Ironically, my grandmother suffered the most with her own feelings of ugliness. I remember she had a special drawer filled with only eyeglasses. She would not wear any of them. Right after buying a new pair of eyeglasses, she would sit in her favorite chair crying and sobbing for hours over how ugly she looked in them. She would then exchange her glasses for another pair while not liking those either. Not surprisingly, no one wanted her service after the repeated exchanges and she would find herself traipsing from one eye doctor to another looking for the perfect glasses that made her feel attractive. Soon she began asking me to return her glasses with the promise of fifty dollars. I tried to convince my grandmother the return would not be accepted without her presence. She did not want to hear it. In the most desperate voice she could muster, she instructed me to tell them that she was currently in the hospital from a terrible fall down the stairs—due to not being able to see out of her new glasses. I would finally relent.
Every week, my grandmother would go on a shopping spree at Sears or Montgomery Wards loading her car with items to the hilt making it difficult for either of us to fit into the car. The next day, I would find her sitting in her favorite chair sobbing over how unhappy she was with everything she had bought and how she hated everything. Soon after my grandmothers sobbing, I would find myself packing everything up and stuffing it all back into her car while barely being able to see as we headed back toward the mall. She would joyfully laugh while saying, “They thought they made a big sale from me and now I am bringing it all back!” Of course, she would not be returning any of this. It would be me with the promise of fifty dollars. I can’t say how embarrassed I felt returning so much stuff, including TVs or even an air conditioning unit at one time which was quite heavy. Most times my grandmother would renege on her famous promise to pay me fifty dollars for her returns, using the excuse that she was having dizzy spells or that she would pay me later. Other times, she would begin sobbing about how ‘rotten’ I was to not care about her feelings. She would scream all the way down the road how everyone uses her and we were nothing but a bunch of worthless, selfish pigs. Sometimes she would promise to buy me new shoes after the huge job of returning her purchases but she never kept her end of the bargain as she would always become extremely “ill” when the time came to actually fulfill her agreement.
My grandmother loved stopping by my mother’s house or anyone’s house for that matter, to stir up trouble. As usual I opted to stay in the car as she made her rounds. She was never gone for long. I could see she was in a huff as she slammed my mother’s front door. While getting into the car, she would often say, “Your mother is a bitch! I wish that drunken stepfather of yours would get into a car accident and DIE!” Here we go again, I would think to myself, wanting us to hurry our drive home as I could feel the anxiety coming on. “They never wanted you!” she would scream. Like a broken record, I would hear how she was the only one who took me in because no one else wanted me. She would begin her usual mantra of how my parents knew what they were doing when they got rid of me and how she got the raw end of the deal when I moved in. Ungrateful, stupid, and worthless were her other daily favorites.
As my grandmother got into the car after leaving my mother’s in a tiff, she bashed into the neighbor’s car behind us. Even though we both heard the loud crashing sound as she hit the car, she calmly turned to me and said, “I didn’t hear anything, did you?” I laughed in disbelief. “You’re kidding!” was my only reply. She then sped down the street fleeing the scene of the accident. As she did so, she hurled a huge bag of McDonald’s trash out the window. I watched as the trash landed in one of the neighbor’s yard, leaving trash scattered everywhere. When I brought to her attention about the littering, she said, “F**k them. Everyone throws trash in my yard!”
My grandmother drove in an odd fashion that could make anyone nauseas. She would push the accelerator to the floor causing me to be thrown back, then she would abruptly slam (although not stopping the car completely) on the break causing my body to be jerked forward. She would continue this pattern every thirty seconds or so. Her driving never varied, even when her moods did. She drove stiffly with both hands on the wheel while keeping her erect body close to the steering wheel as possible as she screamed all the way home about her worthless family. Wanting to get away from my grandmother, I quickly jumped out of the car and bolted into the house for a little bit of peace and quiet, until my mother called wanting to know about the her hitting the neighbor’s car that one of her neighbor’s had witnessed. My grandmother sheepishly took the call while claiming, “Oh my! I never did such a thing! That ugly old bitty never liked me anyway!” For the rest of the night, I heard about my miserable, cold fish of a mother and how that ugly old hag next door lied. I didn’t mind, at least the heat was off of me for awhile.
When I remarried to a great guy the second time around, my grandmother would visit regularly and complain about my messy house. She would go on and on how pathetic I was to keep such a pigsty and how she pitied my poor husband for having such a miserable slob for a wife. There was no such thing as pleasing her. I remember when I first moved in with my grandmother, I felt especially good after making my grandfather’s bed for her as she always complained how no one ever helped her. After seeing the bed made, she was obviously angry that I made it. She proceeded to rip all the bed linens off as she screamed that I was too stupid to even make a bed. properly. After awhile, I began to feel ill during her visits to me and my children. Often times, when I felt I was not able to wait a second longer for her to leave, I would end up telling her to get the out of my house, not so nicely either. However, I would surely pay for this. She would get the entire family rallied against me. Much worse, I was always the one who looked and felt like the monster . . .
At times, I felt my grandmother loved me very much and even enjoyed my company when she was “normal.” I remember in many ways how compassionate she was with me even if only a bit here and there. I also saw that no one could really be trusted. Regardless, I found myself putting my head out on the chopping block over and over trying to trust her again hoping “this time” things would be different while remembering only the good times that were few and far between. I was blamed for everything that went wrong; it was my fault that my father didn’t come back; it was my fault that my grandmother had a heart attack or stroke even though she faked it, it was my fault that my mother was having problems with her second marriage even though he was an abusive, hateful drunk or I was just plain evil or ugly.