Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Gallery - Week 65 - Grandparents

I know of several sad stories of Grandparents who, through no fault of their own, lose contact with their  grandchildren when families fall apart and marriages end. My heart goes out to them.

This was not exactly the case when my marriage ended.

My mother in law did not like me, she did not like the way I brought up my children and I don't honestly think she liked my children either (on one memorable occasion she did accuse 2 year old Taylor of being spawn of the devil because she was crying - and without a hint of jest).

In her defence, I think there were some mental issues at play coupled with an appetite for alcohol that exceeded normal limits. She was a formidable woman but when she screamed at her own son that he was dead to her and tried to attack my children, my maternal instincts did not allow her to have her way. After this event, my eldest daughter, who was only 8 years old at the time, was terrified of her.

Sometimes she would phone me very late at night, usually waking me up. It was often incoherent with slurred words. It was always angry. One time she was shouting about how she never got to see her grandchildren. I reassured her that she was welcome to visit us and see the children whenever she wanted. She practically spat at me that she didn't mean my children.

I did feel sad for my children that they were missing out on all the wonderfully enriching things that grandparents can contribute, but the blow was softened when they were all 'adopted' by the grandparents of their cousins, my sister's in-laws.

At the time of my divorce, I had neither seen nor spoken to my mother in law for quite some time.

My eldest daughter was about to start University and our uncertain financial future was a cause for concern. I remembered that when she was born, her paternal grandparents had set up a savings account for her into which they had paid a small but regular sum of money for her future. Her future was now and although  I had no idea how much there might be in the account, I couldn't help thinking that it would be a great help for her to have it and possibly even a way to establish an independent connection to 'post-divorce grandparents'. I encouraged her to mention it to her father (by now he refused to speak to me so I could not broach the subject with him). That conversation (conducted by Instant Message on the computer) did not go well but he must have mentioned it to his mum because shortly after, my fragile, damaged little girl received an evil letter from her grandmother accusing her of being 'the daughter of the money grabbing mother' and telling her in no uncertain terms that she did not feature in her life nor would she feature in her death. It was two A4 printed sheets of absolute hatred. Just to be fair, although the letter was addressed to Liberty, she told her that ALL her sisters were included in how she felt.

The man that my children had once called Grandpa was not a blood relation. My mother-in-law was divorced from my husband's biological father and by all accounts he was no good. My husband had had no contact with him since he was a child. I had always been vaguely curious about him. In 2009, I got the chance to meet him.

After the dust had settled on my horrible divorce and my girls and I were happy and settled in our new home with our new family, I re-established contact with my ex-sister-in-law. I was really surprised to find out that she had made peace with her real dad and was working on building a relationship with him.

When I took three of my girls to visit her, he came across to meet us all.

I was quite taken aback by the resemblance between my ex husband and his biological father but this man seemed kind, gentle and meek with a softness to his face that made me warm to him almost instantly. He spoke so fondly of his ex-wife, my evil ex-mother in law, saying that she could light up a room. I wish I could have known that women. I wish that woman could have played a positive role in the lives of my girls.

The girls enjoyed meeting their absent father's father but there is so much more to being a grandparent than biology.


  1. Sad things here and some of it is very close to home for me too so I feel less isolated but also sorry for your troubles and heartache too

  2. I couldn't agree more. You don't need to be blood to grand parenting qualities. It is so sad that you had such a tough experience - it is not how it should be but will make you know how you want to be when the time comes for you to be a grandparent. x

  3. That's so sad, but luckily they had people to be their surrogate grandparents and show them how it should be done! Nat


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