured Nanna that she would go to hell unless she reconciled with the man that treated her so poorly. He had the nerve to look her in the eye, and say the words ‘God will surely award you in Heaven for all the suffering you have been, and will go through.’

Two days after that conversation, she went home. And as selfish as it may sound, I was truly devastated.

Everyone who had supported her in leaving, were in uproar when she went back. She called the day after she’d gone home, and tried to act as if everything was normal. She wanted to pretend that the nine and a half weeks she had escaped him were some sort of terrible dream, and not reality. The grandfather shared this view obviously.

Which brings me to the reason for writing this. I am furious. I am so angry with both of them that I haven’t been able to articulate it before now. He is a lying, cheating bastard, who has committed terrible atrocities against someone so defenseless, and he makes me sick. She has destroyed any respect I have ever had for my entire extended family on my father’s side. She took every image I had of elders I adored, and cousins who were my friends, and ran them so far into the ground that I will never be able to feel any sort of bond with them ever again. And now, she wants me to pretend none of that ever happened, and to go on living like nothing ever happened. Bullshit!

I have not spoken to either of them since her delusional phone call all those months ago; I don’t trust myself to do so without saying things I know I will regret. I am hurt, I am angry, and I am just so disappointed in both of them. They are supposed to be people I can love and admire. They are supposed to be a soft place for me to land, people who I can go to for advice or comfort. Instead they are a walking freak show that is so self involved that they cannot see how fucked up they truly are.

I overheard a phone call between she and my father a few weeks ago, where she asked about me. He told her that I was hurt and angry, and said he didn’t think I would want to talk to her. Her response? ‘She’s young, she’ll forget soon enough, and then we can get back to being a family again.’ I am 22 years old, and a grown woman God damn it! I am not going to forget what happened, and I sure as hell see no way that we can ever ‘get back to’ being a family ever again. I will not be sucked into their dysfunctional spiral, I will not put on my nice face and pretend everything is okay when it definitely isn’t. I won’t enable the grandfather’s abuse by turning a blind eye.

Even as I write this, I know how childish it must sound. Maybe I am overreacting. But how can I forgive the man who is slowly but surely killing my grandmother? How can I interact with people who are so happily abusing an elderly woman? How can I laugh with relatives who are so self involved that they harass an emotionally traumatized woman into returning to the abuse? And how can I sit and discuss the weather with Nanna, now that I know all of the deepest, darkest, most intimate details of her own personal hell? Am I being too self-centred? I just want all of it to feel right again, but I don’t know how it can.


Anonymous said...

You don't sound childish or self centered at all. You are concerned for the well being of someone you love.

I hope that somehow you can find some peace. Just know you did what you could in trying to help your nanna. In the end you can't help someone who doesn't want to take it.

Good luck

Gina said...

You aren't selfish at all. You clearly care about her and appear to be the only one who is willing to stand up for what you believe.

Her story sounds like so many others that end in tragedy. She is going through horrible abuse, nit just at the hands of your grandfather, but at the hands of everyone else who either refuses to see it and blames her, or see it but don't want to make waves.

I would talk about it to anyone and everyone who will listen - make sure everyone knows what's going on. If you ever witness physical abuse, call the police. Let your grandfather know that you know what is going on. He's a bully and bullies can't be ignored. Let your family know yu expect more of them. Let your Nanna know that you love her, but you can't stand by and let this happen. Keep encouraging her to leave.

And don't think you are childish or selfish because just because it isn't happening to you, doesn't mean you don't feel the pain. I am so sorry that you have to deal with this.

Anonymous said...

You have every reason to feel as you do. But please don't cut her out of your life. She's been put down like this for sooo many years that it's almost impossible for her to keep courage and be strong. And when you talk to her..keep encouraging her to leave. Let her know that your still that memory of those 9 weeks of freedom are going to stick and hopefully and with lot's of prayer and encouragement she'll be able to leave again. Keep reminding her that she's a good way outside of that marraige. I would also hope you can take some time to find some counseling or a support group who may have better ideas and ways of getting her safe.


Candy said...

