Saturday, March 21, 2015

Generational Narcissism: My Grandmother


There were major generational aspects to the narcissism I dealt with. Aunt Scapegoat, my mother's sister was the scapegoat of the previous generation, but what about her mother, my grandmother?

My memories of my grandmother are convoluted. I found her somewhat easier to talk to if we were both alone or on the regular phone calls I made to her. When I was in my early 20s, and I'd go on visits by myself to the relatives, she actually would tell me, "Your mother has major problems", and told me once, "Maybe you should write a book about how your mother treated you!". With my grandmother, all the family ideals came together, she was worshipped by everyone and some of the same dynamics applied, everyone wanted to please her, EVERY ONE. My mother's dynamics with the family are the exact same as my grandmother's where the family forms a nexus that rotates around her.

Her book idea for me is irony of ironies.  Before the smear campaigns by my mother were strengthened a few in the family behind closed doors would admit I was treated rotten. Only problem was it was never done in open. Looking back at that, the me of today, asks "Why did you stand silently by as the abuse went on?". She never contradicted my mother either. She never criticized her. She never stood up for me. She believed everything she told her too and did so even more.  Today I know the realities of generational narcissism, it ran like an evil thread through my mother's family. My grandmother was no innocent herself.

In my mind I question some of the better memories I have with my grandmother, buying eggs on a farm, times I spent at her house but I can't ignore how many of her qualities intersected with my mother's or some of the ill treatment and oddness of the latter years. Every kid wants to love their grandmother too, and since she was so idealized within the family, I never thought to analyze her or her actions until very later. I hope this makes sense.

One thing never let narcissists fool you this way. Some really do play Spy Vs. Spy. Good cop and bad cop. Good cop is still a narcissist who may mistaken for being on your side just because they are a little bit nicer.

My grandmother was no ally in a crowd either. She laughed too when the cricket came out and Uncle Narcissist played his games. One time I came down to visit when I was around 19 years old, and I was going to stay at her house but planned to also visit Aunt Scapegoat, and the Aunt that Loved Me.

 She decided to starve me while I was staying at her house to lose weight. What would one week do but she was insistent! She said to me, "You are too fat and only need one meal a day". When I was 19, I was still in the 200s, and actually had lost weight to the lower 200s at that time because I had worked at a camp as an arts and crafts director and counselor all summer. Unlike kind grandmas that would pile on cookies and goodies on their grandchildren, mine was the complete opposite. She wanted me hypoglycemic and on the floor. She wanted to give me only toast and coffee for the entire day and claimed that is all she ate. She weighed at least 200lbs so I didn't believe it. At the time, I argued and then just decided to eat out or at another relatives house when I got hungry. After all I was down there with my own car. She couldn't control what I ate.

More weirdness started on that particular starvation visit, as I was told not to call Aunt Scapegoat next door and told she was "too busy" to see me even though I drove 120 miles to get there. Aunt Scapegoat did not work. Were they already trying to hide the broken down trailer with no running water? I do not know. As a teen I was friends with Aunt Scapegoat where we even traded letters but that soon ended under these pressures. My grandmother copied my mother's isolating me from others. Perhaps my mother even instigated all this?

There are times of other meanness too, I remember. Now keep in mind my contact with my grandmother was far less then my mother. My grandmother lived in an old farm house, where to come down from upstairs, you had to go down this long tight flight of stairs, with no windows. They were pitch dark at night, since she lived in the country and there was a door at the end of them downstairs.  Her farm house was modernized and had normal electricity. She would not allow any night light. I was scared of the dark as a child and I was petrified especially when I had to go to the bathroom.  My family lived in large cities so even with all the lights out it was never pitch black. She actually expected us little kids, to "feel" our way down the stairs in the dark. As a teen I got smart and got flashlights that I hid from her upstairs to make my way down, but as child, I would almost tumble down those worn stairs and slid down them at least once or twice.

My treatment was grew worse by as I got older it never would be repaired. My grandmother would send me cards but major rejection set in for my weight and would only worsen after my severe weight gain. My mother and grandmother when they got together would become more cruel about my weight. One day the entire family ate sausage take-out pizzas and me a turkey sandwich because I am lactose intolerant. They started yelling at me for being fat and I lost it! I turned to them and said, "Look how you all pigged out on pizza! How dare you! My body works different!" Yes I cussed too. I was tired of being stomped on. Both would work in tandem against me.

 My family lived further away, 500 miles for a time, and 120 miles during my teens and later. However my grandmother had three adult grown children all living on the same farm road in a row.  Maybe it was the cheap farm land or maybe it was narcissistic dynamics and control. Have you ever seen a family where there were 4 houses in a row of the same relatives?

