family matters

August 14, 2009

update: grandma has apologized; she says she had a bad day and went off and she should never have sent it.

last night i went to the city with some friends. we saw the robert frank exhibit at the moma and then had dinner. at some point i’d like to wow you all with a deep, contemplative post about frank’s photographs (which i love), but at the moment my brain has been derailed.

see, i got home at 11 last night to find a letter from my paternal grandmother in my mail box concerning my behavior in re: my parents and their relationship (previous posts on the subject here and here). this letter was very bad; i’m posting it below (sadly, to do all the necessary redacting i had to screw up  the format; i’ve preserved the bad language though).

Aug 10.2009

Dear [slimlove];

#1 You are my granddaughter and I love you a lot, however it is just about time that you get a few things straight,

#2 from what [your older brother] has said that you told him, [your ex-stepmother] told you that your Dad took her kids over his Own which was a lie. Her kids were never there, [her older daughter] was married along time before [your dad] met,her and [her younger daughter] was there about 2 weeks before she got married. So you have been presuming a lot that was just not True. She was a liar about a lot of things.

#3 The commemt about your Dad not having teeth, he has them just can’t wear them as there is a tooth

floating in the sinus cavity on the right side which an oral surgeon will have to remove to the cost of About 3,000 dollars, as it is considered preexisting on the insurance.

#4 The disrespest that you are showing to your parents, regardless whether you approve or not is not Tolerable and to coin your own words ,not negotiable. They are adults and are working with the Pastor. When you disrespect your father you disrespect me as well as after all my son., I don.t know who gave you The RIGHT TO THINK THAT YOU ARE GOD.JUDGE AND JURY. Its about time that you got down off your high horse and joined the rest of us,

#5 As for your religious beliefs, that is your own business, however from what I gather you are into something that you did not learn AT YOUR CHURCH IN Lompoc.

#6 Not a one of us said anything about the way you dressed in Waukesha, we figured if you wanted All the tattoes and earrings ‘chains so be it even if I didn’t approve I said nothing. You reminded me of Haight Asbury in the 50-60’s but again if that is what you want so be it.


#8 When [your parents] tell [your other grandma], is up to them, not up to you to make any comments on. So knock off your nasty comments it is totally uncalled for.

Sorry about this letter but someone had to do it. While I am at this, you may as well know that it was [your other grandmother] who finally brainwashed your mother into leaving your Dad. She worked on [your mother’s sister] until she got her divorces from [her husband] and the She started inon [your mother]. I know as I heard a lot of what was going on, this si why I don’t ever want to Talk to her, she is not worth the effort and you had better watch what you tell her.

By the way, I understand that a lot of your friends are gay. ARE YOU? It wouldn’t matter to me in the least Or do you go both ways. Everyone else is afraid to ask, but I am not.

yeah. so. this from the woman i always described as my “cool grandma.” anyway, obviously this upset me greatly. i just kept turning it over and over in my head and finally i decided to write a reply. i won’t send it – what would be the point? – but it made me feel better to write it down.

August 14, 2009

Dear Grandma,

I received your letter last night and found it rather distressing, as I’m sure you can imagine. I’d like the opportunity to respond, if I may.

First, I have said in the past that it hurt me to realize that while my father couldn’t be bothered to deal with his own children, he married a woman with two kids of her own. His ex never said anything to me on this topic; this was something I inferred on my own. I’m willing to admit I didn’t have all the facts, and that her children weren’t around much. However, this is really just one minor point. Ultimately, it doesn’t have much to do with the larger problem, and it doesn’t really mitigate the fact that my father abandoned his children.

As to your comment about my comment about teeth…I honestly have no idea what you are talking about. To my knowledge, I have never made any comment about teeth or lack thereof.

