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Grandmother, you’re a bully – and I’m disowning you.

 Explicit racial slurs and similar nastiness follow.

This will be the last thing I ever say to you.

Recently grandmother, you tried to find out where I live. That I don’t want you to contact me should already be clear: in four years at university a bus ride from your home, despite repeated invitations, I never visited; when we’ve been together with relatives, I’ve avoided you; when you’ve tried to converse, I haven’t reciprocated. You’ve given me cash and I’ve donated it, sent me cheques and I’ve recycled them. It seems that you now want to send me more in spite of being told not to, and all the evidence I don’t want a relationship with you.

If you’re getting this message, it’s been relayed to you. Online, where what I write is published, thousands of people are reading it. None know who you are or anything about you, so nothing will come of this; I’ve hesitated to write it even so, but it’s obvious you’ll keep harassing me unless I go on public record telling you to stop.

You strike me as a bully, grandmother – snobby, controlling and contemptuous of everything apart from what you assume to hold status. You show particular contempt for foreigners and anyone ‘coloured’ or ‘nigger brown’ enough for you to deem them foreign, complaining ‘masses of Japanese’ (discernible, you insist, by their eyes) can be found in your nearest city, refusing continental food because of non-existent allergies; for ethnic Jews, warning me once that someone’s name was Goldstein, and for ‘gippos’ even though your mother was a Romany.

You show contempt for any woman not thin, youthful, white and femme enough – including, as it happens, most women I’m into – and for the children in your family born out of wedlock. As for the men I’m into, you call queer people ‘peculiar’. You show contempt for my whole generation and most born since the 1960s, describing us as ill-mannered, our clothing as scruffy and our English, since you’re not familiar with it, as meaningless. (As a graduate in literature, your mourning ‘the language of Shakespeare’ tells me you know little about him or it.) You show contempt for people claiming benefits, as your daughter and I did when she raised me, accusing them of ‘putting their hands out’ while you live off yours in old age.

Worst, you’re contemptuous of anyone who disagrees with you, laughing at, patronising or ignoring them. When you heard I wrote for a living, you commented I never seemed to say much; I don’t talk to you because I don’t waste words. You epitomise the figure of the senior bigot, obsessed with manners but oblivious to your own spite, and unlike some I’m not amused by it. Nor will I insult people your age, many of whom have inspired me, by putting your toxic outlook down to being 93.

Being the only one who won’t oblige you has made me a villain. Family members caught in what they see as the crossfire of two warring relatives have called me heartless for trying to indicate passively that I want you to leave me alone. This message might be heartless, but if so you’ve left me no other option, aggressively dismissing every signal I sent that I didn’t want to know you. The only reason others have been caught amid anything is that like a possessive ex, you’ve refused to let go.

This isn’t a warning or an ultimatum. I’ve quit Britain for central Europe and don’t expect to return while you’re alive. If I do you won’t get my address, and I’m now self-reliant enough to avoid staying with relatives at the same time as you. We won’t meet again, and I’m not interested in hearing from you.

If this is upsetting, you should have considered that people you insult, attack and treat with broad derision don’t have to accept it. If it’s only registering now that keeping a relationship with an adult might involve respecting them, too bad. You’ve had too many chances as it is.

Goodbye, grandmother. Enjoy your remaining years.

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Comments

  1. Trebuchet says

    This is one of the saddest things I’ve ever read. I feel very sorry for both of you.

  2. Katie Anderson says

    Sounds a lot like the situation with my mom. My wife and I still give our kids the presents she mails, but we don’t tell them who they’re from. Good for you recognizing that you don’t have to put up with her and her horrible attitude/actions – I get so sick of other people lecturing me on “but she’s family.” She doesn’t treat us as family, and she doesn’t deserve anything from us.

  3. oualawouzou says

    I won’t feel sorry for her, but I do feel sorry for you for having to write this message just to get her to (maybe?) back off.

