the not-depression is lasting.
i am accomplishing things. like building a christmas tree with john, and keeping the house clean, cooking an actual dinner every night..just general shit that i haven't been able to do consistently since my great grandfather started dying. everything has been so fucking difficult since then.
we weren't even close. he was a terrifying prescence when i was a child; a moderately emotionally abusive one when i was an adult. he once called me “disgusting” because my shirt moved away from my skirt when i was leaning over for something.
at the end he was senile, scared, and totally miserable. we didn't get any quality time; no sudden deathbed confessions of why he was such a huge bastard to all the people who were obligated to love him.
except there were these truly telling moments. like when he was in and out of morphine nightmares, crying and begging his brother, phillip, to leave him alone. phillip had been dead for roughly 60 years at that point, but i knew the stories. phillip was his older brother who tormented him while raising him (when you give birth to sixteen kids, i guess you end up delegating responsibility whenever you can). phillip would do things like tie him to a tree along the river, then toss him into the currant. thats dramatic enough to be a “family story”...i'm guessing the constant barrage of less creative physical abuse wasn't memorable enough to make it into the re-telling.
there were moments when he would be confused, and call me my grandmother's name, or my great aunt’s name, and i wouldn't correct him because i wanted him to feel safe.
i hoped that once he was dead, the suffering would be over, not only for him, but for us, for me. that his death would let us let go of all the things he had said and done.
instead it opened up this gaping hole in my dimension.
instead of being able to forget and move on from the past, i'm able to see down the rabbit hole. i'm able to see my great grandfather being hit, being abused, not understanding how much an older child can resent the responsibility of a younger sibling. i see him growing up, believing that the cruelty had strengthened him and made him into the exceptional man he became. somewhere things got twisted for him, and he started to believe that the positive character traits wouldn't have existed without the abuse. i see him dominating my great grandmother, and being delighted that her personality and beliefs allowed for this. i see him bullying his daughter, the child who would become my grandmother; i see his frustration with how smart she is, how she would have been the mechanic to take over his garage (his legacy) if only she had been born with the right set of genitals. i see him entirely unable to control his temper, because he was taught that grown men didn't need to spare children.
he once hit my grandmother with a tire iron, because she didn't hand him something quickly enough.
i see him instilling these concepts in my grandmother, informing her in no uncertain terms that ability to deal with and repress pain (both physical and mental) is the absolute most important thing a person can master.
i see my grandmother, young yet already defeated, seeking validation from any man who could appreciate her skills and talents without criticizing everything about her. she intentionally got pregnant at sixteen to escape the household. instead of finishing high school, and pursuing art school, she chose to forfeit all of her personal dreams simply to get away from her father.
i remember being sixteen, myself, quite vividly. i can see my grandmother, a short tempered perfectionist as a grown adult, being a tempestuous teenager with not one, but two babies hanging off of her by the time she was eighteen. i can see her making bad, brash, thoughtless, and sometimes abusive choices. i can see her losing her temper again and again, unable to raise a child any other way, because at this point, she believes that her positive attributes were created by the abuse from her father, instead of seeing how much he had crippled her confidence and effected her logical thought process.
i see my mother grow up hating her mother, and her grandfather. seeing them as the same kind of monster.
i see my mother now, and i have a theory based strictly on informed opinion: i think my mother has depression, and possibly a personality disorder.
she was raised in our family, where people don't have things like that. you “pull yourself up by the boot straps.” you repress and overcome at any expense. depression is a symptom of having “too much time on your hands.”
i see my mother during my childhood. she was secretive, frequently unhappy, with these beautiful shining moments where she taught us something that was dear to her. i honestly think now that the rest of her energy was spent trying to keep herself calm and happy enough not to abuse us. not to perpetuate the cycle. she decided that being emotionally negligent and distant was a much better option than being intense, angry, and involved.
how can i be angry at that? i completely understand that.
how can i process all this without feeling angry?
his death was the beginning of suffering, not the end.