And as to the gross disrespect I’m showing my parents: well, you know what, my mom and I are on pretty good terms, all things considered. We still talk, I still intend to visit her. We’ve talked about this situation at length; I’ve gotten upset, it’s true, but I have every right to my own emotions. In the end, it doesn’t matter how upset I am or how much I disagree: this is her decision, not mine. We’re all adults here, she doesn’t need to take me into consideration on her life decisions. We don’t agree with one another’s positions, but I love my mother and I’m trying as hard as I can to be a reasonable adult about the situation, to respect her right to her own life and her own decisions.

Now I’m not sure how the fact that I’m (legitimately) upset about the way my father disregarded his family when we became an inconvenience shows any disrespect towards you. In fact, in all your accusations towards me, you seem to be overlooking the fact that he’s the one who screwed up and needs to make amends. If he feels that I’m being disrespectful towards him, then he can deal with me directly on that, he doesn’t need his mother to do it for him. Not to mention that I’m not sure I particularly owe him anything. Respect is a commodity that’s earned; you don’t automatically get respect just for bringing someone into the world. And while we’re at it, how do you think it makes me feel to be attacked for expressing concern over a situation that shows legitimate cause for concern? How do you think it makes me feel when I think back over the years and realize that you, the grandmother I always loved, must have had at least some idea as to where he was over the years? How do you think it makes me feel to realize that you either explicitly or implicitly condoned his behavior? But somehow you’re the one who’s been disrespected. Or perhaps I don’t deserve respect, by simple virtue of the fact that I’m of a younger generation.

I believe my mom should have told her mom by now, but again, that’s not my decision and I know that. I’ve discussed this with my mom, I’ve even gotten upset about it. But I don’t call her every day harassing her about it; I rarely bring it up, in fact. I’ve done everything she’s asked of me on this point—when she first told me she was dating my father, I didn’t tell my brothers, because she asked me not to. When she told me they were getting married and said she wanted to tell the family herself, I again respected her wishes, despite the fact that it puts me in a very awkward position. I haven’t even told my cousin, who you know I’m very close to, despite the fact that I’d like to talk to her about it more than anyone else.

And I don’t know where you got the idea that I’m harassing my younger brother, but I’m not. I called him last night just to be sure I hadn’t somehow offended him without realizing it, and he has no problem with me.

Now, for those apologies you seem to think I owe:

I’m sorry you seem to think I’m being childishly stubborn just to make everyone’s life difficult. I assure you I’m not. My feelings and thoughts on the matter are just as valid as anyone else’s, despite the fact that they don’t agree with yours.

I’m sorry you’re so bothered by my tattoos and piercings. I’m curious as to whether my younger brother and our father know about your hatred of tattoos—or is it just tattoos on women that are so offensive? I’m sorry that my agnosticism offends you so greatly. I’m sorry I don’t blindly follow every theological teaching I learned in childhood; I’m sorry I dared to question the world.

I’m sorry that the way I live my life seems to have made you all think I’m gay. I’m sorry that I’ve made it to the absolutely ancient age of 28 without a marriage, divorce, or children. Perhaps I should have quit college to marry an unsuitable man, one who would leave me high and dry with a couple kids I didn’t plan on. At least then you’d be sure that I’m not one of those scary gay people.

I’m sorry you seem to see a huge difference between the way you demand that the world conform to your wishes and desires and the way my other grandmother demands the same thing. You’re both controlling and manipulative, and the only real difference is that you’re more cheerful about it. I’m sorry that you seem to think that her bad behavior excuses my father’s. I’ve no doubt she meddled in my parents’ relationship, but she is not some evil person who “brainwashed” my mother. You seem to think the divorce was all my grandmother’s fault, but I know my parents were having problems before moving to Lompoc. If you want to be mad at anyone over that, be mad at my mom, who you seem to think wasn’t strong enough to stand up to her own mother’s “brainwashing.” Not to mention that, even granting this ridiculous “brainwashing” idea, was my father then “brainwashed” into leaving his own children? Is everything bad that ever happened in our family solely my other grandmother’s fault?

