I miss my gran, but I can't ignore the abuse
My grandfather has been physically and emotionally abusing my grandmother since at least the time my mom was a child (more than 50 years). The abuse happens in cycles and my gran has left him to go stay with her children on several occasions, but then eventually, returns to him after he promises that it will not happen again. I had never seen him be physically violent to my gran, even though I did see him try and drink slyly, get extremely drunk to the point of falling down every night and hiding empty bottles of alcohol.
Things came to a head when he got extremely drunk (once again) while my mom and I were visiting. I emptied all the bottles of alcohol and told my mother that I did this sometimes to curb his drinking. This was the first time that I had spoken so openly about it and it encouraged my mother to say something to my grandfather. My grandfather became instantly threatening and violent. He spat in my mother’s face, swore at her, hit her, shouted about how he could and has been beating my gran senseless for years. Years of drinking has made him weak, so he wasn’t inflicting as much harm to my mother, fortunately, however, he did manage to fling my mom to the floor and smack phones and keys out of her hand. During all of this, my mother remained relatively calm and attempted to get him to his room to minimise the harm he would cause us and himself. I was distraught. I had never experienced a situation like this. We couldn’t leave my gran with this crazed violent drunk and stayed at their house. My gran was grateful.
The next moment my grandfather came storming out of his room and attacked me too. My mom had to separate us and this time both of us marched him to his room to sleep it off. The rest of the afternoon and right into the night he would burst out of his room periodically and try and attack us while shouting at us for being there, for ‘invading’ his home or for trivial things like having the lights on. He insulted us and called us every nasty word imaginable. At one point he phoned the police to have us removed from his house. They came and told us all to be calm and that they weren’t going to do anything at this point as it seemed like he was drunk and we had the situation under control. I have never been so scared, frustrated, embarrassed and ashamed.
The next day, we packed all my grandmother’s possessions and she went to go live with my mother. Less than a month later my gran had snuck out and was back with him. For my gran’s birthday I went to go and visit and refused to interact with my grandfather – I was only there for my gran. When my grandfather left the room my gran berated me for not ‘showing respect’ for my grandfather and told me to greet him and act pleasantly towards him. I left and have never contacted them again. I care for my gran very much, but I cannot ignore the situation. I cannot see him abuse her. Even though he sought help and is (apparently) not drinking anymore, he is still emotionally abusive towards her and he treats her like a domestic slave.
My mother has also relented and goes to visit them saying that she just goes to visit her mother (my gran). My mom has even gone so far as to try and guilt trip me into visiting them by saying that my gran might not be around as long anymore. My answer: I would rather remember her the way I thought she was and that it is too upsetting to look at the situation with the realisation of what he has done to her. I think they have a codependent relationship where my gran appears to be the selfless, nurturing nice older lady and my grandfather gets to be irresponsible, violent and immature. My gran has placed this relationship above that of her relationship with her children and grandchildren and is the reason this man is still in our lives. Beyond the physical danger this has put us in (e.g him driving drunk with us in the car), there are many mental health and self-esteem issues in the family that I think can be related directly to my grandfather’s influence and the dysfunctional relationship my grandparents have.
It has been 4 years since I had any contact with them. My gran made several attempts initially to contact me …but never addressed the cause of my decision to break off contact.
My question: Should I relent? Should I go see my gran? Or should I wait until my grandfather has passed on and my gran is hopefully still here? Or is it OK to give up this relationship for my own mental (and physical) wellbeing? Will I be sorry if I never see them again?
Regardless of your Grandfather's shortcomings, it's your Gran's choice to go back to him, be with him and be treated the way you post about. It's basically none of your business if she chooses to do this no matter how hard that may sound. If you love your Gran then you should make time to visit her and accept her as she is and her situation.
You need to understand that your Grandfather is who he is and when he's violent and drinking heavily, no one is safe from his abuse. Those closest to him get hurt and while you have a choice to get away from it, that doesn't mean that you can't interact with your Gran away from that environment. Your emotions from past events have 'painted' you a dark picture where your Gran is smack bang in the middle of it, but again, that's her choice.
It's not so much that she has placed her marriage above her relationship with you and your family, rather she does what she has to do to get by. She has accepted everything about her relationship, good and bad, and has found a way to live in it and with it. Your Mom is right, your Gran won't be around forever and IF you have the need, you will find a way to reconnect with her without having to deal with your Grandfather.