Most of the people I know, me included have one principal desire; to love and be loved. It feels good especially, if the people one refers to as family love them; if that family stands by one’s side during tribulations…but what happens if that same family is the root cause of one’s misery? Where does one turn?
The other day I posted on fb that the only good thing my granma ever did is she birthed my father. I received a couple of ‘lols’… it was one of those numerous moments when I say something serious but people assume I’m just nuts…I didn’t mind it though, I actually felt good that they saw the humorous side of my lamentation. So ‘what would make someone say that about their granny?’ one might ask…
Aplenty! Reasons aplenty…
For starters, my paternal granma doesn’t love my siblings and me, and if she does, then she definitely has a very funny way of showing it. One might be tempted to think I’m just a love-deprived person trying to seek attention but honestly, that’s just so far from it. If I’m writing about this, it is because this little fact has had an unmitigated impact on my life, and my family of course; it is an issue that goes way back in time, back to when my parents were in their early twenties; it has defined the course of the relations my family and me have with our extended paternal family.
Basically, my mom comes from a humble background. Her dad died when she was so small, she hardly remembers his face, leaving her mother to be the sole provider of the family. She was a small-scale farmer, so she only made enough money from selling her farm produce, coffee mainly. When my father fell in love with my mother, he took her home to his mother so she could give them her blessings.
Unfortunately, my mom’s humble background had her at a disadvantage; my granma didn’t seem impressed one bit that her son was marrying a poor farmer’s daughter; he could do better. This was the root of all the tribulations my family and I have encountered so far. I hate it when my mom recounts how it happened because the memories perceptibly aggravate her; she always tells it, her voice forlorn; and one can clearly tell it’s something that pains her a lot.
When my dad took her home, his mother showed them manifestly that she wasn’t pleased; she took to treating my mom like a hand, as opposed to a guest in every sense of the word; she was just a nobody, not good enough for her son. Neither my mom nor dad seemed to mind her indiscretion, as they were madly in love. She remained persistent; she never stopped reprimanding my dad for his ‘poor’ choice.
Later, when I was only six months old, my big sister was slightly over two years of age, my dad finally bowed to pressure and he and my mom parted ways. She went back to her home. It was only after his big brother’s intervention that the two reconciled.
He found a place of their own and they moved from his mother’s. However, in spite of the distance they had put, his mother still managed to get to him. This happened during occasional get-togethers which were held at her ranch. Only my dad and his three siblings attended them. I was just starting to learn how to spell my name then, but I realized I didn’t like it one bit when my dad spent a few nights at his mother’s, because he would leave elated and come home tense, picking fights with my mother. It was horrible.
Sometimes it would be so bad, my mom would threaten to leave; but afterwards, when the storm had abated, she would hug us tightly, telling us she would stay, only for our sake. For the better part of my childhood, I remember vividly, the tormenting dreams I used to have; my mom leaving. I would watch helplessly, crying, begging her not to leave…then I’d wake up.
These dreams made me loathe my dad’s violent outbursts, because I was afraid one of them would see my mom leave. It became obvious, everytime my dad went to his mom’s, he would come back a vicious man; cold. His mother’s castigation was eating at him, slowly by slowly, turning him into a feelingless human. She wanted him to leave my mom; marry someone of a higher social status.
Once my mom told us of an argument she and her brother-in-law had; impudently he blurted out, “My mom doesn’t even like you!”
When we were small, my sisters and I never visited our granma. The first time we went to her home I was fourteen, and we went there because the entire family was meeting there for the occasional get-togethers. She seemed pleased to see us all- cousins, uncles and aunts; my dad, his siblings and their families.
We spent two days there. We travelled back to our respective homes on Christmas Eve. Before leaving, she had her help pack up some fruits and vegetables from her vast farm as a token of her appreciation that we had visited her. She gave three of her children and somehow, managed to leave my dad out. I didn’t seem to mind it- it was just food-but then later on it hit me; it’s the thought that counts; she had brazenly shown my parents she still didn’t approve of their union. Obviously my mom was piqued; when was she going to accept that she was now a part of her family?
The other time we went there we were with the rest of the family; usual get-together. My parents were both in absentia. They had deliberately chosen to sit that one out. My sisters and I had only agreed to go so it didn’t seem like we were ejecting ourselves from the rest of the family, but if it was worth it? I think not. We only made more unpleasant memories.
The third time we visited her was three years ago; she was sick and we only wanted to check up on her. That was the first and only time-so far-my sisters and I went there on our own volition. She was happy to see us, though she couldn’t resist inserting her side comments into our conversations, which sadly, made me realize she only favoured the person with the deepest pockets.
At the time, my big sister, who models part time, had plans of travelling out of the country. My granma had gotten wind of the interesting news and was- in my opinion- trying to warm herself into my sister’s heart so she could invite her over when she was settled. I couldn’t help feeling amused as I watched the thrill in her eyes as she pictured herself flying overseas; she was like a teenager in love.
After spending three days there, we left. The next time we saw her again she had only made a detour as she visited her second born’s first wife; we live only a few blocks apart. As usual, it was unpleasant, and I wondered why she had bothered to come.
I can’t say I hate her, because that would be too strong a word; but I can’t also say I love her, because then I would be lying, even to myself. I have no fond memories of her whatsoever; I didn’t even get to call her granma; she wouldn’t let us. Even her children-my dad and his siblings- call her by her first name…
It just makes me wonder, why wouldn’t she want to be called mom or granma? But then again, she doesn’t act like one either. When my sisters and I were small, we were always tense around her when she decided to pass by when visiting one of her other children; we didn’t know what to call her and her first name was out of question; it felt preposterous, blasphemous even.
After so many years of silent agony, when I was eighteen, we decided to call her ‘granma’ and let the chips fall where they may. We felt we were done sugar-coating her old age. Apparently it’s a family thing because last I checked, even her sister didn’t like that word so much.
I have tried so hard to think of any good thing my granma has ever done for either one of my family members or me but I found absolutely nothing. All I see are tears and intense pain; She has made our lives miserable, just because she couldn’t stand the idea that her daughter-in-law was a poor farmer’s daughter…and she made no effort to get to know my mom as a person; I know she would have loved her; but she didn’t bring extra wealth to her family, to her that is all that mattered.
If ever I found myself thanking her for something, it would be only for the primary fact that she birthed my father.