Endellion and I were talking on the phone yesterday. She was telling me how her mother only ever saw the bad in her and the good in her sister. Endellion’s mother was an abuser and viewed her husband the way Bubba viewed me – as the enemy. Endellion told me that over and over she would be told by her mother, “Stop doing that! That is exactly what your father does to me!” Then she’d hear her mother crow with pride over something good her sister had done, “Oh, she gets that from me!”
I was sucker-punched in the gut. How many times did I hear my mother say, “Your grandfather would’ve been so proud of you. You’re exactly like him.”? I was the only one she ever said this to. I always knew that my mother had a very rocky relationship with her father and didn’t reconcile with him until she’d been married for almost 10 years. Their relationship was so bad that on her wedding day, my mother was not even sure her father would attend, let alone walk her down the aisle.
Hearing that all my life, I thought she just meant that I was as stubborn as my grandfather. My grandfather died when I was a small child so I never knew him. I’d heard stories about him, about his stubbornness and dictatorial ways. Everything was done grandfather’s way – the house bowed down to him. I simply thought she was telling me that I was stubborn.
Last night, when Endellion said that about her mother, it opened a floodgate of understanding. After Bubba got violent and the kids and I spent those weeks with my parents, my mother and I spoke often about what I’d gone through and what she’d gone through with her father. I was reading WDHDT? for the first time and I was seeing a lot of my grandfather in those pages. It was during that summer that I realized that he wasn’t just stubborn and dictatorial, my grandfather was abusive.
I clearly saw, from my mother’s stories over the year, a picture of him form – and it wasn’t a flattering picture. My grandmother was expected to cook and clean and tend the children without a complaint. I’d always chalked that up to them being a product of their era. My mother and her sisters were expected to come home immediately after school or work (yes, even after they graduated from high school and were working full-time). During their high-school years they were not allowed to date and if they went out with their girlfriends they were expected back immediately after the event was over. My uncles were basically free-range: allowed to run amok and do as they pleased.
I’d always believed that my grandparents were just your typical mid-twentieth century nuclear family. The dad worked, the mom stayed home and took care of the house and kids. I learned that summer, as my mother spoke more about her father, that it was far from typical. I don’t know that my grandfather was every physically abusive with my grandmother, but he took “punishments” of his children seriously and involved the liberal use of a belt. From my mother’s stories, my grandfather was the picture of an entitled, psychologically abusive man.
And last night, while speaking with Endellion, it hit me – my mother spent my life comparing me to my abusive grandfather. The person she despised most in the world was the person she compared her precious daughter to.
I always knew I was different. My mother treated me differently than she treated my siblings. Now I am left to wonder what evilness she saw in me that caused her to compare me to her abuser on a regular basis. What did I do while I was growing up that was so hideous to her that she looked at me and saw her father?
This has thrown me for a loop. I don’t know what to do with this information and realization. I feel like a kite whose string has broken. I am drifting aimlessly, buffeted by the whimsy of the wind. I am no longer anchored to the firm foundation of who I was becoming.
Yes, I am adrift but I will fight to tie my string again. I will find a way to work through this and reattach myself to my firm foundation. I know I am not an abuser. I know that I am nothing like Bubba, my mother, or my grandfather.
I just want to understand what parallels she saw and until I understand it, this realization will continue to shake my foundation.