My grandmother didn’t like me.

When I was born I had two grandmothers.  That’s true for most children, I suppose.  Unfortunately my mother’s mother (Ma, or as we say in the mountains, Maw) died when I was about six and a half.  Then, my mother’s father died a few months later on my seventh birthday.  I still feel sad for my mom that she lost both parents in less than six months.  I also think it was sad for me that this grandmother died when I was so young because she was the grandmother who liked me.  I would even go so far as to say she loved me.  I can still remember specific sweet gestures from her to me.  She told me stories.  I would put my head on her lap and she would gently smooth my hair off my face and tuck it behind my ear.  She taught me that if you don’t have your toothbrush with you, you can break a small twig off a birch tree and chew on it and it will clean your teeth and freshen your breath. She showed me the leaves and bark of the birch so I could recognize it.  She was a good grandma.

I remember that she had dizzy spells.  I think it may have been an inner ear problem but I don’t really know.  I don’t think there was anything wrong with her heart.  She died of cancer.  I remember her dizzy spells because when I would ask her to play Ring around the Rosie with me, she would say, “Oh, I can’t do that, Honey.  My head’s a-swimmin'”  I’m surprised to this day that I can remember her as well as I do since I was so young when she died.

So what about that other grandmother?  My dad’s mother.  She had six children–three girls and three boys.  I think I have figured out that she didn’t like my dad.  He was a hell-raiser in school.  I’ve heard some wild tales about his escapades.  He and his younger brother got in trouble often and my dad was always blamed, never his brother.  Dad’s perception was that he was a black sheep and Uncle R could do no wrong.  He went to his grave thinking that.  I think it did serious damage to his psyche.

I never have figured out why Mama W. didn’t like me.  I think my dad made her a grandmother before she wanted to be one because she taught us to call her Mama + our last name.  Maybe she was vain.  I don’t know.  I managed for most of my adult life to let it go (or so I thought).  But once I became a grandmother the old questions resurfaced.  Why didn’t she like ME?  She liked my brother and at least some of my sisters.  What was wrong with me?  I wasn’t a hell-raiser; I was quite the opposite.  I made good grades and I looked like a W with my blond hair and blue eyes.

I have nine grandchildren.  Each one is unique and marvelously lovable. Once I realized that my love for ALL my grandchildren was endless and totally unconditional, I became more puzzled than ever.  I know now, of course, that it wasn’t me.  It was something missing in her.  Before she died I came to feel some pity or sympathy or something for her but not enough to establish a relationship with her.  I didn’t see her the last twenty or so years of her life.  She lived to the ripe old age of 98 or 99.  Can’t remember exactly.

My takeaway from this sad grandmother/grandchild disconnect is this:  It is the grandparent’s responsibility to develop the relationship with her grandchild.  It can and should be a rich and rewarding experience.  It’s a natural bond and really doesn’t take much effort when your heart is in the right place.  Grammy is my favorite role so far.

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19 thoughts on “My grandmother didn’t like me.

  1. You hit the nail on the head. One of my grandmothers was so critical, as well. Here I am, in my 40’s, still feeling the hurt. I try to understand that she gave as much love as she was capable of giving, because her own father wasn’t very nice to her, and she felt the need to prove herself and exert her power. But it’s sad that although I’m finally getting my master’s degree, and although she’s not alive anymore, I can still hear her criticism in the back of my mind telling me I’m not smart enough. “Maybe she’ll get into a community college”, she said to my mom. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have attempted grad school if my grandmother was still alive. If I am lucky enough to be called “Grandma” someday, I will cherish it completely, end this vicious cycle of abuse, and build my family up, not tear it down.

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  2. Just discovered your blog and am enjoying it very much!

    I was born rather late in my parents’ lives and all my grandparents were gone by then. But my mom was the kind of grandmother who loved my children like no one else could. She’s been gone for six years now, but we have come up with a set of “Gramma-isms” – funny and quirky things she used to say. Everyone in the family recognizes them as soon as we say them.

    I became a gramma a year ago, and it is everything it is cracked up to be. I’m very lucky to be able to pick my granddaughter up from the sitter every day after work and spend a couple of hours with her before my daughter comes for her. I want to be a gramma just like my mom was. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, but it’ll be fulfilling like nothing else I have done.

    It’s so refreshing to talk about something other than the pain in my marriage. Thank you!

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    • Hi NOI. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. I think it’s really wonderful that your own mom showed you how to be a gramma. I love that you have “Gamma-isms” to remind you of her. You honor her by doing that.

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  3. My mom always told me how she’d been the disfavored child, but I couldn’t really believe it; after all, she’d raised her kids to know equal love. Then, when my mom’s dad died, my mom took me and my three siblings to the funeral in Arizona.

    My grandmother didn’t care about me, my brother or my youngest sister. My just-younger sister was The One. It was like my grandmother didn’t even see the rest of us existed.

    It was then I appreciated what my mom was up against, and started to appreciate how much care she’d taken to ensure she didn’t repeat that. But now that I’m a mom myself, I ask myself the same questions: How could someone do that, foreclosing joyous relationships with other amazing people? It’s beyond my comprehending, truly.

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  4. Growing up I had a large extended family. But only my mother and one of my mother’s sisters were around on a daily basis. Everyone else, including the grand-parents, we saw only when visiting or they came to visit us. Those visits were quite some distance away and always quite memorable for me. And I always liked it when Grandma or one of the cousins came to visit for Christmas or the summer holidays. My father wasn’t always around either because his place of work was often far away. I cannot ‘t recall that anyone in the family didn’t like me. I guess I was lucky. I can however recall that my mother often disliked one or the other family member.
    All my eight grand-children are beautiful. And this year I was lucky enough to meet my two great-grandchildren who live quite some distance away. I can’t wait to see them again. They’re such very lively, beautiful girls!
    Thanks for this post, Pat. Reminds me how important family is.

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  5. Your grandchildren are lucky to have you Pat. Indeed, your children are lucky to have you…Grand parents can bring so much to a child’s life.
    I see the beautiful bond between my parents and my children, and think just how lucky they are. It is so important, so grounding, as a child to get that sense of belonging to an extended family…
    I’m sorry your Mamma W didn’t give you the affection you deserved.
    x

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  6. Another great post from you. Being a grandmother is such a blessing – all the joys and few of the responsibilities! But I think it’s only when you become one yourself that you begin to appreciate your own grandparents – and I wish I’d seen more of mine, and known them better. I hope my own grandchildren know how much I love them.

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  7. Pat, it’s amazing how many people have similar feelings regarding their grandparents. I always thought it was because I was a full term, 8 month premi 😉 Took my sister years to do the math! Strange how an adult can blame a child for something so completely out of their control. I have vowed to be the dotting grandparent if give the chance. Maybe that’s the only good thing to come from her behavior. Have a good one Pat AJ.

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    • Thanks, AJ, you made me laugh.

      I have to wonder if grandparents don’t understand how much good will they can pass on to their grandchildren. We really can help them to be who they’re meant to be.

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  8. My grandparents were opposites too. My dad’s parents didn’t make any effort with my sister and I, whereas my mum’s parents were a joy. I guess I realised pretty early on that this was how it was going to be, but what a shame. When you describe your joy of being a Grammy it makes me sad to think of how much my grandparents missed out on. Life eh 😉

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