My brother Peter was admirably close to our paternal grandmother and she loved him deeply, but toward me she was always untrustworthy. I greatly admired my paternal grandmother’s life accomplishments of supporting her own mother, an immigrant from Norway, and for raising her son (my father) as a single mother before there were support systems for single mothers, while working as the first woman City Parks And Recreation Playground Director in St. Paul, Minnesota. But my loving feelings toward her only made her betrayals more difficult to endure.
When I first learned to walk, I went searching for affection as there was none from my mother or father. Maybe there was, and if so I am sorry to complain, but I do not remember feeling any affection from either of my parents. As soon as I was able I climbed the stairway that led from my parents’ apartment up to my paternal grandmother’s apartment on the floor above us. I knocked on my grandmother’s door, hoping that she would pick me up, that she would love me. My grandmother finally opened the door with great annoyance, and said, no, I could not come in. One would be nicer to a stray puppy. She told me to go away. I did not know how to climb down the steep stairs and I wanted to come in and be with her. When I would not leave, could not leave, my grandmother pushed me. I fell down several stair steps and began to howl with fear and pain and the sorrow of rejection. My parents came running up the stairs. They scolded me for leaving their apartment, and I complained, “She pushed me down the stairs.” They all got angry with me for “lying” which of course was a very easy solution for them. The best I got was no spanking for going out of the apartment by myself.
Speaking on behalf of my long deceased paternal grandmother: Of course she only intended to shove me away from the door to her apartment. She put a lie on me because the harm was already done and to admit that she had shoved a toddler down some stairs was something she might not even admit to herself. But she did not take me into her apartment to comfort me. Taking me in would have brought my mother in, and she was afraid of my mother.
When I was a toddler, my paternal grandmother would complain to me, “Oh, you are always so dirty.” Well, my mother would not groom me, and my grandmother certainly never stepped in to help me clean up, not once. I hated being sticky and unattractive, but there was nothing a toddler could do about it. When my grandmother praised me, saying, “Oh, you have such a cute little nose.” or “You are such a lovely child.”, she would also complain that her own nose “was too big, with a hump in it.” And, she whined to me that her own mother had followed her around, teasing, “Here, put this dope on your nose.” What can a toddler say to that? So, when my grandmother grabbed me firmly by the shoulders and brushed her eyelashes across mine, which was very awkward, I thought that maybe she was finally showing some affection toward me, but it was too uncomfortable, so I struggled to get away, and I asked what “What are you doing?” She thought for a moment, then said that she was giving me “butterfly wings”. I knew that was a lie from her guilty manner. When I was much older my grandmother admitted that she was trying to transfer the mites that live in healthy eyelashes from mine to hers as she thought she had killed hers by trying to darken her pale, sparse eyelashes with hot wax and charcoal in the times before commercial mascara. When I grew up I thought that it was more likely that some disease had caused her eyelashes to fall out, and I resented her selfishly putting me at risk of catching whatever she had. In fact, prior to that I had never had a stye in my eye, but for several years after butterfly wings" episode, I sometimes had the itchy, painful, little, red bumps of bacterial infections at the edge of my eyelids.
Speaking on behalf of my long deceased paternal grandmother: I think that she only intended to inoculate her lashes with something that she felt she was lacking, “Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis, both frequently referred to as eyelash mites.” (Source: Wikipedia.com) Her guilty attitude might have come only from causing me to squirm away from her, not from any acknowledgement that harm could come to me of her actions. She had only a high school diploma and then a pianoforte teaching certificate in 1917, at a time when health education-public hygiene was just beginning.
When I was a child, I wanted to call my paternal grandmother “grandmother”, but she always told me, “No, call me Throcky like the children at the playground do.” I did not know until toward the end of my own life that she believed my mother’s lunacy that I was the child of an incestuous attack by my maternal grandfather. (My DNA test results say this is simply not so.)
Speaking on behalf of my long deceased paternal grandmother: She was several generations back into times in human history when the victims (mother and child) of incest were blamed to the point of being vilified. The taboo on the subject prevented people from speaking about it, and so they had no real knowledge of what actually had happened, or had not happened as in this case.
When I was a teenager, I was living with my paternal grandmother at the end of my senior year in high school, so I asked her if I should accept the invitation of a foreign exchange student who had invited me to our high school prom dance. I had only been to one other school dance in my life, and I had had no other dates at the time, so I really did not know about dating nor about going to a high school prom. I knew that my grandmother was prejudiced against black people, and so I told her that I did not know the boy, but that he was very dark, he had stopped me in the school hallway to ask me to go to the prom dance, saying that his host family would drive us. I did not want to upset her, I wanted only to know if she thought I should go, and if she would permit it. My grandmother immediately flew off the handle and called me a “Whore” and worse, then she locked herself in her bedroom. I had never even been kissed by a boy so this was quite surprising. It sickened me to see her prejudice, and her anger and disgust toward me confused and frightened me. I did not go to my high school prom. At any rate, I had no dress, no money to go.
Speaking on behalf of my long deceased paternal grandmother: Because my grandmother insisted that I get my own apartment right after high school graduation, which required me to quickly find my very first in life job (my parents had refused to let me work before), there was no calm opportunity to discuss anything with her. So, all I can say is that until the mid-twentieth century there was no great awakening among ordinary people in the world that prejudices are wrong. There was only great social pressure to remain within one’s own narrow little group. If a girl seemed to be in the wrong, they threw her out.
When I was a young adult, a virgin, I was raped by an older man who then persisted in following me through life. For years wherever I moved to get away from him, he found me. He finally bragged to me that my own grandmother kept giving him my contact information. It amused him. When I asked my grandmother why she would put me at risk like that when I had asked her not to, she complained with a shrug, “I like the way he talks to me.” She cared nothing for my well-being or safety. What a strange grandmother, but then, of course, she thought that she was not my grandmother. So, to my vast regret, when I was fully an adult I stopped giving my grandmother my address and phone numbers as I moved through life, and she did not ask my father for my contact information. She had made it impossible for us to be close. But, she was very happily close to everyone else in the family, with the possible exception of my father who found his mother tiring.
Speaking on behalf of my long deceased paternal grandmother: Again, her generation was perhaps the last in human history to believe themselves righteous when they “blamed the victim”. In the self-delusional hysteria required to blame the victim (me), she actually may not have been able to hear me say that the rapist raped me every time he found me. I suspect it sounded like “dirty” talk to her, and she shut it out of her mind. That of course left her free to enjoy his phone calls with no risk to her, only pleasure. On her behalf, millions/billions have associated with and cooperated with socio/psychopaths for their own benefit, to avoid harm to themselves.
Caption: My brother Peter was very close to our paternal grandmother
Caption: My paternal grandmother s pianoforte teaching certificate 1917