Part one of this story can be found here.
Ironically, the very thing my Grandma Rose gave me to prove her innocence was the very thing that made me suspicious of her again.
I was idly thumbing through my Mother’s photo album one afternoon when I noticed something strange. In every single picture, my Mother was missing a lock of hair. Had it been just one picture, I would have assumed she had done the deed herself. After all, what little girl hasn’t tried to give herself a haircut only to end up accidentally chopping her bangs off all the way to the scalp? However, not only did my Mother have missing locks as a 5 year old girl dressed up for a Halloween party, but she had missing locks as a 16 year old girl smiling for her yearbook photo. Literally, in every single photograph, my Mother was missing a hunk of hair.
Was I to believe my Mother’s shoddily snipped hair was a symptom of her own neurosis?
My Mother, who was vanity personified? My Mother, who stood in the mirror for hours wielding curling irons and bottles of mouse with the greatest of care? My Mother, who refused to leave the bathroom if even a single stubborn strand of hair was out of place? Could I believe that as a child, my Mother would randomly pick up pieces of her own hair and snip them off until her scalp showed?
No, I couldn’t believe that. I knew her too well to believe that.
I never confronted Grandma Rose about my Mother’s missing pieces of hair, but I did try to distance myself from her. I quit biking over to her apartment on Saturday afternoons. I quit calling her before bed to wish her sweet dreams. When she picked me up for a shopping trip, I would deliberately pick out clothes I knew she hated. I would no longer allow her to comb and style my hair after a shower. I became convinced that if I did, she would one day grab a hunk of it and snip it off.
The older I got, the more my Grandma Rose’s true nature begin to shine through. For one thing, she was a con artist. Her method of operation included marrying old and decrepit men, accusing them of abuse, and then throwing them out of their own houses. Many times, her accusations were downright laughable. For instance, she once accused her husband of raping her even though he was paralyzed from the waist down. Still, while the legal battles raged on, my Grandma Rose would at the very least end up with a free place to live for a few months. Her more successful cons would net her some spousal support.
Grandma Rose also had severe problems with paranoia and hypochondria. She’d lock up her house like a fortress every night. Even the door to the bathroom came equipped with a special alarm to alert the police. Sometimes, after a day out and about, she would come home and see a twist tie from a loaf of bread on the kitchen floor. While most people would have assumed they dropped the tie after making a piece of toast, Grandma Rose would become convinced that someone had broken into the house in order to ‘warn her’ of some nefarious scheme. Also, she was always dying of random illnesses. To spend a lot of time with Grandma Rose was to constantly soothe her. Or sit by her, embarrassed, as she filled out yet another police report or shrieked to her Dr that he was stupid hack.
Sometimes both in the same night.
In fact, shortly after I left my Mother’s home for good, Grandma Rose and I had one of those nights.
When I got married, Grandma Rose attempted to convince to leave my husband and move in with her. By then, I had no more illusions about Grandma Rose and I was I properly horrified by the idea. Still, evil people have a tendency to turn on you in an instant and I had no desire to incur my Grandmother’s wrath. So, once every other week or so, I would visit with my Grandma Rose and spend the night. I did attempt to set some boundaries, though. I would not ever, under any circumstance, spend the night with her more than once a week. I would not leave any of my belongings in her house. I would give her absolutely no reason to believe that I was open to the idea of moving in.
Early one evening I showed up at Grandma Rose’s house for a visit as she was mid police report. Someone had stolen her diamonds. Again. And snuck in and replaced them 3 hours after the police left to make a fool out of her. Again.
I wish to God I was fucking kidding.
I had to get up very early for work, so I retired early. Around 2 am, Grandma Rose decided that she was having a stroke and needed me to immediately rush her to the hospital whereupon she demanded every test known to man to pinpoint exactly what was going to cause her very certain untimely death.
The Dr became frustrated and sent her home.
I became very frustrated because I had to go to work in less than an hour with no sleep, as I spent the night in the hospital waiting for a Dr to man up to my grandmother and tell her there was nothing wrong with her.
On the drive back home, we didn’t say much.
When we walked in, Grandma Rose went all batshit again, locking up the house and babbling on about unforeseen dangers and just generally lecturing me. I was a little surprised because Grandma Rose didn’t usually lecture people unless she was pissed. However, it was quickly becoming obvious that Grandma Rose was pissed…at me.
To this day, I’m not sure what I did to set her off. Perhaps my annoyance with her was a little more visible than I intended. Perhaps she was a little embarrassed after being called a hypochondriac, in so many words, by the Dr in front of me. Probably, it was a little of both. Suddenly, she was screaming at me.
I didn’t really say much back. I walked away from her, to the spare room, and quietly started gathering up my things. I intended to just leave. She realized that I was leaving and started straight up raging. She got hysterical and started shouting that I was selfish and evil and never did anything for her.
I responded: “I do lots of things for you, Grandma. I just sat in a hospital with you for 3 hours so a Dr could tell you that there was nothing wrong with you. And I have to work in the morning.”
“THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME!”
Very quietly, I said, “Yes, I suppose there is.” I didn’t say this mocking or cruel. I said it sorrowfully. And she. Just. Snapped.
The next thing I knew, she rushed at me, hand raised, ready to slap the shit out of me. My voice, ice cold, stopped her in her tracks, hand still raised uncertainly in the air. “You better not hit me, old woman.” I warned.
“You’re just like your Mother,” She whispered back.
I guess she thought if she couldn’t physically hurt me, her only option was to take a mental jab.
I pointed to the door, “Open that door.”
“You open it.”
I opened it and of course the alarms went off. I strode out into the night and heard her shout at my back, “Now I’m going to have to pay extra for the false alarm, thanks a lot you bitch!”
I didn’t stop walking, but I did yell back, “You should have fucking opened the door then!”
That was the last exchange between us. But I consider the time I warned my grandmother against hitting me to be the one time I stood up for myself in opposition of one truly responsible for the mess my life is now.
A different me would have just let her slap me.
There was something funny about my Grandma Rose, though. As a child, I would sometimes write little stories. My Mother never took these stories very seriously, but my Grandma Rose was always very positive in regard to my artistic endeavors. Sometimes, out of the blue, she’d clutch my arm with her bony wrinkled claw of a hand and whisper urgently, “You’re going to write it all down, someday, aren’t you? Aren’t you? You’re going to write our story.” She tried to spin these comments positive, but I think they were rooted deeply in fear as opposed to sincere encouragement. I think she was afraid of how she’d come off if I did write the story. (Sorry, Grandma)
- Everything a Little Girl Could Ever Hope to Have
- Overheard in the Post Office
- Girl Fight!
- Making Light Promises
- The Stolen Diary