She was one of twelve kids, if my memory serves me correctly. She and my grandpa got married right after they graduated high school. Both moved from their family farms to their own. My aunt was born soon after. Nine kids were in total. In addition to being a farmer’s wife and managing the kids, she was also a substitute teacher at the local Catholic school. Later in life, she became a nurses aid.
This is the glossy version of her life – the one that will likely be summarized in her obituary in the coming days.
But when I wish my grandma peace, I wish it not because she had been riddled by Alzeimers and its complications. But because she had one hell of a life.
Grandma, we found out when I was in college, sustained a huge amount of abuse at the hands of her father. She would be beaten. She would be locked in the cellar for long periods of time. She would be emotionally battered. Was their sexual abuse? Probably given some things that came to light later in her life.
Her siblings kept silent about it until she was almost 70 years old. For whatever reason, no one will ever know – she was her father’s target. No one else was – just her. My grandpa who was a level headed man who you rarely saw get mad exploded upon learning this from her sister while my grandpa lay in the hospital. Besides the obvious reasons, he spent his entire life with her trying to figure out what triggered things.
You see, my grandpa was an abuser of prescription medications. She took them to sleep. She took them to manage pain that likely was not physical. She took them to chase away her demons.
She saw therapists over the years. And the story and reasons all changed. Her kids received letters explaining why they were the cause of her issues. Her kids received letters of her apologizing for the abuse she let happen to them at the hands of their uncle – my grandpa’s brother who was born with Down Syndrome and lived with him. (This abuse never happened – all the siblings checked with each other as none of them found their uncle anything but a sweet loving man who kept to himself and worked his ass off on the farm.) Anytime a letter came from my grandma, the kids would call each other to warn each other to toss it. They stopped reading them because the stories were fake.
After learning about her abuse, many of us put things together. She was abused. She was hated by her parents. She was blamed for their issues. She was locked in the cellar. She was talking about herself. No one including her therapists had put it together until her sister finally spoke about it all.
The damage to my grandpa was already done. For me, growing up, grandma was never there mentally or emotionally. You would talk to her and hug her, and she was in her own world powered by the drugs. There were moments where she came out of it. After her hospitalization where the abuse came to light, the doctors treated her. But the damage was already done. We never got to see her for who she was. She was more present, but she was stunted by the abuse and the years of never dealing with it.
My fondest memory of my grandpa was when my mom and my grandma surprised me with a visit. I was pregnant with DJ, and my friends planned a surprise baby shower. The surprise included my dad sending my mom and my grandma. It was three days of spending time with both of them. Grandma was unfiltered – talkative – and told stories about giving birth to her own kids. My grandpa was actually there with her each time. This is really the only memory of I have her that did not include her sleeping through family gatherings or floating adrift among the family not really engaging.
Probably the best thing in the world was her starting to lose her mind through Alzeimers. It was probably the first time she felt free. She was free to love her kids and her family. She was free of the demons and the memories. She had an escape – and one that did not make her into a zombie.
This is the peace I wish my grandma. I want there to be a heaven just so she can actually find a place where she can laugh, where she can be without the physical and mental pain, where she and my grandpa can love each other as they were meant to love each other here.
This is the peace I want for her.
Will I miss her?
Of course. Not having Grandpa around will be odd.
But I am happy she will be at peace.