My relationship with my grandmother was a strange one. We were never close. I’d say we had a love-hate relationship; however, our feelings were never that strong. Maybe it would just be considered lukewarm? Not sure.
While her and I never discussed it, I am certain that I hurt her emotionally when I was young. Whenever my family would go to visit her – rather than spending time with my grandmother, I would ask permission to visit with the elderly lady who lived two houses down. She was the grandmother of the children who lived between her and my grandmother. There are days I wish I could apologize for being so insensitive. Yet, the issue really was not with me. The issue began with my grandmother’s heart towards me. While this side of heaven I will not truly know why she treated me as she did, I have a theory of two ugly situations melding together into a dark cloud over our lives.
The first began with my grandmother’s own childhood. Her father died when she was quite young. When he died, his family rejected my great-grandmother and her two children as the family had not approved of their marriage. My great-grandmother was not good enough for their son, at least in their eyes. Rejection is challenging and scarring at any age; however, I believe children feel it more acutely. My great-grandmother did remarry though her children were never fully accepted as part of the new family. My grandmother shared a small part of this story with me close to the end of her life. Even though at the time she told me her mother was still alive, she said that she was an orphan. It seems evident that she was still carrying the scars of grief and rejection from her early childhood. From personal experience, if these scars are not healed, they make it extremely difficult to develop relationships – even with your own children and grandchildren. There is an inclination towards self-preservation that prevents the level of trust necessary to build healthy relationships.
As a child, I could not have comprehended this backdrop in my grandmother’s life even if it had been known to me. I simply ran to where I felt wanted without a thought to how it would impact my grandmother. My strongest memories of my grandmother’s house include the glass jar of pink candies on the counter and playing alone on the floor with a collection of boxed toys. At the other grandmother’s house, I was welcomed with a hug. She was always sincerely happy to see me. She would make us tea, and we would sit at her kitchen table and talk until we could hear my mom calling for me to go home. I have absolutely no idea what we talked about. What I do know is this sweet lady was filling an empty void in my life. She treated me as someone, and she was happy to just sit and listen to me. In her kitchen, I had value. I do not blame the young me for wanting this.
Yet and unfortunately, there is more to this sad tale. There is the second situation casting its dark shadows. While the other grandmother was her wound, this one is my wound. I believe that part of her coldness towards me was because of who my father was. This is probably a horrible mix of her being rejected as a child in light of my mom’s own unapproved marriage and who my father proved to be. During my grandmother’s lifetime, I discovered that she knew either before I was born or shortly after that my father had a history of molesting children. One of my father’s prior wives had been trying to locate my mom without success. The woman was able to share her warning with my grandmother so that she could tell my mom. This did not happen. For whatever reason, my grandmother decided that my mom had chosen her path and the consequences that went with it.
It is difficult for me to imagine such a coldness of heart that would cause anyone to treat their own children in such a way. Yet, I do fully understand how our past can twist our mind and actions without the healing grace of Jesus. A part of me hopes that my grandmother was blind to the consequences to me, as the child of such a monster. Learning of my grandmother’s betrayal was not as crushing to my spirit as you might think it should have been. Again, as we had never developed a love relationship, there was little emotional loss only the regrets and sadness of what should have been. And also, by the time I learned about the whole situation, betrayal felt very normal, even expected.
One of the last times I saw my grandmother, she was in the hospital due to cancer with all of her children surrounding her bed. At one point our eyes met, and she hoarsely whispered my name. There seemed to be such a desperate sadness in her eyes. I longed to tell her that I really did love her and give her a hug. She reached out an arm towards me; though as I started to move forward, my aunt blocked my way so she could comfort my grandmother. I wish my aunt had not interfered. I understand she was trying to care for her, but I believe there was a greater opportunity for peace lost in that moment – for both of us. I hope my grandmother was able to read the love and forgiveness in the tears forming in my eyes. I also wish I had been bold enough to step forward regardless of my aunt and say out loud that I loved her and that all was forgiven.
Thankfully, this is not just a story of woe. While it is tragically unfortunate that my grandmother lived her entire life under a dark shadow, she had at some point placed her faith in Jesus. Knowing this, I can say with confidence that she is now in glory and completely healed of all of the scars from her life.
Reader, I hope you learn from my grandmother’s mistakes. Please don’t hold on to the hurts and pains of your past. Our relationships with our families and friends are so valuable. Our lives are short, and God means for us to really live each day he has given to us. We cannot really live if we are shackled by our past. While we cannot free ourselves, we can be saved by Jesus and His Holy Spirit. He is the only one who can heal us and free us from all of our hurts and wounds – none are too great for Him to conquer. With Him, you can really live!
Blessings. ~ Deb