Dear Stepgrandmother

I find myself in an interesting position as it relates to you. For the 20 years since your son, my former stepdad, legally adopted me and I became his true daughter, you have never accepted my place in your family. You have made it very clear over the years that not only do you heartily dislike me as a person, but you do not consider me “family” at all.  For many years you were able to conceal your true feelings from everyone but me (and my mom, she saw it too). Your barbs and disparagements were so sly, so carefully constructed that everyone just passed them off or failed to notice them altogether. You are truly an expert actress, I’ll give you that.

But lately old age and senility have made your tongue careless, and much to the shock of our entire family you have slipped up and revealed your true nature. Last October when you said something truly disparaging and downright mean about me to my uncle, right in front of my mother, there was no backtracking and pretending you didn’t say it, or that you didn’t mean it the way it came out. They heard, and they knew the truth. My dad’s eyes were finally opened to the truth. My parents tried to protect my feelings by not telling me what happened, but shortly thereafter I got a flood of emails from my cousins about the incident. I wish you could have read them, and seen the surprise and dismay they each experienced upon hearing of your words and feelings about me. I wish you could have heard how heartily they denied your position that I am not “family” and the deeply-felt expressions of love and acceptance they each offered.

So you don’t like me, and you don’t consider me family, despite the fact that my father—yes, he’s my FATHER, in every way—has bonded to me more closely than his own biological sons–he CHOSE me. That’s fine. The truth is, I don’t like you much either, and I never have. You are a mean-spirited and hateful woman. I have watched over the years as you have mistreated almost everyone in your life under the guise of being a “Southern old lady”, who speaks so girlishly and so foolishly she must instantly be forgiven for anything she might say, because “she’s Southern and she’s old and that’s what they do”. Whatever. I never fell for your act. I know the truth about you. You are and always have been jealous of any female who takes away the attention you receive from your males. This includes your daughters-in-law and your female grandchildren. Your insane jealousy even extended to the female dog my grandfather loved so much before he died. You were pathetic in the way you mistreated that dog, and it was so obvious to me why—you were jealous! You couldn’t stand the thought that he loved someone besides you. Just like you can’t stand the thought that your sons and grandsons might love someone other than you too.

Like I said, whatever. I learned a long time ago that to give a rat’s patootie what you think about me is a total waste of brain cells. Besides you live 8 hours away and since my beloved grandfather’s death I have managed to limit my contact with you to once in five years.

But now I hear that you are moving to our town, because you require more care in your old age. I hear that my parents will be taking on the burden of your full-time care, despite the fact that my mother despises you and my father only barely tolerates you. They see it as their duty and despite whatever feelings they harbor for you personally, they will do right by you, for however long it takes until you die.

So here is my interesting position, and believe me when I say it surprised me as much when I figured it out as it would you, if you were to ever look beyond your nose and figure it out too. We don’t like each other, and you consider me less-than your other “real” family members.  But you see, in my mind, despite how much I hate you, I believe in the concept that family is family, regardless of how we feel about one another.  And crazily enough, *I* consider *you* family. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? But you gave birth to and raised one of the most special men I have the privilege of knowing, and he’s been the best dad to me I could have asked for. Despite my personal feelings for you, you did something right by him. You are his family, and therefore you are mine. Whether you like it or not.

So. Here we are. You will be here soon and I can’t say I’m really looking forward to your arrival. When my mom’s mom passed away months ago I participated fully in the last days of her life. I kept vigil over her every night for a week, as did many others in my family who divided up shifts to be with her 24/7. I considered it a supreme honor to be by her side in the last hours of her life. During those long quiet hours of sitting by her bed, listening to the minutes on the clock count down the beats of her heart left, I did a lot of thinking about what a wonderfully unique person she was in life and what a powerfully special relationship I had with her.  I’ll always treasure the memories I have of being with that special lady both in life and in her death.

Although my sense of responsibility and, more importantly, my love and respect for my parents will call me to help them in similar ways when your time comes, I can’t say I will find standing vigil over you a privilege or an honor.  And I definitely won’t be thinking about what a “wonderful” person you are, or what a great relationship we had. But I will help my parents as needed when I am called to, because that’s what you do for FAMILY.  In a way, I guess, I should be grateful to you for teaching me this lesson early in my life. The ability to accept people as they are and choose to treat them kindly despite how they may treat me in return has been an enormous blessing to me as a stepmom.

It’s too bad for you that you never learned a similar lesson earlier in your life. You might have saved yourself and your loved ones a lot of heartache.


~ by Stepfamily Letter Project on August 8, 2011.

2 Responses to “Dear Stepgrandmother”

  1. I hate to say this, but I think I might know this woman. Not really, but she sounds a lot like my biological grandmother. It does not seem to matter if you are family or not – we all have family like that. I am so sorry you have had to deal with this woman. You are a remarkable person and I wish you the best.

  2. That’s one of the best letters I have read on this site, if not *the* best. You have a splendid understanding of human nature, and you sound like a very generous-spirited person. Only that type of person would consider such an apparently horrible person as family and do their duty by them no matter what their personal feelings. One in a million. =)

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