What My Grandmother Did To Me That Haunts Me To This Day
I don’t even know what I did to cause this kind of angst.
There was a blizzard outside. It was worse on the banks of Lake Erie where I lived than it was in town. I was huddled in the fetal position inside my neighbor’s summer house, cold, terrified, and alone. The house was freezing but I didn’t dare turn on the heat. Something happened, and I lost myself when my adoptive grandmother did this to me.
My grandmother beat me so badly that for the first time, I didn’t just stand there and take it. I grabbed my neighbor’s keys (he had given them to me so I could check the pipes on days like today) and sought refuge. I ran away from home.
My parents were away at the time and I’m pretty sure my tears froze on my face, one by one but I didn’t care. I was just grateful to have fled the abuse. As I lay there in a ball, wondering what the hell I was going to do next, I heard knocks on the door — banging, actually.
I froze. Like a deer in the headlights, I lay there pretending I heard nothing.
For a long time.
The voices reassured me that it wasn’t my adoptive grandmother but I became acutely aware things just got a whole lot worse.
It was the police — two of them. Oh, you say, “That’s a good thing.” No, it was a very very bad thing.
See, my dad was also a cop. These guys were his co-workers and I just embarrassed him.
They begged and pleaded with me to open the door, reminding me how much snow was building up fast. They reassured me I was not in any trouble.
“Sure”, I thought. “Not yet.”
Eventually, I let them in. I don’t remember the conversation but I told them she was beating me again and I needed to escape. They convinced me to go home and we had a conversation at the kitchen table with Nana.
I don’t remember what was said. What I do remember was my adoptive grandmother making me out to be some evil child which is probably why I spent most of my life scared that people will find out who I really am and run like hell in the other direction.
She had me convinced that I had the devil in me just waiting to pounce on any unlikely suspect.
That was Nana’s way of communicating: By berating, scolding, hitting, neglecting, and not hearing my pleas to be heard and understood. I had to navigate the feelings of un-belonging, rejection, abandonment, and neglect all alone.
And of course, I couldn’t. At my young age, I didn’t know how or even what it was. So I internalized my emotions and accepted them as “who I am.”
I never got in trouble with my dad. I think his kind police colleagues must have caught on to the psychopath that Nana was and saw that I really was an innocent victim.
But the abuse from Nana continued. And since I had no voice, I remained suffering in silence. My parents didn’t hear me when I asked to be kept safe.
I have my voice now.
And I ask you, as a parent, to allow your child their voice, too. It doesn’t mean throwing all boundaries to the wind and allowing them to run the show. What it means is simply allowing them to feel whatever it is they are feeling with compassion and understanding.
Just because it doesn’t make sense to you, doesn’t mean it isn’t real to them.
By the way, I have forgiven my grandmother. She didn’t know any better. Does it make it OK? No, but I refuse to allow her to continue to control me from the grave.
Image via flickr.com.
Comment: Have you ever forgiven someone who hurt you?
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