It was no secret growing up that everyone thought my grandmother (mom of narcissistic mother) was "weird". She was reclusive and anxiety ridden and rarely left her home. She was a hypochondriac that suffered from innumerable maladies. She never baked me cookies, or babysat (really), attended events or dance recitals or birthday parties, or did any of the grandmotherly things.
Both sets of my grandparents lived in the same town. Every so often, my parents would troop us down to visit. We would spend most of the day at one grandparents' and then make our obligatory visit to the other's house for about an hour. I remember my parents always viewing this visit as a chore. Grandma was self absorbed, rarely asking about us and interacting with us kids. She remarked on us and studied us, but she never played with us or talked to us. She was always spying on the neighbors. She moved slowly and softly as if in pain, but rarely was. Although, I never really thought much of our relationship, it never really occured to me how abnormal it was. She was a normal grandmother to me. I remember only two or three occasions that we had a real conversation. I remember her rescuing me when my father announced that I'd gotten my period. I have three or four letters that she wrote me in college. True, they are full of complaints and negative news, but at least she wrote I thought at the time. And it was more than I could say for my mom. (My mom was so self absorbed in herself and her plights that she gave little thought to my struggles in college. She visited all her problems, stresses, and worries on me at one of the most stressful times of my life.) I was so sure grandma suffered from a sever anxiety disorder. I was sure that she had a social phobia. And maybe she did. But it must've been much, much more than that.
Although I know a lot about my mother's parents, I realize now that there are lots of holes. Lots of things that are so crazy to me now have never been explained. My grandfather is a gruff, emotional alcoholic. He is tough and unfair and self-centered. He and my grandmother slept in separate beds. They eloped when she was still in high school. There is a back story to this, but my mother won't tell me what it is. They were poor. My grandfather drank a lot and my mother tells many stories about nights left in the car while grandpa drank inside. Or nights they had to go haul him out of the bar. Grandma was a basket case. She relied and expected my mom to do a lot of the house work and care for her siblings. She rarely drove or left the house. My mom worked to bring in extra money. My grandmother was a bit neglectful and could be mean (she liked to do things to hurt my mom's feelings on purpose.) Mom got married one month after highschool graduation and got the heck out of dodge. My mom did not enjoy her company as an adult either, although they talked on the phone and visited. My grandmother always disliked gifts my mom gave. My mom always complained she could never find the right Mother's Day card for her. I didn't understand this for so many years, but now, as I stand staring at cards that thank moms for being their kid's everything, I can't find a card either. She was not a horrible person as far as I saw, just very unpleasant and unenjoyable to be around.
My cousins couldn't stand to be around her either. I use to drag them over for a visit when they were in town. At her funeral and in blog posts thereafter, my cousin complained about what a cold, disconnected grandma she was. How she had longed for a connection. How she wished grandma could've been a part of their lives. They were so angry. She stood over grandma's coffin and asked me if I had ever felt I knew grandma. I felt this was a bit inappropriate but replied I did. And in fact, I had spent lots of nights looking through grandma's old pictures. I knew a lot about her life in those pictures. I knew how she felt about things. She had sent me letters. We had a love of dahlias in common. At the time, I thought my cousin was overreacting a bit. I didn't expect anything from my grandma, so I wasn't disappointed with getting nothing back. My cousin however, had had a very involved grandma. She knew there was a difference. She had wanted more. I understand my cousin a bit more as I write this post. It had never occurred to me to expect a reciprocal relationship with grandma when she was alive.
I always knew that grandma was not a good mom. I never fully understood it until now what exactly she did...and how my mother does the same things. Mom is afraid of cats stemming from an incident when she was a kid and got scared by a cat. She used to tell me that grandma used to sneak up and throw cats at her to scare her. She thought this was just awful. Yet, mom used to walk behind me and poke me with a stick on my feet to make me feel like it was a snake. This was funny to her. Mom told me the story of how when my grandmother first saw me as a baby, she told mom I had fat legs. This hurt my mom's feelings. (I wonder why my mom never thought about this hurting my feelings; to hear that my own grandmother had found fault with me as a baby.) But guess what my mom said about my newborn son? He had those same fat, little legs. Mom has turned into a hypochondriac. Mom has managed to make everything about her. Mom has turned into the same recluse who does nothing but spy on the neighbors. She loves to tell me know that I remind her of her mom. She says it like she's saying a compliment, but we both know it's meant as an insult.
When Grandma died, mom was very cold and detached. She ridiculed her siblings for their grief. She made statements implying that she knew, and was the only one who knew, how sick grandma was and that she was dying. Which might sort of be true. But why would you be proud of that? She sneered that she had been the only one there in the last months that she had been sick and implied that now everyone had no right to be so upset because they should've been there all along. She was so bitter and angry about how people were expressing their feelings, in fact, that they had emotions at all. My poor aunt sobbed to me saying how she felt that she had let my mom down by not being stronger at the funeral. When I told mom, she was cold, icy, and uncaring and snapped that my aunt should feel bad. It was all so sad. A family so broken apart that immediately after the funeral, everyone went their own way. No family get together. No telling of stories around the table. Nothing.
Now, mom uses grandma's death to gain attention which makes me sick. On every anniversary of grandma's death and birthday, mom expects us to rally around and giver her support. She expects phone calls and sympathy and pampering. She cries about how hard it is for her. She uses it to force visits with me and my kids claiming she needs "to be around family at this time because it's so hard for me." It has never occurred to her that I might have some sadness over my grandmother's death too. She makes a special dish to "honor" her mother at meals. She never honored her in life. I'm really unsure why she honors her in death. Actually, I'm not unsure. It's so she can milk every little bit of the sadness for herself. And all of these dramatics over a woman she could hardly stand. Oh, and she also uses grandma's death to remind me about being nice to my own mother. You'll miss me when I'm gone, she claims. She posts stupid quotes on facebook talking about how much you miss your mother when she's gone. How everything pales when your faced with life without her. About what she wouldn't give for one more day with her.