Gaslighting Grandma


Third Time’s a Charm…this time my Grandma didn’t kick me out.  Tonight she said this wasn’t what she had in mind, and made it vehemently clear that I couldn’t have any friends over, or boyfriends move in with me.  I assured her I wasn’t Moving In, just Staying in the Guest Room, and writing on my laptop.  But she hugged me, said she loved me, and gave me a pink towel for the shower.

The second time we tried this, I showed up in the morning to overlap with my Aunt T, my Godmother, who had stayed over any number of times, several days at a time, with an enthusiastic welcome every time.  She drives down from a beachy tourist town 4 hours away, and leaves her husband and Gift Shop livelihood behind.  However, on this second occasion, my Mentally Unstable Uncle had come over the night before, uninvited, not particularly welcome, to share his grumpy mood all night and all morning.  So, Grandma, Aunt T and I went out on a few ostensible “errands” with the promise of an opera DVD marathon after, hoping he’d take the hint and get on his way.  MUU refuses to take his meds – can’t say I blame him, BUT he also refuses to be anything but a self-centered pain in the ass who talks nonstop for hours at a time, complaining, and delving into the secret motives and injustices of others that he is constantly Victim to.  In other words, he’s really good at irritating anyone who just wants to get on with their life, a pro at getting himself evicted by tyrant landlords, and generally prone to attracting the attentions of law enforcement.  So, when we came back, and he was still there and clearly just settling in, and when Aunt T said Are you Feeling any Better, and he went on about how his athsma attack of the night before was a Manifestation of the Negativity that surrounds him whenever their older sister B makes it clear that he is NOT going to stay overnight there (never mind the REASONS for the multiple Restraining Orders, and the phone calls to the police to remove him from her condo complex), and it’s clear that he intends to continue in this vein for at least another 90 minutes, I turn to T and say, in a quiet voice, I’ll be back later.  And I leave. I don’t come back, knowing that Grandma will forget the What of anything that happens, but not the feelings, and that those might come up if we’re all in the same room again. Best if I’m a literal Non Sequitur.

The first time I tried to stay over, she yelled GET OUT!  I left with my tail between my legs, collecting my few bags without saying goodbye, after my Mom, and Aunt B had both, twice, assured her that DOCTOR’S ORDERS: she needed to have someone stay with her, but she wasn’t buying it. It’s hard to convince someone that they’re losing their memory when they don’t remember losing it.

So much of Memory is really Belief, it seems.  It would all be much easier if I were the sort of person who could do a convincing “Gaslight” trick, but it’s already awful because to her that’s effectively what IS happening.  We’re gaslighting her, and she’s gaslighting us, and we go along.

Her Belief, Memory/History and Sense of Self: She’s an energetic Mother of 8 who raised them all to be Musical and Independent, she was one of the first women to be a music director in her Catholic parish, she’s the first female Real Estate agent to make the Million Dollar Club in her area in the 1970s, she traveled alone to the Middle East (Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Pakistan) to sell diamonds to important people in the 80s, she’s an intelligent and accomplished Senior who reads history, follows politics on CNN, and has lived divorced and independent for 40 years.  She loves Opera, lives exactly where and how she wants to, right next to the fancy grocery store and post office in a University town, with electricity, City Water, and a proper Sewage System.  Nature, bugs, wells and septic systems are NOT what comprises the life of a modern, trailblazing, successful businesswoman.

The Mimosa tree outside her bedroom window, however, can stay.  I need to be like that Mimosa tree: quiet, gentle, and reminding her how perfect her life is.



About VagabondAnne

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