But most of all, I’m sorry that during a time that is legitimately difficult for me, a time when I am trying my hardest to do what is best for me and still maintain a relationship with my mother, you decided to send me a letter full of bizarre accusations and venom-filled personal attacks.

Finally, as to your question to me about how it feels to know that I am not wanted, I learned that a long time ago. Being abandoned by a parent tends to have that affect on children. At least now I’m an adult and better capable of handling it. You’ve said in your letter that—despite demanding an apology—you don’t want to see or hear from me. And I’ll admit, that hurts. I hate the idea of being some sort of pariah, of being disowned by my own family for expressing an unpopular opinion. But as much as that sucks, I’ll take it any day over having to deal with this petty, childishly vindictive bullshit ever again.



  1. ARGH. ARGH.

    Good job on the response. I almost wish you would send it to her. I’m impressed that you can be so level-headed in your response to her, and frankly, incredibly disappointed in her ability to see what sort of position that their relationship puts you in, and especially unhappy about her personal attacks.

    (In an unrelated note, we’re partners in the missing teeth dad club! Mine knocked his out doing martial arts. D’oh.)

  2. Well, when a mother spends an entire life making excuses for her son’s bad behavior, reality tends to become distorted. Probably her ‘my baby is a victim of you people’ attitude is what led to his lack of responsibility in the first place.

    And I agree that you don’t need this bullshit. I think it might be freeing, eventually, to take some time and space away from the mess and let it all fall apart without you.

    So sorry you’ve had to deal with all of this…

  3. i am glad to hear that she has apologized although that letter was wacky and still makes no sense that she would send it at all.
    thus, it got me thinking about my parents’ neighbor, Gloria. absolutely amazing woman, 79-80ish, living alone, all her senses intact (or so it seemed), very independent, driving, reading books and all. so, not senile in any aspect BUT ONE: her upstairs neighbor, Diane (functioning alcoholic with very non-confrontational demeanor). well, when it came to her, Gloria was completely nutty. like this one time, she called me at 9 p.m. to go to her house. i am thinking she slipped and couldn’t get up, so i get there all worried and it turned out that she wanted me to stay at her house while she went to pick up her mail because she was convinced that Diane was stealing her electricity and/or coming into the house and taking her stuff (like little bunny figurines, cans of soup and plants). so here i am, guarding the one-bedroom castle while Gloria is walking to the mailbox.
    the point is, Gloria was very sick with cancer and other conditions. in the last year of her life, she went completely crazy, called the policy on Diane, wanted to get plastic surgery in order to get ready for a date with an imaginary guy who was going to marry her and other craziness. and then she died 2-3 months ago.
    ok, back to the point. i think your grandma is going through a senile phase. her ramblings are not only full of venom, but crazy random and not fantasmagorical (is that a word?). based on what i have heard about her from you, she has never been this way with you. she can’t just become so irate with you over something like this. at least not rationally irate. she is probably going through mental changes due to her advanced age. she recently lost her husband and i am sure that has affected her as well. in my opinion, she meant absolutely nothing in that letter because she is not of her senses. it may be just a phase, or it may get worse.
    why do i bother publicly calling your grandma senile?
    1) because it is important i think as you try to deal with this complicated family drama, to focus on issues that are grounded in reality.
    2) because if your grandma doesn’t improve, you will feel really shitty for feeling animosity or just being mad at her when she clearly was not in control of her thinking
    so these are my thoughts on the issue 🙂
    serenity now

    • i think you might be right. when i talked to her, she sounded sad, almost depressed, and legitimately contrite. she said she’d had a “bad day,” and i’m not sure how to interpret that – it could mean that she’s starting to lose it a little bit. she is 82, after all. anyway, i’m mostly just trying to put it behind me.

      (and thanks to everyone for being angry on my behalf, and buying me beer, and listening to me talk about it for two straight days. you guys have put up from a lot of moping from me this year, and i really appreciate it.)

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