The Troubling Concept of “Family”


This month’s Blogging for Peace prompt makes my stomach churn. We’re asked to confront any issues we have with fully accepting a member of our family, whether it’s a matter of resentment, shame, anger, or something else that makes it hard to find our groove in the relationship. Even before this post reared its head and forced me to examine my life, I had already started thinking that I should push myself to take care of some loose ends in my personal life prior to embarking on my journey to Spain. Better to leave with a clear head and open heart than to come back to self-imposed pain, right?

So here goes. I’m an only child. I have a pretty decent relationship with my parents, no major issues between us. I live 1000 miles away, and neither they nor I have enough disposable income to fly back and forth, so we talk every couple of weeks on the phone, and I generally see them every few years. It works. What doesn’t work is that I’m lucky enough to have three of my grandparents and some of my grand-uncles left, but I haven’t talked to any of them in years. My paternal grandmother and I are on fine terms, but neither of us is comfortable talking on the phone, and she doesn’t use computers. My maternal grandfather and I are also on OK terms, but he’s not comfortable on the phone either, and he doesn’t use computers. My maternal grandmother and I…well, that’s where things get dicey.

I love her. She’s funny, and weird, and smart. She’s also bossy, opinionated, and incredibly argumentative. She’s a shit-stirrer; the woman lives for drama. As a result, I had a very hard time getting to like her when I was a kid. We’re just very different people, and she can come across as kind of tone deaf, emotionally speaking. My mom’s emotional wellbeing was seriously impacted by this when she was growing up, and since I’ve always sort of acted like my mom’s older sister, my grandma’s need to poke and prod her into submission has always rubbed me the wrong way. Eventually I got over it, and for a few years post-college, we had a pretty nice relationship, talking every couple of weeks and generally enjoying each other’s conversational skills. We had an unspoken agreement that she would lay off of the nagging, and I would do my best to ignore when she was being too domineering. It mostly worked.

However, a few years ago she read one of my blog posts (an uber-boring outline of the steps of colon cleansing), and took it upon herself to call up my maternal aunt (who tormented my mom when they were growing up, and whom I’ve only seen maybe five times in my life, even though she only lived three hours away from me that whole time), to give me a talking to about my lifestyle choices. It was a turning point in our relationship. I understood that she loved me and only wanted the best for me, but the disrespect she showed me by attempting to involve an outsider in my life in a bid to control my choices (related or not, my aunt had never acted like a family member until that day) was just too much. After a brief angry email, I’ve never spoken to her again, except for calling to wish her a happy Christmas in 2011.

There goes my stomach, churning away. You see, I fully understand that I’m completely in the wrong in this situation. No matter how much my grandmother hurt my feelings, she’s the elder. It’s my job to get over it, to be more resilient and mend fences. But my pride is like something out of legend. I just can’t scale it. I’ve been trying for years to just give the woman a call. But I can’t.

And I must, for obvious reasons. I’m probably hurting her feelings, even though she’s got way more pride (and, as they say, piss & vinegar) than I ever will. Sometimes I wonder if maybe she doesn’t even care, but I’m the only grandchild. Of course she cares, even if she’d never say it. Then there’s the matter of my grandfather; I can’t talk to him unless I talk to her, and he’s never done one mean thing to me. He’s a nice guy, if a bit cagey. I’d be cagey too after 50+ years married to her.

But as important as it is to correct this mistake before it’s gone too far, the thing I need to remember is how being so prideful is hurting me at my core. I think about making the phone call every single day. Putting it off is physically affecting me. I’ve got thyroid issues; according to Eastern medicine, issues of the throat are related to blockage of the throat chakra. The throat chakra can become blocked when you’re not speaking your truth. My truth is that I love my old battle axe of a grandmother, and I just want to move past a stupid thing that happened years ago. I want her to know I love her, and I’m sorry for being an ass.

After that, I can tell her that I’m planning on hiking through Spain for a month on my own, and we can have some brand new argument about how I’m going to be raped and dismembered by Basque separatists, and how hiking is bad for your back, and that Spanish food isn’t nutritious enough for such a long trip, and so on, and so on…Oh whatever. It’ll still be good to hear her voice.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Ahhh, family. Please break the ice. She could disappear one day to the next and then you’ll regret that you never took that step. And that will be one less thing you will be carrying in your emotional backpack on the path to Compostelle

    1. Anna says:

      I agree. Thank you.

    2. I agree you don’t know what tomorrow holds. So say what you need to say today.

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