    And you’re right, age is not an excuse. My grandmother-in-law is well over 80, and she’s the very embodiment of “live and let live” (and has been all her life, from what I’ve been told).

  4. Anthony K says

    Don’t.

    I get so sick of other people lecturing me on “but she’s family.” She doesn’t treat us as family, and she doesn’t deserve anything from us.

    All the +1s.

    Family isn’t sacred, and one should not be made to feel guilty for cutting a toxic influence out of their life.

  5. moarscienceplz says

    I did this with my father. He has been dead now for about five years (no, I can’t be bothered to remember which year it was) and I don’t regret it a bit. I was luckier than you, Alex, in that the rest of my family completely understood why I was doing it. At family reunions for a few years after the death, we couldn’t resist the urge to tell each other stories of the horrible and stupid things he said and did, but after a while he was exorcised, and my family get-togethers are now full of love and fun. Too bad he lived as long as he did.

  6. says

    I can relate to this on so many levels. The only difference being the the family I no longer have, beat me to the punchline by disowning me first. Like an idiot, I tried one last time to mend fences, but was basically kicked in the headed for even trying. It will mean I won’t attend our father’s funeral when the time comes, but oh well. At least with him I have my chance to say goodbye. My siblings robbed me of that with our mother, though they had no problem leaving her caregiving completely up to me for 33 years from the time I was 7 until I was 40 and she died.

    Unfortunately, we don’t get to pick our the families we are born into. But we do get to choose who is in our lives as adults. I hope that like me, you have found supportive and loving people to be in yours.

    Wishing you all the best.

  7. Trebuchet says

    @2, Alex. And everyone:

    I can’t help feeling bad. Family has been very important to me, and it’s rather horrifying to see the other side of it. I’ve no doubt that your grandmother, and Katie’s mom, and moarscienceplz’s father, and wordsgood’s siblings, were or are terrible. It breaks my heart. And makes me feel very fortunate at the same time.

    My wife and I had to look after our respective parents for years, while her sister and my brother were utterly useless. As administrator of both estates, I made sure they got exactly half of everything — nor for them, but for me. I don’t even know why I brought that up, but it somehow seems relevant.

    I too wish you the best.

  8. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    When it works, the grandparent/grandchild relationship can be great. But it can’t be forced and it shouldn’t be a duty.

    It sounds like she installed all the worst ideas of her generation onto pedestals, unfortunately, and never examined them.

  9. opposablethumbs says

    Evil-minded relatives can spread so much poison in a family. I’m glad you’re free of one, Alex! And I hope that at least some of your other family members are not like this at all but actually share something positive.

  10. says

    I assume since you posted this, it’s all fair game?

    You’ve given me cash and I’ve donated it, sent me cheques and I’ve recycled them.

    You show contempt for people claiming benefits, as your daughter and I did when she raised me, accusing them of ‘putting their hands out’ while you live off yours in old age.

    And she perhaps has no problem with inheritance, I see. I don’t care much for people like that (if the racism wasn’t enough). A system like that where the only benefits that are allowed are those that come from the people you know helps keep the poor poor and the rich rich. I may feel sorry for the poor people who think this is a good idea, though…sorry for their stupidity.

  11. Anri says

    I also had to write off my grandmother as a loss. Not so much for her treatment of me (which was unpleasant in the extreme, but something I was pretty much used to) but her treatment of my little brother. I couldn’t avoid her physically, but I was never more than distantly polite and never let her opinion influence me again.

    Eventually, she suffered neurological problems, lost her personality a piece at a time and (as people do) died.
    A number of people asked me if I was sorry for having turned my back on her.

    Short answer: no.
    It was the right decision at the time, and I don’t regret it. I regret the circumstances that made it the right decision, but not the decision itself or its effects.

