Backed Herself Into A Back Problem

, , , , , , , , , | Related | December 15, 2017

My mother told me this story recently. My grandmother — an intractable, stubborn, and often vicious family matriarch if ever there was one — died not long ago and we were telling stories about her. This one made me laugh long and loud.

My grandmother was forever causing arguments with women in the family. She was determined to make sure that all the females in the family knew she was boss, end of story. The men, however, could do no wrong, especially my father, who was truly the apple of her eye.

My mother got into an argument with her. I had just been born — Mum and Dad’s first — and Mum was still getting used to me, and getting me into a routine of feeding and sleeping. Of course, my grandmother knew all there was to know about new babies and was forever butting in and driving Mum mad. One of her favourite tricks was to arrive at the house, with almost clairvoyant timing, just as Mum had got me to sleep, and insist on waking me up so she could spend time with me. Mum said that, had we lived far away from her so she only saw us occasionally, she wouldn’t have minded, but [Grandmother] lived just down the road and saw us every day. One day after it had taken Mum forever to get me to sleep, she absolutely forbade [Grandmother] from waking me, and the usual fight ensued.

Usually, Dad did what he and all the other male members of the family did when their wives, sisters, or daughters clashed with [Grandmother]; they did their ostrich trick and buried their heads in the sand. This time however, Dad came down on Mum’s side. He didn’t go to visit her, though he usually had morning tea with her every day, so she took to her bed with “back problems.”

When he still didn’t go to visit her, she let it be known that she was now paralysed. Still Dad stuck to his guns and stayed away. Finally, she was at death’s door and Dad didn’t give in. This went on for three days, and on the fourth day when [Grandmother] saw, from her bedroom window, Dad strolling down the road, this pain-wracked, paralysed, nearly dead woman leapt from her bed, ran down the driveway and screamed, “[Dad]! How dare you?! I am in agonising pain, I cannot move, and you ignore me! Ignore my suffering! What kind of son are you? Well, I’ll be dead in a day or so, and you and [Mum] will live with the knowledge that you caused it!”

My dad pointed out that she was standing on her own two feet, in her nightie, in the middle of the road. If she wanted this act of hers to really work, she would have to get back in bed and actually die. Then, he would feel sorry for her

It sounds harsh, I know, but it had the desired effect. Once [Grandmother] realised that her interfering in our family wouldn’t be tolerated and that she would, in fact, be excluded, she stopped being quite so hard on Mum. The only shame is that the other men in the family didn’t take a leaf out of Dad’s book and stand up to her when their wives, sisters, and daughters were being bullied. She carried on being as tough on them as she always had been.

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