memoir, memories, mother, Uncategorized

I’ll give you the fucking 83 cents!

I packed the kids up into the car and set out to the East coast in a hurry. I had received a call from my mother telling me that my grandfather was dying imminently.

As I neared the 16 hour mark of driving (having stopped only briefly every three hours or so for gas and potty breaks) I decided that perhaps I needed to just go ahead and stop for the night at the first possible opportunity and rest, before finishing the last 3 hour stretch first thing in the morning. It was at the point I stopped for gas and started to search google maps as to what hotels might be available in that town. While in that process, my phone rang again. It was my mother frantic telling me that they took my grandfather to the emergency department and she was so sure he’s dying that very night.

So I grabbed some caffeine and told the kids we were going to have to push through. So 19 hours after leaving Wisconsin, I arrived at my mom’s house in Virginia – where my Grandfather was already back from the ED and, though he was very ill, was not quite on death’s door just yet.

In fact, he wouldn’t pass away for another several months.

Saying that, just know that I don’t regret rushing to see him – as that was the trip that was the last time I was able to see him and I was able to say my good byes to him and all of that. It was good for me to go. Yet, without the added drama and hysteria, perhaps I could have not stressed the 19 hours and had some semblance of rest before arriving.

Regardless. My grandfather had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

While I had started realizing in the recent past that my family of origin, particularly my mother, was not as normal as I had assumed it was growing up. Having been much farther removed from my family for many years, then coming and staying for several days over Christmas with all my siblings – getting suddenly and completely submerged into my original family dynamic.

A place and state of mind I had been out of for 13 years.

I had started to realize during that Christmas trip in 2016. Now, it was early Summer 2017 and my Grandpa’s health was declining fast. The siblings gathered again as quickly as possible. Only one sister still lived in the area, I lived in Wisconsin, another sister lived in Pennsylvania, and another yet was in Florida at the time I believe.

I took this time to spend time at my grandpa’s bedside. I attempted to get him to tell me stories of his youth while I recorded it on tape. He wasn’t so much interested in that, and I don’t think he understood why I’d be interested. I got more out of my grandma when it came to stories of their youth in Cleveland and the earlier years of their marriage.

Something that was a tradition whenever I visited with my grandparents was to go out for Chinese food. Naturally, Grandpa wasn’t up for that, but grandma and I had decided we’d get Chinese takeout and at the least grandpa would be able to handle the broth of his favorite soup.

While we were visiting, my grandparent’s anniversary and my grandmother’s birthday (a day apart) occurred.

You would think that a time that included a birthday, an anniversary, and impending death all for a particular couple would mean that the majority of the focus would rightly be on those people. My mother could clearly not handle that idea. This was evident with how she treated my grandparents and how she made blatant attempts to divert the attention to herself. Her father was dying, so clearly it was all about her.

My mother also tried to assert her dominance over everybody, especially my grandparents. She threatened to send my grandpa to a nursing home if he didn’t exert what little energy he had to get up and take a shower everyday. This threat was given immediately after my grandmother had done a very professional job of giving him a bed bath and linen change.

At that point I had been a CNA for years as well as had been a CNA supervisor and educator. Grandma had done an excellent job in my professional opinion. My mother dismissed it when I explained to her that a nursing home wouldn’t give him any more than a bath weekly. Possibly twice weekly only if determined he really needed it. I asked her how she thought nursing homes handle bathing and linen changes? Ummm, grandpa was much better cared for with grandma than with overworked CNAs who have to care for upwards of 20 or more residents a day – no matter how good they are at their job.

My mother also tried to force my grandfather to eat several times a day and got pissy with him when he didn’t eat as much as she thought he should.

My mother would talk to me with medical words because she knew I had been in the healthcare field for awhile… Then she would turn to my sister to “dumb it down” as if she wouldn’t understand. When my sister asked her why she was doing that and my mom responded I was in healthcare… My sister had to remind her that she had been pre-med in university for quite awhile before she had changed her major. My mother acted like that was a revelation and she hadn’t recalled that at all. I honestly had forgotten myself, but I hadn’t been living with her at the time… and as soon as she said it my reaction was “oh yeah! You were going to be an epidemiologist!” LOL

It was then that my sister explained to our mother that grandpa was not expending enough energy to even need all the calories she was trying to force on him. During this time we also thanked her for showing us how she wants to be treated in her old age. The dismissiveness she had for both of them and their feelings, grandpa’s autonomy, and the snarky shit she would say if either of them annoyed her by disagreeing with her or just having their own viewpoints on life and death.