    Equally to the point, it let me see that there is no reason to love someone who has not given you any reason to love them. I know now that I can walk away from people who hurt me and mine – and not feel guilt or regret about it afterwards.
    It sounds as though you’re in the same place, and have made the same decision.
    Good for you.

    Take care!

  12. johngreg says

    You’re some fine piece of work Gabriel.

    You shout out to the world your narcissistic juvenile butt hurt in twenty foot high letters of baby-rage explaining to Granny how bad a person she is ’cause she doesn’t understand you, the times you live in, your different socio-cultural environment, different personal influences and experiences, etc., etc., etc., and don’t give her a fucking ounce of allowance for having grown up almost a century ago, with vastly, fucking profoundly different times to live in, different socio-cultural environment, different personal influences and experiences, etc., etc., etc.

    Ya, stay classy kid; she’ll be dead soon anyway and then you can dance your little dance and sing your little song and stay free.

    Worst, you’re contemptuous of anyone who disagrees with you, laughing at, patronising or ignoring them.

    Fuck me. If ever, anywhere, there was a kettle calling the pot black, you’re it Gabriel.

  13. Onamission5 says

    I get it.

    Growing up in proximity to a toxic person does not bind you to them, and sometimes the choice has to be made to remove oneself from their influence. It is unfortunate that often, other family will side with the abusive member or refuse to accept your decision and try to force reconciliation. I, too, have a relative whose presence I find intolerable, whose opinions and behavior range from irritating to revolting, and I, too, have permanently distanced myself from them without apology or hesitation, much to the chagrin of my family. I have told my mother multiple times that I do not want to hear from or about this relative, and her insistence that she tell me about him every. single. time. we speak or to put him on the phone when he happens to be near has caused me to have to put emotional distance between her and I as well. I am through maintaining boundaries with hypervigilance. A long time ago I decided that I needed family around whom I could let my guard down rather than being on edge, and if that meant making my own through friends and such, if that meant only having contact with a limited number of relatives, or limited contact with a number of relatives, so be it.

    Bad kid in the family recognition nod.

  14. hexidecima says

    Bravo. So many people think that they can’t call out people for their stupidity because they are “old”. It’s as annoying to me as the whole nonsense of the “greatest generation” bs that Tom Brokaw spewed.

    One of the best quotes about real family is from Richard Bach (whom I generally find more than a bit saccharine): “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”

    ― Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

  15. says

    @johngreg (#13)

    You . . . don’t give her a fucking ounce of allowance for having grown up almost a century ago

    No, I don’t. As you say, the era she grew up in ended a long time ago – and are you suggesting that living through almost every 20th century social movement without learning anything from any of them is an excuse?

  16. says

    You shout out to the world your narcissistic juvenile butt hurt in twenty foot high letters of baby-rage explaining to Granny how bad a person she is ’cause she doesn’t understand you, the times you live in, your different socio-cultural environment, different personal influences and experiences, etc., etc., etc., and don’t give her a fucking ounce of allowance for having grown up almost a century ago, with vastly, fucking profoundly different times to live in, different socio-cultural environment, different personal influences and experiences, etc., etc., etc.

    My grandma is 92. She has managed not to be a horrible bigotted asshole.
    The age excuse is bullshit since many people of their generation were vastly more progressive not only than “grandma” but also than quite a lot of people nowadays.

    Allex
    Good for you!
    I wished I could cut out the toxic people from my family, too.
    Unfortunately that would mean cutting off my totally not toxic grandmothers, too, and they don’t deserve that.

  17. Maureen Brian says

    Giliell @ 17,

    Seconded. My dad was born in 1897. He’s been dead quite a while but he remains one of the most socially liberal persons I have ever met.

  18. johngreg says

    Giliell said:

    I guess in case of John Greg it’s his hope that future generations will look back at him mildly and say !those were different times”

    LOL.

    Well, unlike your veryspecialsnowflake™ self, I doubt very, very much that anyone whatsoever in any future generation anywhere, anywhen, will look back at me at all at all.

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