My Grandma is awesome. She’s been there for me my entire life, never forgets a birthday and we have a special bond. She lives in Florida now and I’m in New York so unfortunately we don’t see each other often. My Grandpa was a hard working family man who passed away about 5 years ago so my Grandma lives alone in their retirement community. I grew up idolizing my Grandparent’s marriage and relationship. My Grandpa suffered from debilitating anxiety, went through a rough time around 50 years old and retired early. He spent his entire life busting his ass at work so that his wife could stay home and raise their 3 children comfortably. He worked so hard that when his anxiety was too much to bare at 50 years old he retired early and my Grandma continues to live off of his earnings today (she’s 82 years old).
My husband and I just returned from Florida where we stayed with my Grandma for a week. I’m glad that I got to see my Grandma. We’ve always been close and every time after I see her now I think that it could be the last time. However, despite the fact that I know she’s a good person she said some things this past week that just hasn’t sat well with my husband or I. The only explanation I have for it is our generational gap. Let me explain.
This little old lady is nice to your face no matter who you are. It’s what she says behind closed doors that you would find appalling.
What I heard this week was racist. Hateful. Ungrateful. Without empathy. Towards all types of ethnicities. Sexual orientation. Gender.
People who know me know that I’m passionate about gender equality. That I judge people buy their actions and not what they look like. That I have a whole lot of empathy for those who are underprivileged. I’m not like this because of the way I was raised because I was raised by people who do not necessarily have these same values. I think I’m like this because of my generation. I’m a millennial who has grown up in an equality movement. My Grandma grew up when segregation was still a thing and you lived your life according to the Bible. You stayed at home and raised babies and made dinner instead of having a job or having a career.
Here are a few of the things that went horribly wrong this past week:
1. Grandma commented on every female’s appearance. “She’s hideous”, “she’s fat”. How about we judge people based on what’s on the inside, no?
2. Grandma insulted a gay couple that lives next door to her. She thinks they are bad people because they are gay. “I wonder what they do over there all day? Probably pile on top of each other – gross!”, “He likes men and that’s wrong”, “I bet they’re drug addicts and he picks up men at the gay bar”. My mother in law is gay. My poor husband listened to these insults all week and maintained composure until the end. A saint.
3. My Grandma blatantly does not like minorities. She says derogatory terms like “colored person”, tells me she doesn’t like Mexicans and says that if any of the women in my family ended up with a minority we would have been disowned. How awful is this thought process? My cousin married a Mexican woman and she’s lovely. She probably doesn’t know a minority personally. Ignorant.
4. My Grandma and I were watching the news one morning when she said “there are too many women reporting the news. This is a mans job. I like to get my news from a man behind the desk.” WHAT?! All of these things are horrendous. This one impacted me personally as a female who has a career and works hard to break that glass ceiling.
5. My Grandma never talked down on my Grandpa for having a mental illness until he passed away. Now she’s saying he was awful to deal with and she had to be his therapist for years and she’s happy he’s no longer with us. My Grandpa had awful anxiety. He treated my Grandma like a queen. Always. She had the best life because of him and he was always there for her when she needed him. When he needed her she was there, but resents him for it. Heart breaking.
6. My Grandma’s cousin married a man who lived a double life. He had 2 wives and had families with both. When her cousin found out she was horrified but stayed with him despite knowing he was involved in and supporting another family. Grandma said she had to stay and men just do what they want. My Mother was subjected to domestic violence by my Father. Despite that, my Grandma told her to stay with him. My Dad was beating the shit out of her daughter and she told her to stay with him. What??
7. I struggle with anxiety as well. My Grandma told my husband that he needs to beware of what is to come with me (thinking that I’ll follow in my Grandpa’s footsteps), telling him that I’m not confident. That I’m “mental”. Will be an “invalid”. My husband is my biggest fan and naturally came to my defense. That resulted in a heated exchange after which my Grandma told me that she thinks he’s “negative” and a “know it all”. That is not the case at all. No one knows how hard I fight.
People change with age. Experiences. Time. Truth is, that woman I grew up idolizing has always been this way. She’s just old now and doesn’t care about who she hurts or how she makes others feel.
I love my Grandma. But I’m disappointed in her lack of empathy and ignorance. I know there is nothing that you can do to make a 82 year old woman change her thought process. My husband tried.
What is interesting is that my Mom’s thought processes are between my Grandma’s and my own. I can only hope that the next generation continues to move in the right direction.
Love is love. We all bleed red. None of us are superior. It’s what’s on the inside that counts. Equal work equal pay.