Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Not the Best Namma Ever

Tiffany over at Blessed Existence recently asked if any of her readers have any...um, odd... relatives. Man, where to start?

Since we just did a weekend trip that involved the birthdays of the two most...um, colorful... people currently on my side of the family, we'll start there.

My now 97-year-old paternal Grandma. And understand that I dropped her son out of my life twenty years ago. Her one and only, perfect, saintly son. Who my mother divorced and chose to live paycheck-to-paycheck with two kids rather than remained married to. So, Best Namma Ever!'s former terror of a mother-in-law.

I suppose I can understand some of the craziness. She was widowed young with an 8-year-old and limited career options. She worked her hiney off raising him. But she always had a problem with everyone. Everyone.

When we were kids, Best Namma Ever! continued to bring us to her house in some god-forsaken teeny tiny town in Southern Illinois for a week each summer. And why not? There was a ton to do for kids our age, plus the weather was great! (in case you missed it, that's sarcasm there) But BNE! had the "but she's their grandmother" mentality. Too nice for her own good, that BNE!. But that's another post.

So the highlights of Grandma's house.

*Blaring TV at all hours

*Her blaming every one of her problems on everyone else.

*A Himalayan cat named Minnew. And the cat before was named Minnew. And the cat after this one would be named Minnew. (All Himlayans.) Seems that "minnew" is how the Belgians say "meow." Guess what we are.*Minnew brought in fleas. Pink Power Ranger and I would end up with bites all over our feet and calves. You could see the little buggers on our white socks. Well, we could. Grandma couldn't. And she never got bitten either.

*We were awakened at 6am every day to "run the carpet sweeper." When we objected, our mom was informed that we refused to help out with even the tiniest chore. But we were not objecting to helping out. We were objecting to helping out at 6am. Seriously, what's the hurry? She's gotta be somewhere?

*She would send us to buy milk at the grocery store. No big deal. We got to get away for a few minutes. But we were strangers in this god-forsaken town, so we were followed every step, every time.

*Picture a 7-year-old helping a morbidly obese woman out of the bathtub.

*She shared her shock and displeasure with us over our mother leaving her son. We were already hearing all about it from her son. Being her captive audience for a week really helped the coping process!

*There was a cherry tree in her back yard. And that was ok for me. It was a good climbing tree, and she made tasty cherry preserves. I'll give her that. But she made Pink Power Ranger climb it too. Made her. And PPR got a rash every. single. time.

*Up Side -- her son never visited us at her house.

*Can I share a story of my half-brother's? When he was a kid, she would take a nap on the couch holding onto his wrist so that he couldn't wander off. Guess how often my nephew sees his Great-Grandma?

PPR and I now playfully torment BNE! with stories of Grandma's house. How we perched at the window like puppies starting at about Tuesday and watched longingly for her car to pull up. How we wondered if we had done something terribly wrong and were being punished. BNE! always says, "but when I asked her, she always said that you never once asked about me!"

As we became adolescents and eventually adults and could choose to see Grandma or not, BNE! made us go. "I never want you to have one single doubt about whether you did the right thing or not." BNE! has more grace and class in her pinky finger than I'll ever have in my entire body.

This last visit to the nursing home, I opted to not take Urban Kid 1. She's old enough now to be uncomfortable there. I took UK2, which made for ooooo's and ahhhhh's and a conversation piece. She also made for a handy excuse to leave.

Another thing to understand about Grandma is that she seems to be immortal. Keep in mind that she was never one to eat well and didn't like to get off the couch (hence, the obesity). She was angry and bitter. She got every pneumonia and took every fall. But she's still here. PPR and I have to wonder if she'll be in the room down the hall from us when we someday go to the nursing home ourselves......... Personally, I think she's just trying to outlive her son. The sickness of their relationship is that he just wants her gone. And so she just keeps hanging on.

So in the grand scheme of life, I figure that Grandma has a role. Yes, it's that of a warning. And it's one that I sometimes have to remind myself of when I get too riled about disagreeing with someone.

But I take from her -- and ultimately, from BNE! -- to let go of the past, to laugh about it and to just move on already. Clear out the anger about the past and make room for good things. And that you have to make the good things, that sitting on the couch won't bring them to you.


Tiffany said...

In an odd sort of way that reminds me of my mother only she isn't mean. Just crazy. She lives in a tiny town (with so much to do) and insists that all four grandkids come spend a week there every summer too. What for I'm not sure. She doesn't do anything with them other than maybe buy them ice cream but last I checked they sold ice cream in Houston too. She sleeps, she eats, she watches tv. Isn't it nice to know we are not alone in all this craziness? I know it is shocking but my mother is by far not even the most bizarre realtive I have. Not by a long shot. Thank you so much for doing this post!

Tiffany (aka T, Tiffers, Tiffster, and Pally) said...

How funny...I'll be the second Tiffany to comment:

I can't imagine how you survived those summer visits! They must have seemed like an eternity...

Rachel said...

Ahhh, family. It makes you wonder how any of us grow up semi-sane doesn't it? I often wonder about some of my own relatives.........some good, some bad....but they certainly all have their impact on us, don't they?

Mom2legomaniacs said...

Good attitude dear! Families have a way of their own. They can mess you up and make you great all at the same time. Glad you survived it and chose to use it as a "how not to be" example.


Jenni said...

There's a reason the fleas never bit her. They could taste the bitter and were scared of catching the crazy.

Doesn't every family have someone like this? (Maybe not *exactly* like this, but you know what I mean.) You have a great attitude about it, though. Take what lessons you can from the good and bad relatives alike. One is an example of how to be and the other a warning of who you never want to be.