She laughed us off, but we told her we were serious. The way she was treating them both was cringe worthy at best.

It all came to a head when my sister offered to make my grandmother whatever dinner she wanted for her birthday. My mom said she’d pay for the groceries. My grandma decided she wanted shepherd’s pie as she hadn’t had it in a long time. My sister and I went shopping for the ingredients and when we got back she got to work making the meal.

It’s important to let you know at this point my mother doesn’t like onions. It’s apparently a life long aversion, but when she doesn’t know it’s in there she can’t tell. She also had been cooking with onion powder for the “flavor” for quite awhile. It’s also important to note that my grandma actually really likes onions.

My sister called out that supper was ready. My grandma came and got her plate, thanking her. My mother, on the other hand, stormed into the kitchen and started slamming things around. Making it clear she was going to make a separate dinner for herself and her husband.

We looked at her like she was nuts. Where did this freakout come from? Well, apparently prior to my sister even starting to cook, my mother had noticed that we (the gall of us, I swear) brought a *gasp* ONION into HER house.

Apparently it made it clear to her that we don’t care about her AT ALL. Obviously she can’t eat the supper and we should have known that. Note that she had been stewing in this since before my sister even started cooking. She would have otherwise noted that my sister had cut up only 1/4 of the onion and minced it so small and put into such a large dish that it couldn’t even be identified let alone really tasted in the dish. If she had such concerns, why did she not say anything before the cooking began?

Regardless, my mother was screaming. She was out of hand. How DARE we bring an onion into her house. How DARE we use HER money to buy an onion?!

“I’ll give you the fucking 83 cents then!” My sister screamed back at her. My sister had reached the level of rage that induced tears. There was no reasoning with our mother at this point. Even explaining that I couldn’t even detect onions in the dish. That the dish was for grandma’s birthday and she in fact does like onions… Did she even realize how little of the onion was even used, let alone was eviscerated so there was no texture or anything of note – there would have been no way for her to have noticed it if she hadn’t seen the full onion.

My god, I was appalled at what I was witnessing from my mother that day. Her screaming and slamming shit went on for a good 20 minutes. I realized that this was not normal behavior and… wait… how did I get to this point in my life not having realized that my mother’s behavior was actually problematic?

Skip ahead to November of that very same year… My mother had guilted me into letting her come visit me for Thanksgiving. My family eats a lot of onions. Big fat chunks of onions… everyday. Remembering the traumatizing experience from the June event, I made sure not to have onions in my house at all – to avoid accidentally forgetting to not use them.

I stuffed my turkey with cranberries and oranges – my mom commented that it was an interesting stuffing choice.

“Well, usually I stuff it with oranges and onions for the favor and moistness… But since you don’t like onions, I thought I’d try cranberries instead.”

“Oh, honey,” she said. “You didn’t have to do that! I don’t mind onions when it’s cooked in for flavor. I just don’t like chunks of it.”

“Oh, ok,” I responded, flabbergasted. “Well, too late to change it now.”

My mother has pretty much refused to even communicate with that one sister since that event. My sister had tried to reach out to my mom here and there in the months after the “onion incident” as we call it. My mom ignored her every time.

Oh, but mom said that Thanksgiving, as well as a few times since that she just doesn’t understand why my sister refuses to talk to or apologize to her. She’s stopped saying it to me because I wouldn’t engage in the conversation. The gall of this woman. I haven’t even begun on the gall of this woman.

That’s all I have the will power to write tonight. Apologies for the rambling. Next post I’ll follow up with the events surrounding my grandpa’s death as reported by my siblings. I also plan to discuss the overview of growing up with a narcissistic mother, events such as when she rejected my book, the accusations she’s made about my dad and how vehemently she has tried to get all of us to reject him so she could “win” the divorce…. How childish she has acted around him and his wife. How she still treats my grandma… How she has tried to get my kids to tell her that she is better than/that they like her gifts better than their paternal grandmother and her gifts. Really, I’m just making an off-the-top-of-my-head list so I don’t forget what I have to write about in this series: Emma’s mother is a narcissist.

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