My grandfather is an interesting character The son of Italian immigrants with pennies to their name, he came out determined to make a success of himself and accomplished that in his 30s. He worked with investors to build businesses, including an organized family. This was always a family business, including me when I was 5. “If you can count you can sort invoices.” The companies were successful, my parents were a crucial part of that fact. This went on for years until he sold all but his first two businesses for a tidy sum.
The first two weren’t nearly as prosperous, but we still had jobs. The client list is smaller and his belief that his way is the only way, like no online marketing. Only to blame all others when it doesn’t work. While he is generous with his money, which is much appreciated, even if it comes with many strings. He’s also been a bit mean, and no one is good enough. He sees what everyone is doing and cannot stop judging and yelling or saying he’ll take you out of his will. That is until 2 years ago.
That mostly changed over the last couple of years, he has prostate cancer and has to take testosterone-lowering drugs, he had the same amount as a young man. This explains so much about his temperament & aggressive behavior that was a double-edged sword. Since it’s been lowered his aggression has decreased as well, all that’s left are the neural pathways of how he thought his whole life, that’s not going to change. So, he’s calmed down but can still get nasty, though not with me so much anymore, and I was lucky to not be included in most of his grumpiness. However, looking at actions, not words, he has his heart in the right place. He’s seen his family through addiction, psychosis, and is always there to help. If you call him, he always picks up ready to help. That increased for the treatment of me when I took my trip lower functioning end of the scale.
He’s only in our home state about three months a year, and we kept all of my mental health issues close to the chest with everyone, so he didn’t know much about it, just that I was unable to work in the office anymore but was still doing my job. When he arrived last year, it was around this time that we were playing with multiple diagnoses, before everyone agreed on bipolar 1 rapid with psychosis & mixed. When we didn’t know exactly what was going on, all my symptoms. He listened attentively and then asked, “What will you do when I sell the businesses?” I went straight into dissociation (now we know it’s PTSD), and scared even him. I left, and he called my Dad very worried about what he just did.
This time went differently. This time I am fully medicated, which is how he figured out the Bipoar. I was trying to scoop some salad but my hand decided to tremor and drop the spoonful, so I had to explain.
“This is just a part of the medications I take for Bipolar”
“You’re bipolar? Like Sarah?
I got mad, fast. Sarah is my aunt who does also have bipolar, I’m not sure where on the spectrum. She is also an alcoholic, neglected her children to the point of my Mom crossing state lines to get her son out of the house where he was so neglected he resorted to eating cigarettes out of the ashtray at 5 years old. At one point my Dad went to see her and help sell her house and walked into the basement filled with monkey poop due to her intriguing pet choices and lack of cleanliness. I did not like being compared to her at all. However, outwardly, I wasn’t mad, I was able to control it, and it felt amazing to be able to do so.
We spent the next two and a half hours talking, him amusedly trying to get me to gossip about everyone, but that’s not my thing. I either corrected or neglected to answer in a calm matter of fact way. I’m very proud of myself today, my emotions were in check. From our conversation, I figured him out a bit more, all of his complaints and statements centered around him wanting everyone else to be successful like him. He’s scared that we won’t be able to take care of ourselves when he goes, cancer making him feel his mortality. The conversation went better as we continued to not talk and the topics moved onto safer subjects: his life before I arrived, old relatives and business partners. Except for the part where he asked what my husband would do if he sold the companies. Oi.
After that part of the lunch we did something that we haven’t been able to do in years. We talked of my grandmother, her beauty, her passion, intelligence. I spoke of how most of my memories were playing with her as she went in & out of the kitchen, she was always cooking. I loved her with all of my heart, she was everything to me. The one that accepted me inside & out no matter what. She was a light in our lives and my heart aches that she can not meet Hannah. She was so amazing until she succumbed to lung cancer. He did all he could to keep her alive, he would have spent every last cent. His new wife obliterated all photos she could, but speaking of her is a whole other post.
It’s difficult with a family member holding all the power, most holidays and meals with him are tense & everyone is worried. he swears he’s not going to give anyone anything but does it anyway. He has a good heart and a lot of bluster. I would have never figured this out if he hadn’t calmed down with new meds. I heard he even started taking lithium, they’ve found it helps the elderly that are going into dementia.
When I first noticed the change in his behavior I was angry. I was finally getting a loving and cuddly Grandpa, but only for a short amount of time. I enjoyed our time together this year and hope I’ll have the opportunity for more interactions. I may be the only safe one in the family, it may be selfish for me to think this way, but we have finally bonded, and I don’t want him to leave my life. I have tears as I type this. I believe it’s time for more phone calls when he’s out of town.
When we talked about his friend offering to buy my cookies and I said that I legally couldn’t without a commercial kitchen, he responded with, “Sounds like an easy excuse” OK, I’m going to walk down the street at pick one up at Costco…
Yoga Note: It’s normal for the skin on your big toe to tear a bit. I was annoyed with my until my teacher showed me hers.