thanksgiving morning, my mom and d picked my grandma up from her apartment 45 minutes east of our house, then drove to where i was dogsitting (west of our house, but at least in the right direction) to pick me up. when i got in the car, my grandmother was sort of sitting-curled-up and turned away from me in the adjoining seat. we don’t interact, because she has consistently displayed an inability and/or unwillingness to treat me like a person and i am not yet mature enough/strong enough/a good enough person/etc. to rise above in an effective manner. i have explained this to her many times, and i got fed up with trying a long time ago because, if i keep explaining it to her over and over again i’m not actually disengaging, am i? and that’s the entire point. she says she doesn’t understand and she doesn’t know why, but she chooses to dump the information and remain willfully ignorant as a form of manipulative passive resistance.
i kept my headphones in for much of the three-hour drive, taking them out to hear ‘alice’s restaurant’ at noon on the radio. my grandmother talked to my mother for a little bit about people in our family, they disagreed, my mother held it together barely as my grandmother denied reality with no stated reason. normal. my grandmother passive-aggressively asked for a bathroom, we were about five minutes away at that point so we didn’t stop.
we got there, had thanksgiving, watched football, ate food, interacted semi-awkwardly, drank alcohol to make it suck less, and so on. i didn’t interact with my grandmother and at that point, because she didn’t try to interact with me, for some reason i let myself think that maybe she was actually starting to accept the reality, that maybe she was responding to this like a person and acting like a person and that would be so cool you know, because that would mean there was hope? it turns out she totally wasn’t of course, but it’s not that sad. i didn’t really get that far down the ‘maybe she’s being a person’ path, i know better. i’m more trying to make it clear what a shame it all is. ‘cause it is.
we all got in the car at the end of the day. my grandmother told my mother she was ‘freezing’ in a normal-for-her hostile tone, and my mother told her to put on the seat warmer, and she also turned up the heat in the car. after about a half hour, my mother asked if my grandmother was warmer, and she said yes. it got really really warm in the car. my mom opened her window slightly to smoke a cigarette, and while she was doing so i asked if she could keep her window open because you know, breathing was cool. she laughed and said yes, but then closed it because she was talking to d, and the wind was too loud. so, i opened my window about as much, maybe less at that point.
my grandmother spent the next 15 or 20 minutes pointedly adjusting her scarf, sighing, and making small discomfort sounds. would jesus have closed his window in response? yes. would someone who was just, a better person than i have done the same? probably. i guess i’m not there yet, because i did nothing. but really, the thing is, my grandmother isn’t weak. she isn’t a victim of anyone but herself. i’ve seen it time and time again, when the going *really* gets tough, she steps up to the plate like nothing else to save her own ass. every time. her victimhood is part of her identity, but it isn’t her reality. and i know that better than anyone else, maybe. so she could ask me to close my window, like a person, or she could deal.
time passed, my grandmother fell asleep. the heat in the car goes by temperature, so while my open window let me breathe it also made the heat kick on to try and make up the difference. it was really stuffy, and i wanted it to be less so, so i opened my window a little more. it was probably more than a quarter open. we weren’t terribly far from being home, and it was really warm in the car.
at some point, a bump in the road woke my grandmother up, and the passive-aggressive performance began again, with added huffs and flourishes and meaningful shifts in posture. at some point, my mom asked my grandmother if she was alright, she said she was. about 15? 20? minutes after that, my grandmother rolled her window all the way down, and positioned her face directly in front of it.
because you know, that was weird, my mom asked her if everything was alright, and why did she suddenly do that. my grandmother replied, in the bitterest of tones, “because there was enough of a breeze coming through here, i thought i might as well add to it.”
i had been putting it together but was still taken aback, and my mother was blown away. she doesn’t expect shit like that, you see. i shut my window without saying anything, because at the end of the day my grandmother is beyond help and there’s no lesson to be learned, she’s never going to act like a person.
this seems i think like a really stupid tiny little thing. and it should be but it isn’t. the next day my grandmother left 2 4-minute voicemails on my mother’s phone, saying things like how she had no idea what she did, and she knew she wasn’t the problem, and maybe she should just not try and make any overtures anymore (fucking WHAT overtures, psychopath? but whatever). then she left one saying that she “understood now” that she knew now that my mother must have asked me, if she had asked me to shut my window, and that i had said no, and my mother must think i was lying and so of course she had to call and straighten things out, she felt so terrible. poor me, you see. because when nothing else works, making me into her personal victim to save is her go-to. but i’m not playing anymore, and she can’t get that through her head. she thinks i’m the same insolent child she helped create. and she probably always will, but i’m not that anymore and i’m never gonna be again and i am NEVER gonna be her. never ever ever ever ever ever ever.
in her mind, none of us are people, we are only pawns in her game. she likes pawns like my mother, because they are easy to manipulate. she loved a pawn like me, because even though i was more ‘like her’ she got to me early and used me to act out her feelings and display her discontent. i was the ultimate manipulation tool, an emotional, right-brained child that my mother loved more than anything in the world. my mother had long been emerging as the more capable and reliable adult, the person who could solve problems and keep things together. my grandmother has never been that. my grandmother sees, began to see, has always seen, but sees now more than ever, that she needs to keep her interests at the forefront of my mother’s mind, if she wants to survive. because she refuses to do it herself. she refuses to be a person. the sad thing is, my mother would do it all, anyway, because that’s just how she is. but my grandmother doesn’t see my mother as a human being so she can’t comprehend that she might do something with love or caring or anything for any other reason than being forced to. and i am an excellent tool for that.
but i am not playing anymore. i have stepped off the board. i will not engage. she uses my memory still, things that at this point are almost entirely constructs of hers, shells of things i used to be or never was layered under things she puts there or tried to put on me. they all come together to form this concept in her mind, “danielle” this thing that isn’t a real person and never was but that i was buried under, for a while. i used to buy into it, and i was awful then. and horribly unhappy, but i had literally no frame of reference for that so i didn’t understand. i thought that was just what life was like. but it doesn’t matter. i don’t care, i mean i’m sad for the years i lost and ashamed of the person i was but it’s in a distant way, it’s gone, and i’m not playing anymore and now i am me and she will never know me. she will never ever know me. she never did. i didn’t, once, but now i do. i like knowing me, i’m nice to know. i didn’t know that either but now i do.
my adderall is wearing off, and this is devolving and it is going under a ‘read more’ and honestly if you read all of it then you must know someone like this because i don’t see how anyone could get through it otherwise and have any idea what i mean, or if one did i don’t see how it could be relevant or hold attention unless you know one of these people. i’m really sorry if you do. i hope you are free of them within your own self.
but really i just needed to write all this stuff out to affirm it for myself and feel sane. i listened to the voicemails with my mother this morning and it’s been building up. i need to reaffirm that i am not her, and that i am actively not her, and that i am making better choices and i need to keep making them. anyway.