How my mother saw my paternal grandmother

I was checking out Granny K’s website and the idea for this blog popped into my mind when I read this quote:

Garrison Keillor

Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted.

Sometimes, if you do too much for them, your children learn nothing to prepare them for the outside world.

Sometimes, what you don’t allow a child to learn for herself can backfire.

Ask me how I know. Or don’t. I’m going to tell you anyway.


At 37 years old, my mother gave birth almost a month early. She almost died twice before I popped out, and I had colic the first year of life. If you don’t know what colic is, here’s the translation:

Baby is in unimaginable stomach pain

and cries like an air raid siren.

All day. All night.

Doctors are no help.

Mother doesn’t get any sleep.

She probably thought both of us were going to die. To say she was overprotective was like calling a tractor-trailer a mini cooper.


Except for a few houses on our block, I couldn’t visit friends. I had an assignment for a class involving 4 other people. She refused to take me to the house where the meeting was taking place and said they were welcome to have their meeting at our house.

That was not going to do, I said, because I told them I would be there.  My mom said no because I didn’t ask her first and because of that, I was going to learn a lesson.  The entire group made a D on the assignment.

Can we say, “Pariah!”

What did I learn from this experience?  That my mother was controlling, it was better to do it anyway and then let her sulk, and never to tell her anything. 


A small infraction was treated the same as a large one, i.e., if I was a few minutes late coming home from school, I might as well steal a car for the punishment received.

My sister wanted to borrow the car when she was 17. My mother told her to clean it first. She said no. Mom advised her that she was never going to be allowed to borrow from that day forward. If she’d stolen the car, the punishment would have been about the same, except my sister might have had more freedom and better food in jail..


With that background in mind, I’ll explain a little about my father’s family. He hated his maternal grandmother. He said she was the filthiest woman alive, doing things like walking out the door to pee in the front yard instead of using the outhouse. It was a scandal that my father’s youngest brother was married 3 times. Surely, my mother said, his wives were harlots!


How my mother saw my father’s brother’s spouses

My mother despised all but one member of his family, his sister.  She was the only one of his family who was allowed to visit us. 

My mother swore that her girls would never be subjected to the flotsam of society called my father’s family. We received music lessons, my sister and I both wore those implements of torture called braces, and once I was subjected to modeling school.  


I was forced to iron my own clothes, but never learned how to do laundry. My mother taught me how to cook. No gold medals there, considering her idea of spaghetti was to cook the noodles, fail to rinse them, and throw in a can of whole tomatoes. You won’t be surprised to know that my cooking skills weren’t the best, but I did learn how to make cookies using bacon grease. My mother’s home was always clean, yet the only cleaning I was taught to do was drying the dishes (Probably because of the gargantuan effort it took to get me to iron and dry the dishes).  I wanted a job at 16. Mom said no.  I can’t imagine why.


My belief is that when you become an adult, you can laugh at the way your parents raised you but it’s your responsibility to overcome any urge to say, “It’s all my parents fault!” I took complete responsibility for the mess I made of my own life–after years of therapy and 3 husbands.

Once I was in college and away from home, no one was going to tell me how long I could stay out, what I could eat, who my friends were, and where I went. Discernment wasn’t in my vocabulary. I kept God, sheer luck, and the universe quite busy trying to keep me alive. In the course of 44 years, I’ve had 5 husbands, at least 20 lovers (that I can remember), and by the time my mother died she’d watched both of her daughters turn into the very people she sought to protect us from.  If my sister couldn’t afford a housekeeper, her place would look like the Addams family’s, too. 


From house to outhouse can be too far for the over 50 bladder

And yes, I have been known to pee in the front yard from time to time (one of the many perks of living in the country). The reason might surprise you and it’s one that could explain why my grandmother didn’t make it to the outhouse before she let loose. When the over 50 bladder says, “You’re not going to make it to the outhouse (or to the bathroom),” you learn to listen.


Let the kid meet Grandma filth in her environment, then let the kid make his or her own decisions about it. Let the kid meet your husband’s brother’s harlots–they might be very nice people who just picked the wrong asshole to marry.  Let the kid get a job at 16 and learn responsibility.  And for Maker’s sake, if you’re a grandmother and your wimp of a son marries a woman just like your mother and she pushes you away from her family, stay away until your son grows a pair!  You have enough to worry about without being blamed when your only grandchild turns out just like you.