My grandmother died this morning.

belladonalin said, “Just cause you know it was coming doesn’t make it any easier.”

Pauline Cooper.  My dad’s mom.  My mom’s parents have been dead for a while now.

She had dementia/Alzheimer’s for the past ten years or so, and her deterioration was truly awful.

       I haven’t seen her in years.  I think the last time I saw her I might have been in undergrad, although that seems so hard to believe.  Six years ago?  Ten years ago?  When was the last time I made it out to Virginia?  I can’t seem to remember now.

She got married to Jesse Sr. when she was about 15 or 16.  She had three babies by the time she was 19 and she was divorced by the time she was 21, I think that’s how it goes.  She asked for and was granted a divorce in 1945.  When my dad was four years old.

The numbers might not be right, but my grandfather was a mean drunk (and a child molester, but my grandmother never knew about that).  He wasn’t out of their lives, even though he didn’t live with them anymore.  He was abusive, violent, and mean.

And you know what?  I am so sick and goddamned tired of people who say, “Oh.  He was a lovely person when he wasn’t drinking. …  He was a great man when he was sober…”   Why am I sick of this, you ask?   Cause Jekyll and Hyde were the same dude.  How could a person hurt a child, especially their own child?  How could a person beat the shit out of their spouse, someone who was a baby herself, and who only weighed 115 pounds in the first place?

I struggle, I really do, with good and evil and redemption.  What they call “redemptive violence” and “redemptive suffering” (which comes straight from Paul in the epistles, mind you).  And suffering.  I struggle with suffering, those who inflict pain onto others on purpose.  What happened to them before, that made them think that kind of behavior was okay?  In what world is beating your wife and children, and molesting your children okay?  Not in my world.  No, thank you.

I suppose I haven’t read “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”  Is it tripe?  If you’ve read it and it’s not tripe, please lemme know.

I “think theologically” that we all have the spark of the divine in us, blah blah blah, and that God is truly present.  The sacred, the divine, the mystery — doesn’t have to have “god” as its name.

But when I think about this man, this man who was so violent and mean, and horrible, I struggle.  I struggle because I do not believe that more violence solves the problems created by violence.  I do not believe that peace is achieved through violence of any kind.  Peace – over land, inner peace, whatever:  not achieved through violence.  Perhaps I don’t really know how peace is created – but integration of past suffering, compassion, empathy, and miles of forgiveness seem like a good start.

But I do not forgive this man.  I don’t think I have any compassion for this man.  My paternal grandfather.  Nope.  Not a whole lot of empathy, either.  I think of him as a monster.

I want to find his grave and dig up his bones and break every one of them.  Perhaps even salt and burn him like in Supernatural…

I want to punch him in the face.  I want to shake him — I want to scream at him at the top of my lungs.  I want to beat him so badly.  I want to make him suffer:  make him feel every wound he inflicted on my dad, on my grandmother, and by extension, to me.  I grew up with the stories of what he did.  I grew up with a wounded daddy and it was my grandfather’s fault.  I will place the blame firmly on his shoulders.

Because I am my own champion.  I have my own power, power of – that my dad didn’t have, that my grandmother didn’t have…  that I didn’t have when it happened to me.  but oh my dearest lord, I have it now.

You know what though?  He’s dead:  I’ll never know if he’s sorry.  I’ll never know if he knew what he did.  I’ll never know if he’s suffering in hell (I guess I don’t really believe in hell, not in the sense of catholic/christian orthodoxy.  but I’d let him rot in hell for a while, damn skippy.)  I will never know why he did what he did.  I will never know how he felt about himself, his deeds, his misdeeds I mean.  I will never know if he did anything good.

I am told he quit drinking in his later years.  He died when I was in high school.  None of his children went to his funeral.

The other thing about this funeral is that my big brother will be there.  the one with whom I am currently in a spat.  the one who I need to protect myself from.  The one at whom I have a lot of anger and resentment.  See this post…

Read the following statement with dripping sarcasm:  See?  peace is possible!  it starts with your family!  go make peace with your siblings from your dysfunctional-ass nuclear (and by nuclear we mean bomb) family!

