This was a long time coming.
When I told my family about the pregnancy last Father’s Day, everyone stood up and congratulated me. Except my grandmother, who slumped back in her chair and stared at me like I had just told her I shit myself.
My girlfriend noticed it as well. She’s afraid of my grandmother, intimidated by her. My girlfriend actually used the word “evil” to describe the stare she received that day from my grandmother.
I joked and told her my grandmother was angry that we didn’t ask for her permission before getting pregnant. It turns out I was right.
According to my grandmother she’s had questions ever since that day, but my mother and grandfather had kept telling her to mind her own business. So last week she asked me to come over to her retirement home to help her with “things” — she wouldn’t tell anyone what help she needed.
So, yesterday, when we were finally alone, she told me to sit on my grandfather’s plush mechanical chair, took a seat on the couch herself, put on her glasses, picked up her notebook and asked me her first round of questions…
“How could you not use condoms?” she asked angrily. “Who made the decision not to have an abortion? Why would your doctor advise you to go ahead with the pregnancy? Where was ‘she’ getting her advice from? How could they advise you it was a good idea to have a baby?”
This was just the warm-up.
I told her the details surrounding the conception of my baby were none of her business. She replied “I’ve gotten that a lot lately, everyone keeps telling me this is none of my business. But I know what this is, I went through it with your mother.”
My mother has always been convinced she was conceived out of wedlock, and that her parents were forced to get married because of it… so, if it was needed, this would be confirmation.
My grandmother was confused as to the role my psychiatrist plays in my life, she thought he was giving me yes / no advice on things like the pregnancy. So, right after being asked why I hadn’t demanded to have my son aborted, I had to try and explain psychiatry to her.
My grandmother has the mind of a lawyer — she asks little questions so she can tear you apart on the bigger questions later on. Also, much like a lawyer, she’s only interested in the parts of the answers which give her an opportunity to ask another question. When I told her both my girlfriend and I decided to have the child, and raise him together, she looked at me and asked “oh, really?”.
As I was trying to find a response to that, she hit me with: “Is the baby even yours?”.
This is where things got very, very dangerous. I asked “…what?”, and she started off on a short rant about DNA tests, and how I didn’t know my girlfriend.
I told her to change the topic.
Which she did, by asking why I had never had a vasectomy. “How dare you,” she said, pointing at me, “bring a child into a situation where it’ll have what you have. It’s hereditary you know.” She meant the manic depression. She made it very clear she believes my son is going to have a horrible life because I let him be born.
So now — on the edge of my grandfather’s chair, trying to process my grandmother questioning my child’s parentage — I’m trying to gather myself to come up with an explanation about the unlikelihood of someone being born with the needed genetics, and then the unlikelihood of someone then going on to exhibit the behaviours.
And she asked me about the cost…
“The cost of what?”, I asked. “The cost of the pregnancy,” she replied, “do you know what it cost?”
She demanded that I find out what it cost Canadian taxpayers to go full term with my girlfriend’s pregnancy, as a lesson to us both on how wrong we were to have my son.
And this, or very soon after, is when I told my grandmother to get fucked.
And this is when she asked me the question that nearly got her hurt.
She claims someone in my hometown had heard me say I wouldn’t have to do anything with the baby, that “the grandmothers” would look after him, and I’d never have to work to support my son because all I had to do was wait for my grandfather to die and I’d have the inheritance.
I had no idea how to respond. So I just started swearing at her, saying “fuck you” over and over again. In my head, briefly, I saw myself smearing her across the wall. As I was swearing at her, telling her how fucking miserable she was, I put on my jacket and walked to the door.
…and she said “oh, come on, don’t be weak, get back here.”
I turned around, told her “go fuck yourself”, and left.
A few minutes later, as I was waiting for the elevator, she came into the hallway… she begged me to come back into the apartment. Because she needed my help.
My grandmother is 87-years old, she has COPD and the meds she takes make it almost impossible for her to write. She wants to hire me to write letters for her.
She knows she doesn’t have much time left, and there are things she wants to put into writing. The first thing she wants is to write a letter to the owners of the retirement home, because she has some concerns about the state of the building, and the property.
She wants to pay me for the work. She told me I was “a brilliant writer, your cousins think so as well”. I just kept my head down and took notes… about both conversations.
…maybe it’s the guilt associated from being abused by this woman for decades, but I’m still not sure if I’ll help her or not.
I knew walking into her apartment earlier that she wanted to talk about something. I wanted to film our exchange, but my batteries died right after I took her photo.