My father’s mother insisted that her grandchildren address her as, “Grandma Dear.” Yes, I am serious – and this was long before Mommie Dearest was written or published.
This woman was lots of things, warm and dear nowhere among them. Growing up, I was never permitted in the back portion or her house. I can’t recall ever even seeing the bathroom, only the living room and kitchen. She once told me, sternly, that she did not believe in coddling children, and the only reason she participated in my school fund-raiser was because she actually needed what I was selling; I could not have been more than six or seven.
Thankfully, we weren’t around Grandma Dear much – she and Pat were adversarial and my father himself didn’t have much of a relationship with her as I was growing up. I remember her being pushy, demanding and obnoxious.
About the time I was to graduate from high school, Ed won the use of a condominium on Maui for a week and he invited me to accompany him as my graduation gift – the trip ended up being a family reunion for Grandma Dear and her surviving children; I was the only family member of my generation in attendance.
Her children were beyond respectful of her as their mother – they revered her; acted toward her with a kind of sentiment usually reserved for a deity in religious worship. She demanded, they jumped. She whined, they soothed. Her every wish was granted, her every whim indulged. She was pampered and exalted, praised and adored. She was not grateful for their efforts, or even kind to them – and there was no reciprocity of affection; it was surreal. I spent a lot of the week observing, and was appalled by what I saw – from her as well as my father and his siblings. Her children drew no lines for her behavior; they had no personal limits of any kind – and she displayed no outward respect for them what-so-ever.
One afternoon, we all piled into a rented vehicle for a drive around the island. Somehow, accidentally, I locked the keys in the trunk when we stopped for lunch. Grandma Dear ranted and raved and raged at me for more than two hours because of this; it was an emotionally abusive, uncomfortable scene – and it largely ruined the entire trip for me.
After that day, I did my best never to see my grandmother again. I saw her briefly at Ed’s apartment once – she was whining and carrying on because he had nothing in the refrigerator to drink. Actually, he had several beverage options, but when he left to go to the market to appease her, I took my leave as well – and that was the last time I saw her. I did not attend her funeral.
I know she was an abusive mother – Ed has told me that much about his childhood, but he, like so many abuse survivors do of the their abusive parents, makes excuses for her now. His father was absentee, and he squandered the family’s money leaving her with worries and a house full of children to care for on her own. From what I saw, her abuse never stopped, and he never drew lines for what he would and would not tolerate from her as an adult.
As far as Shockleys go, I’m unique; I see things as they really are. I refuse to make excuses for the beatings my father gave me; he had a choice, and he chose wrong. The same can be said of his mother — no matter what she was dealing with personally, beating her children was wrong. She was an Abuser, and at least three of her children went on to abuse their own children. The Shockley legacy is not Dear, it is nothing other than shameful, morally bereft and disgusting …
there is never justification for beating your child.