Saturday, February 23, 2013
I recently took my youngest daughter to visit her paternal grandmother, who is now residing in a nursing facility in
. A once vibrant woman, she is now quiet, and
offers sporadic random words…trailing off with her loss of memory. Conversation is bursts of news from us, or
making successful guesses at the few words she utters. Although her scant memory does not allow her
to contribute much, their time together will be treasured, and someday shared
with my daughter’s own children and grandchildren. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Reflecting on this made me think of my three oldest children and their grandparents. At the time of their birth, they had three living grandparents. My first born was their first grandchild. The news of my pregnancy was met with a joyful reaction from my mother, a hearty congratulations from my father-in-law, and a bland response from my mother-in-law, accompanied by a sour face. Abruptly, her weekly phone calls stopped, indicating her lack of interest in the pregnancy or her yet-to-be born grandchild. When my son was born, she declared her desire to be called by her first name instead of any pseudonym for Grandmother. It wasn’t until her daughter was expecting her first child that I witnessed any emotion. She squealed with manic delight when she told us the news, just pausing long enough to add that she wanted to be called, “Grammy”.
A year later when we visited her home in
Needham, she had replaced a photograph of my
son with a picture of her daughter’s son…in the frame we had given her. I didn’t understand why she could not buy
another frame and display pictures of both
her grandsons. It was not just a random oversight
because years later when there were five grandchildren, any image of my three children
were absent. Displayed on the
refrigerator and around the house were just the pictures of her daughter’s children. It seemed to be a confirmation for a brewing
thought that my husband (and his children) was not as important because he was
not her biological child. Although I did
not know it at the time, unreciprocated love toward a child plants the seeds of
This disorder grew within him, and developed into the need for control, and ultimately abusive behavior. Although my children had a biological grandmother who adored them, my husband’s quest for maintaining control along with severing supportive ties, he marred my children’s relationship by creating animosity and fear. He encouraged terror toward my mother’s dogs, who were barkers. He would warn that a barking dog was a prerequisite to a biting dog, enforcing a high level of alarm anytime a visit to her home was planned.
Upon our divorce, he forced a relationship with the parents of his girlfriend. My children soon replaced their affections on her parents instead of their own biological grandmother. Although my ex was no longer with the woman by the time her mother died, my children kindly attended her funeral. Yet a few months later they refused to attend their own grandmother’s funeral. My daughter, who was 20 at the time, sent me an e-mail on behalf of herself and her brothers stating they were not attending because she was not involved in their lives, the brief interaction was “not pleasant”, and she disliked her “lack of effort” to be a part of her life; either ignoring or not understanding her father prevented interaction, and encouraged hostility toward her grandmother.
Despite my daughter’s harsh words, I only felt sympathy that she had developed into such a cold, heartless young woman, without the ability to see past what she had been programmed to feel. I felt profound pity for her hateful words that bore no merit. Considering her father had banned me from most of her life, her intense anger can only be attributed to what he had instilled into her developing mind for so many years. His bitter revenge probably offered him satisfaction believing my children’s absence hurt me. However, I told my children about the funeral for their benefit to pay their last respects. I did not need their support.
My three older children have been denied all biological ties, except for their father. With so many adoptees seeking a relationship with their biological family, it is profoundly odd that my children limit their ties to one person. But, since their father is a narcissistic sociopath, his desire is not uncommon. He always craved utter equality, regardless if it was a boat, the size of a closet or the number of orgasms one should be allowed. Therefore, it is not strange for him to deny his children a relationship with his biological grandmother, or mother for that matter, as he never enjoyed that relationship. And that is just one manifestation seen in a narcissistic sociopathic individual.
My youngest daughter was fortunate as she had a relationship with her maternal grandmother since birth. Although her relationship with her paternal grandparents began late in life, I chose to foster that relationship so she could have some biological tie to her father, who died before she could meet him. The saying that it is better to give than receive does not just apply to a tangible gift; it is putting someone’s needs before your own. Doing so for your child demonstrates what it means to be a parent; undoubtedly a lesson handed down by a grandparent. These generational life lessons of decorum create the foundation of becoming a loving and gracious adult.