 My Uncle with his family lived a field and another house down to the left, the Aunt That Loved Me until 1987 when she died lived next door to her on the left where her and her husband before they divorced built a late 1970s modern home with bright orange counters in the kitchen. Aunt Scapegoat lived in her broken down trailer next door on the right.  A great-Aunt lived further down the road. Corn fields were intermingled with these houses. I was jealous of all the cousins who got so much family closeness as only had our rare yearly visits but maybe we were better off. I tried to get close to but what did I have in common with a woman that grew up on a dirt farm with 12 brothers and sisters, and who had 7 children, three of whom died before the age of 36? She considered me an over-educated book worm and dilettante.

Sad to say it, I now see my grandmother as a narcissist too. I haven't made up my mind about her being as toxic as my mother or not such as in her being an out and out sociopath. But I saw serious problems while growing up. I remember the favoritism she showed my mother. She would snipe about my mother behind her back but she had total respect for her and always gave in to her and let my mother run every show on every visit. My mother was the obvious golden child. If you are an ACON, in most cases you will see these obvious narcissistic generational patterns. Perhaps your family like mine has the scapegoats of the previous generations as well.

She praised my Uncle Narcissist who was her youngest son and piled food on him, including as many fried bologna sandwiches he wanted after his endless baseball games. She praised him constantly, his grades, his jobs, his work, his hunting and other skills were the best. He was not controlled and could do whatever he wanted coming and going as he pleased.  My "lost boy" uncle, she was generous with the food but basically ignored him while he said nothing. He still is one of the most silent people in the world. I don't even know him enough anymore to write anything good or bad. He seems a pleasant fellow who obviously isn't throwing his adult children out of his house. With my Aunt Scapegoat, the criticisms never ended. She'd shout at her for being fat, for eating a second plastic bowl of potato chips, for not getting a good job. Aunt Scapegoat was the designated "loser" while my mother and Uncle Narcissist were deemed the "winners. I would hear about stuff she did 20 years ago, every joint smoked and every visit to the bar. In my family total abstinence wins no favors either. Even those who never drink or drug can end up scapegoats.

My grandmother played favorites among the grandchildren too. I was not the most hated grandchild but second in line. That role was reserved for my brother. She would actually when I was alone with her, would tell me how much she hated my brother. Today I know this is sick, to tell a little girl how much you hate her brother. One time my brother had a fit when he was twelve years old while my grandmother was babysitting us kids, and she never forgave him for talking back and stomping down the road out of the house. When my brother was young, he had bedwetting problems which can be related to physical problems, and my grandmother would talk about the sodden sheets for hours and how disgusting it all was. Of course in this way she was not much different then my parents. Thank God I never wet the bed, they piled the abuse on and then some for that one. You would have thought the world came to an end the day he peed his sheets while sleeping on her floor.

Around a year before my grandmother died, I went to a family party that was held for by my mother's husband of a few years. It was a graduation party for his granddaughter but several relatives were all there. I sat by my grandmother trying to talk to her but she kept getting up to talk to my mother and other relatives and ignored me.

In 2005, there had been a family battle because the year before, I told my family I was against the use of embryos in stem cell research. Never disagree with narcissists. The small disagreement or wavering from their stances will earn their hatred. They nearly ripped my head off. Aunt Scapegoat called me a "Christer"! My grandmother sneered at me for voting for Bush. [actually I had already rejected both the major parties by that time] A shouting match ensued. They all turned on me. I didn't want to fight about it but move on to the next topic. It was a disaster. That day it seemed the hatred they had for me moved up another notch, but I had suspected since I had become a born again Christian, there was no love lost from around 2002 onward.

Anyhow back at the 2006 graduation picnic, I am sitting next to my 20 year old cousin, asking him how does he like college? I suspect this guy of being a schizoid, his Dad is the Uncle "Lost Boy", the silent stoic, and he literally just grunts at me, and refuses to talk to me. I have never seen him emote anything but anger and bored indifference.  Sometimes I wonder if I will see him in the newspaper one day.  He gives me the willies. He still lives at home with his parents nine years hence.

For years I had seen him on visit's to my mother's house and he would never talk. Him and his other very tall brother would sit there and eat and say absolutely nothing.  At 6 foot, 6 inches, he stared down at me. I trying to be way too people pleasing, say "Hey I liked college, so how is State U?" and I get another grunt. I wonder how this guy made it past the admissions office. He gets up to get another drink, and my grandmother comes back.  She looks at me, down her nose and says to me, "You know A**** s is my favorite grandchild, you are not!" "He knows when to keep his mouth shut.". "When he drives me to the grocery store, I don't have to listen to his prattling on". I remember saying something to her like "Well he doesn't talk at all, and he better learn to if he ever hopes to have a job of any kind when college is over." Inside I am hurt, how could she say that to me?  I and my husband leave the picnic early, I am fed up.

