Monday, April 28, 2008

Grandmothers are such sweet and supportive individuals, right?

Here's my grandmother Rose, on my current predicament: you don't want to get better, if you wanted to get better then you would. Such insight and charm! She wants me to try Lyrica, all of her friends with fibromyalgia have been helped by Lyrica. I tell her drugs don't work for me, but I’ll look into it. She says: if you wanted to get better then you would take Lyrica.

And, her assessment of my writing career: you used to write so beautifully. Me: oh, you mean high school, right -- you're always complimenting me on my poetry in high school. Rose: maybe you're right, but that wasn't high school writing. Me: I have some of those poems, I've read them and they're all right but they're overly grand, stagy and obsessed with big themes like God and that's just not that interesting to me right now.

This is after I'd given her a long description of my new novel, only to hear: that's the same thing you're always writing about. Then we end up arguing about whether everyone is always addressing the same themes, I say something about how she's still painting squares but they're not the same squares, right? It's a logic game -- I know she's not going to agree with me, but if I can just keep my tone measured and still confront her, then the conversation is kind of amusing at least I don't feel shut off.

Oh, and another grandmotherly gem, we’re talking about printers for digital cameras and Rose says: I don't have as much money as I used to. I haven't asked her to buy me one, although I can't say that it's not on my mind -- but at the moment I'm just explaining the technology. I'm not sure what she means -- I say: where did it go? She says: it went to your mother.

Oh, my mother with the four million dollars, that's a good place for it -- if I had more money, I'd send some to her too. I figure Rose means the money my mother's spending on creating a portfolio and a website for Rose's artwork, but I say my mother? She says yes, I gave Bill $250,000. I say why did you give him $250,000? She says because they needed it to buy the condo. Which doesn't make any sense. Rose says it was money that he would've gotten after I died anyway, but I was worried about taking care of myself in my old age and not being a burden on anyone but he said: you know, Mom, I will always take care of you.

Which is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life -- it sounds like a scene from some movie, and I can't even imagine my father uttering such a phrase to the mother he could barely stand talking to. "You know, Mom” -- like something out of a ‘50s cartoon. These people are so fucking crazy about their finances, I can’t even guess the real story -- I mean, my father definitely didn't need the money, that much I know for sure. And I can't imagine that my grandmother thought that he needed the money, either. Maybe it's something about taxes, I know a lot about family lies but not much about taxes.

I don't think of what I really want to say until later. I want to say: Why do you keep telling that I don't want to get better? It just makes me feel disempowered and overwhelmed, and I already feel that way all the time. Is your goal to make me feel worse, or to help me to feel better? It's insulting to tell me that my writing in high school was the best writing of my life, just because you weren't afraid of it. My writing is getting better and better, and if it threatens you then that's your issue, not mine.


grantatee said...

i like what you said at the end.

and you'll probably have another chance to say it.

love you,

sulphur bottom said...

mine wears a huge pin that says, "QUEEN BITCH"

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Grant, I'm thinking of writing a letter, she's always asking me to write a letter... probably not that letter, but well it would be a letter, right?

And Sulphur, if only my grandmother would rise to that level of honesty...

Love --

michele said...

ha! this exchange made me laugh with (angry) recognition. with me and my family it's usually something along the lines of, "you used to have such beautiful hair" (ie when it was super long and not dykey-short).
they say this in a way that I'm clearly supposed to take as a compliment - rather than as an insult to my current appearance.
if I dare make a sarcastic response they get all defensive and hostile. how could I be so rude when they've just given me a compliment??

I don’t know if the relatives are mean and nutty towards me because part of them is trying to help in their oh so dysfunctional way, or if they just want to make me as miserable as they are so they won't be alone in their unhappiness. probably both.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Michele, so lovely to hear from you over here! Thanks for this analysis -- it's hard not to see my grandmother's ridiculous comments as depressing and insulting, but I see what you mean about "probably both." How everything gets so twisted in her head and she actually believes she's being supportive...

Love --

Joan Kelly said...

Ugh. I wish your grandmother did not have such an unnatural response to you. The natural one is to go, "dang, I do so love that Mattilda."

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Oh, thank you Joan -- so much to tell her!

Love --