Wow. Just wow. My mother lived much of that (never the physical abuse, just the mental "you're not good enough" bullshit) and she never did leave. He died a year before she did, and she claimed it to be the best year of her life. "I'm finally free to do what I want," she would say. But then cancer took her as well...

All I can say is...this isn't about YOU. Your perceptions have been changed, yes, but YOU are not in an abusive relationship, YOU were not threatened by your entire family and a man of God. This is about her, and how she is supposed to go on with all that has happened.

Can you put yourself in her shoes and imagine how abandoned she feels, how confused, how completely hopeless? It isn't about you. She needs you. Put the betrayal you feel aside and be there for her, as I'm sure she has been there for you countless times in the last 22 years.

Do it before you lose her, and you regret it the rest of your life. Do it.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I think that you need to talk to someone, a professional, that helps people in abusive situations. I don't know where you live, or what resources are around you IRL, but first, you need to check out Violence Unsilenced.

They have Wednesday Q&As about how you can help people in abusive situations. I know you love your Grandma, and want to be supportive, now please take the time to learn HOW to support someone against the rest of her world, without causing her more (unintended) pain.

Good luck. You and your Grandma are blessed to have each other.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if they have something like this where you live, but through our County Office on Aging there's a thing called Adult Protective Services. They investigate elder abuse...I'm not sure if spousal abuse would be included, but it might be. And if not, they should be able to provide you with some referrals to agencies that could help.

Mbdiamond said...

Wow, her going back has to be the saddest thing I've heard... and shame Shame SHAME on those family members - and ESPECIALLY that "man of God" who tormented her with their own lies and abuse and forced her back in! I agree with the others that she neeeds you now more than ever.

And I wish there was a way you could report that pastor to his church superiors... what he did was evil.

Anonymous said...

What that pastor did actually is more common than you know. My best friend was threatened with being cut off from her church by her pastor because she was divorcing her cheating, verbally abusive husband.

Your Grandmother was raised in an era where things were very different for women --they were raised to be "peacemakers" and "do anything to hold the marriage together." It's very hard for someone of her age to break out of that mindset, especially when half her family is working against her.

I agree with everyone else here. Look into what you can do locally to report "elder abuse." Make noise to the whole family --put them on notice. And be there for your Grandmother whether she stays or leaves.

It's no fun to realize just how disfunctional your family really is --Sorry you have to go through this.

Green said...

You are RIGHT. They are all WRONG. Know this, believe this. Tell your grandma that wherever you live, she is always welcome to come stay. Explain to her that you know she did what she felt she had to, and you hope she'll choose to leave again.

I hope your dad continues building that addition.

I would not have anything to do with those shitty relatives ever again.

Anonymous said...

I don't think feelings are a matter of right or wrong. You feel what you feel, and should not apologize for that.

I am so sorry to hear what your grandmother and what you have gone through. No one else has walked in your grandmother's shoes, so I hope there is a special place in Hell for the Pastor who told her to go back to that horrible situation.

I hope that she will be alright, and I hope that you can find it within yourself to work though the hurt and have a relationship with your grandmother again. It sounds like she needs you.

verybadcat said...

The way I see it, when she took you into her confidence, she violated the boundaries that normally exist between a Grandma and her grandbabies, therefore giving you the right to tell her what you think and how you feel.

Please don't turn your back on her, though. You'll regret it when you lose her. You may be the one person she feels safe talking to and that may mean that if she feels like she can come to you, depending on how screwed up your grandpa actually is, that bond could save her life one day.

If I were you (and I'm not), I would be searching for a Christian counselor or an elder from another church to visit with your Nanna and explain that God wills no one to be beaten and belittled in this world.

Jamie said...

First of all GOOD FOR YOU for seeing this for what it is and for defending your Nanna. Too many people sit by, watch abuse and sweep it under the rug (like your extended family seems to be doing) so I am very proud of you for being so passionate about getting her out of a horrible situation.

Secondly, you are absolutely not childish or selfish. Watching someone hurt and being upset about that shows that you are compassionate and caring. Wanting better for someone you care about is a trait of love.

I hope that she'll eventually listen to you and your dad and leave him for good.

Faith / Religion aside, how she lives NOW is how you are going to remember her.

I wish you the best with this situation.