 One thing about my grandmother that used to astound me is she had no emotions, she never cried or showed fear either. It used to bother me as a child. She was just like my mother in these attributes. I saw her as less cold and mean then my mother but such things are relative. After all I was only around her in measured dosages. There were no hugs or kisses from her either.  I remember talking to Aunt Denial about this, and she would tell me, "Oh that's just the way they are" but this aunt who married into the family worshipped her mother-in-law. The same worshipful attitude people have towards my mother was the same for my grandmother. No one ever disagreed with her. No one ever bantered with her either. Where they afraid of her too like my mother?

 This was beyond old school reticence though, and when she got pancreatic cancer and was told she was terminally ill, in 2007 watching her wait for death like she was waiting for the bus, creeped me out. It was something that truly bothered me and still does. Some may tell me, well that is the older generation they were taught not to complain especially before the era of therapists and tell-alls but this was something beyond that. She just didn't seem to care that much. I've seen more stoic people die before, they keep quiet, don't tell you of all the pain they are in. I'm not stoic but know even when I am very sick, the natural inclination is to withdraw.

I'd call her on the phone on a regular basis, and she'd act like nothing was happening and talk about mundane matters. I couldn't go any deeper. There was one moment, near the end on the phone when I awkwardly tried to show her affection,  and told her, "I love you." and she said NOTHING in response, not even the polite "Thank you." or "Me too". This bothered me quite a bit.  Embarrassed, I scrambled to get off the phone. She was still wholly lucid at this time. I had to accept she did not love me either.

It would haunt me for some time, the way she dealt with death. It still does. I have faced almost dying before as people know on here, but a few years later around 2010, I would lose two close friends to death, and it was nothing like this. There were tears and goodbyes, and desperate pleas. I hope I did not fail them in offering them comfort though both these friends were far away. I still miss them but there was more of a sense of closure. With both friends, we talked about dying openly, I told them how I would miss them, I told them I loved them and received a response as long as they could still talk. One would have her sister send me photographs and pictures and the cards I sent her for the 17 years of our friendship. Another friend I talked about God to her.

With my grandmother, there was no emotion shown. At the age of 81, she had chosen not to go to extreme measures for the cancer. There was no regrets, or tears or even discussion of pain I saw. My families refusal to discuss health problems or share pain, only made my own pain and health problems far worse. This was 2007 and I had already dealt with my own health crises for many years.

I went to go visit her about 6 months before she died. She looked wizened and had lost a lot of weight but still was there mentally but without emotions as I describe. My mother had taken her into her home and hired hospice to come in to take care of her before putting her in the hospice center when she no longer could get out of bed. Now this was a very hard time for me, my husband had just lost his job, we were fearing homelessness and had just moved to where we live now after a year and half of employment.

Let's just say I was stressed out, and was having feelings about my grandmother dying. I don't like to see anyone suffer. Anyhow, my grandmother and other relatives are inside, and my mother and Aunt Denial are sitting outside on my mother's new deck that she forced her 70 plus year old husband to build for her. I sit out there, and they are discussing theatre shows and telling me to stop looking so glum. I said, "Well I am worried about my husband losing his job", but I shut up after that one sentence, because I figure my grandmother is dying and my problems are lesser. As they go on about their theatre shows--I forget the exact ones but its high priced ticket ones I never could afford my mother turns to discussion about the care of my grandmother.

Now this is a time where the veil got ripped off, I have discussed before.

My mother complains about my grandmother being sick, she is not cleaning her up or any of the hardcore stuff, but complains about the medications and insulin and having to maintain her sugars. She looks over at Aunt Denial and me, and says "She's taking too long to die!"

Some of my hugest regrets in life is not answering back and saying "What in the hell is wrong with you?" but I suppose my being no contact is a message of a sort isn't it?  I actually felt the earth tilt on it's axis. Perhaps this is the very day, I knew exactly what my mother was.  I always thought if anything since my mother was my grandmother's favorite, that she loved her in return even with some of the backbiting. In reality my mother who had spent a lifetime telling us how much she loved her mother, couldn't wait for her to shuffle off this mortal coil.

I would go into the other room. One thing about me, and my health, infection can settle in fast. And when I mean fast, it can come on within minutes. The doctors allow me to have emergency antibiotics, because I proved to them emergency antibiotics can mean the difference between a three week death's door, blood infection hospital stay vs. rest and being able to handle an infection at home. Stress and extreme emotional trauma can trigger infections in me.