I meant for this post to be about how I felt about my grandmother.  But my grandfather kept seeping in.  I guess I will have to deal with both of them, and then separate it out later…

My dad and Auntie had asked me to deliver a eulogy and to conduct the services.  (With me so great at being clergy and all.)  I’m not really sure if I’m up for it now…  I said I was honored, etc etc and that I would do it but that was over the summer when her death seemed a long way off.  Now she’s dead and I don’t know if I can pull it off.

Sure.  I can be a pastor to my family in their time of need.  Is that healthy?  I don’t think so.  Not healthy at all…  I guess maybe an outsider would not understand…  maybe maybe not.

I don’t know.

12 thoughts on “uhhh…”

  1. My father’s mother died in April. I hadn’t seen her in ten years because a. she was always distant and b. she lived on the other side of the country and c. she had Parkinson’s.

    I should have called her any number of times. But no. But it’s still not my responsibility to keep up a relationship she was unwilling to keep up. It’s not that she didn’t love me, but she was always distant.

    But, as for the other dead guy… there are things we don’t know and things we can’t understand. But I have seen that everyone who has a flaw like that has it because something miserable happened to him and he wasn’t strong enough to push past it. Yes, it’s still a personal failing, and yes he’s still at fault, but it helps to understand the whys. Abusive people are usually that way because they were abused themselves in some way. Fred Phelps, for one, his mother died when he was little and an aunt died when he was a little older and then his father remarried and his brain went off the deep end. He’s horrible and cruel, but it’s because his brain couldn’t process the pain he was in. It doesn’t excuse him, but it does help us understand.


    1. thanks for the well-wishes. I don’t have a lot of understanding now. But I’m bracing myself for the flood torrent of stories I’m gonna hear at the funeral. It’s not gonna be easy, not at all.


  2. I think “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” is not what you are looking for. I would recommend watching “Rachel Getting Married,” which just came out, which is about a family struggling with their youngest daughter’s addiction issues.

    Being the sister of a drug addict, and seeing the difference between my physically abusive, threatening, thieving, manipulative, drug-using brother and the wonderful, giving, sympathetic person he is when he is sober, I can say that there is some credence in it when people talk about an addict (because that’s what an alcoholic is) in that light. Drugs and alcohol change their brain chemistry. They are not the same person when they are under the influence. It really is like Jekyll and Hyde.

    It doesn’t make what they do under the influence okay. It is not okay that my brother has thrown me into walls and left me with sprains and four-inch bruises. It’s not okay that he pushed my father through a glass window. None of that is okay, but if it is really an effect of the alcohol, then no, he wasn’t the same person when he was using. In treatment programs, recovering addicts are taught to treat the part of them that wants to use, and by extension, the personality they take on when they are using, as a separate person; they are encouraged to write letters to that person. It is like having a sociopath share your body. There was a point where I could not be around my brother even when he was sober because I was so terrified of what he was when he was using, but over the years I have come to terms with the fact that the person he is when he is using is completely divorced from the person he is when he is sober.

    On the services question, though: I think it would be fair to say that emotionally, you are not up to doing the full service, and maybe offer to do parts of it that you are comfortable with?

    Oh, geez, and I forgot the most important part which is that I am sorry for your loss, even if you have not seen her in a long time, even if you knew this day would come.


    1. thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

      I’m sorry that you had to go through that with your brother. it’s so hard, dealing with people who are addicted. you would know that better than I would, though.

      I just feel overwhelming amounts of emotion I guess — because … well, she had a hard life and then to go like that. it’s hard.

      I’m glad you get along better with your brother and that your brother is sober. I totally understand not feeling safe around family members.

      I also got word that my grandmother’s minister (of the church she went to for 20 odd years) will do the service. So that’s a load off.

      I’m not sure if I want to say anything. The last eulogy I gave (grandfather on mother’s side) pissed a lot of people off (namely my mom and my aunties and my brother) because I talked about how violent he was… but that was how I experienced him: I didn’t worship him like everybody else did: I was afraid of him. my whole life.

      I gotta get back to work. but thanks so much. I appreciate hearing your story and it was really helpful.


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