I did not wrap back then and was not getting lymphedema treatment yet, that came years later. I go and cry in the bathroom tired of evil shallow women, suck it up and walk out to the living room where my grandmother is sitting and I feel these immense feelings of incredible sadness that are hard to explain. I put my legs up and notice with my horror, the "red spots" are there but say nothing to nobody.  Red spots on my bad leg mean an infection is coming. My grandmother sitting in her cancer wizened thinness looks over at me, and says nonchalantly "What's wrong with your leg, it's turning all red, you should do something about that!" as if it is all in my control.

That's one thing I remember from the both of them, the rude comments about my swelling lipedema legs, as if I woke up one day and decided to get huge giant legs. But what gets me is how she is commenting on my health conditions while she is dying of cancer like I am the one with the problem and not her. Anyhow thankfully I am able to bow out, tell my husband it's time to leave and act polite and tell my grandmother, "I am fine." I am lying of course. This is the last time in 2007, that I saw many of the other relatives too.

Three months later, I don't go to her funeral. For me it is an act of self preservation. I hope you can understand why.

 I don't have money to go anyhow. No one offers any. I feel like I will "die" if I go, and can't even explain that to anyone. Inside I feel this cold dark feeling regarding the family that has never ceased. I know my status in the family is lowered a few notches in refusing to come to the matriarch's funeral though I do order and send flowers that I can't really afford.


  1. This is a fascinating and very sad account to read. Yes, I believe narcissism definitely runs like poison in the blood. It does in my family too. I believe in my mother's case, both her parents were narcs too. She was the Golden Child and probably was sexually abused by her father. She hated her own mother, who used her depression as an excuse to never leave her bed or take care of her family. My mother took over the household chores and taking care of her father, and became a sort of mini-wife to him, while her mother (my grandmother) became increasingly envious of her youngest child (who had most likely already become a narc by her teens).

    Your family is just very creepy. I feel like it's okay to say that to you. I hope you find you aren't related to them. I can't believe the callousness of the women in your family, especially your mother. "She's taking too long to die." WTF? That reminds me of something that happened when I was about 7. My grandmother (mother's mother) was in the hospital after suffering a major stroke and was incontinent and had to be fed. Now I know my mother hated my grandmother, but I could never forget what she said when we were outside the hospital: "she is disgusting. She stinks!" I don't remember any concern or empathy whatsoever. I don't like my mother but I would still feel bad if I saw her suffering and incontinent and in pain. My mother has no feelings at all. --Lucky Otter

  2. Thanks anon I appreciate it. Yes narcissism is generational and often on the spiritual level evil is too among those who never repent. Often narcs are raised by narcs. I think those of us who escape and do not become narcs and or sociopaths may be the exception. I can believe your mother hating her mother too. Even the Golden Children who do their bidding in obedience and following their directions and abusing chosen scapegoats absolutely hate them. My mother will pay the price when it's her conscience-less golden child daughter taking the brunt of her elder care [lots of money for good assisted living may take the edge of] but she will feel that one day. Even the way she complained about her not being able to hear was creepy and sociopathic--given I am severe hearing impaired and guess who got to hear the complaints? It sounds like your mother came out of a sick set up. I knew my grandfather who died in his 50s was abusive, remember the day he went nuts over me losing a sock. I was afraid of him. I wonder what other family dynamics existed. My mother on rare occasion when we were in a fight otherwise she hid everything about her childhood complained about the taking care of "babies", for her mother and missing school.

    My family is creepy. They creeped me out for years. Even my husband for years has said they are creepy. It is okay to say that to me. I hope I find out I am not related to them too. My husband is worried for me in finding out I am biological [at least with one]--the lipedema had to come from somewhere and one therapist told me maybe someone had an affair, so I am trying to mentally prepare for anything in that realm. If I find out I am adopted, I will be relieved and it will explain some lies but understanding the actions of the creeps is near impossible. My mother is so callous it is unbelievable. The day she said she wanted Aunt Scapegoat to die, and that her colostomy bag stunk---hmm just like your mother with your grandmother was a day, I knew sick disabled me had to run for the hills. I didn't want to be Aunt Scapegoat being abused while ill. Even the inability to understand physical decline and the narc sociopathic thoughts it would never happen to them is disgusting. There was no concern or empathy at all. I don't like anyone to suffer not even people like this but you are right your mother had no feelings and neither does mine. Frankly two years in, I am relieved to be away from them all. All the blind enablers and flying monkeys now trouble me as much.