An Unexpected Transition

, , , , , | Related | February 26, 2021

My grandpa is a very tall, straight-back, and straight-laced veteran with a no-nonsense attitude who diligently attends church every Sunday. He occasionally mentions his aunt and her friend; when Grandpa isn’t around, Granny clarifies that they’re lesbians in a long-term committed relationship and that Grandpa just isn’t comfortable talking about them like that.

Now, he is in his late eighties and has somehow gotten sterner. My mum, older sister, and I have gone over to see my grandparents. My older sister is dating a trans man. We are all having a chat in the living room and the subject of her boyfriend comes up. I can’t quite remember how it gets to this point, but it does.

Mum: “Oh, he’s a transman.”

Grandpa: “A what? What’s that?”

There’s a bit of an awkward pause and my sister glares daggers at my mum.

Sister: “He’s a transgender man. It means he was born a female, realised he was born into the wrong body, and is transitioning into man. He’s on hormone therapy and will soon have one of his surgeries, and I’ll be there to help him through it.”

Granny: “Oh… She’s—”

Grandpa: *Sharply* “He.”

Granny: “No, [Grandpa], she was born—”

Grandpa: “I heard. But he is a he. He is [Sister]’s boyfriend. He is a trans man. He is having hormones to be a man. He is thus a man and the appropriate pronoun is he.” *To my sister* “Unless he prefers different pronouns?”

Sister: “N-no, his pronouns are he/him.”

Grandpa: “There we go. He. Not she.”

Granny: “She’s clearly confused!”

Grandpa:No! He is not. I imagine he was much less confused when he was growing up not feeling like he belonged in his own body! You’re confused; he’s not! I hate that word! They called my aunt ‘confused’ and they set fire to her home and threw bricks through her windows because they were ‘confused’ by who she loved! They were happy, consenting adults. That’s all that mattered! This man is happy as a man, and it’s nobody else’s place to tell him he’s wrong or confused! It doesn’t affect anyone else!”

My grandpa died of cancer a few years back, but his tirade is a very fond memory I have of him as it allowed me to see a side I hadn’t known was there. My granny did improve her knowledge and opinions on transgender issues, though.

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Keep The Ring In The Family, Lose The Weird Prejudices

, , , , | Related | February 25, 2021

This conversation takes place when I’m at the age where jewellery starts becoming a part of my life. My mom promised me anything I wanted from her collection as a gift. She’s taken all her jewellery out and is showing me the pieces, one by one.

We’ve gone through a truly surprising number of pieces, including a ring engraved with my name that I am eyeing. But then she pulls out one last ring, and it stands out because of how old it looks.

Mom: “And this horridly outdated piece is our family engagement ring. It’s been passed down from mother to daughter since before World War Two. I got it off Grandma back when she thought she was going to die any day.”

Me: “Wait, what? But Grandma’s so healthy.”

Mom: “Turned out to be a false alarm, but she gave me all her jewels back then. She really regrets that now.”

Me: “Wait, it’s an engagement ring. How is it that mothers give it to daughters? I thought engagement rings were given by the guy?”

Mom: “Normally, it’s given from mother to daughter-in-law. Well, more accurately, the son will ask his mother’s permission to marry, and his mother will give him the ring to propose with. But as things happen, Grandma doesn’t actually like [Aunt #1], [Aunt #3], and [Aunt #4].”

Me: “What? But they’re all so nice.”

Mom: “Well, Grandma was supposed to give it to [Uncle #1], but she didn’t like [Aunt #1]. She thought she was a gold digger, so my older brother didn’t get the ring. Not that it stopped him.”

Me: “Ridiculous. [Aunt #1] is my nicest aunt.”

Mom: “My mom had this silly belief that brides shouldn’t be older than their groom, and [Aunt #1] is older than [Uncle #1].”

I shake my head in disbelief.

Me: “Then what happened with [Aunt #3]?”

Mom: “Back then, Grandma didn’t actually think architects were a real job. So she was really annoyed that [Uncle #2] became an architect. So when my younger brother married [Aunt #3], who was another architect… Well, there’s a reason they live in another country.”

Me: “I get the point.”

Mom: “And I trust we don’t have to discuss [Aunt #4]?”

Me: “Nope. I already know what Grandma thinks of [Aunt #2] marrying [Aunt #4].”

My mother’s older sister had to go overseas to do it, as Singaporean law forbade — and still forbids — same-sex marriage. Grandma still insists that the marriage is invalid.

Me: “So, because she never gave it away, you got it when she gave you all her jewels.”

Mom: “That, and I’m her only child that had a ‘respectable’ marriage.”

I snort.

Mom: “Anyway. That’s the last piece in my collection. Want the engagement ring?”

Me: “No, thanks. Maybe in the future. For now, the ring I want literally has my name on it.”

That conversation was nearly a decade ago. Now, I have that ancient engagement ring in hand and am about to go out for dinner with my girlfriend. Wish me luck.

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Who Doesn’t Love Unsolicited Advice?

, , , , | Related | February 18, 2021

Our daughter is less than a year old. We have gotten through some difficult spots but feel pretty in control; the baby is in routine, sleeping and feeding well.

I’m at a family house party with most of my wife’s family. My wife’s grandmother is there; she’s a lovely woman but has an opinion on everything and goes out of her way to share it. Before even a hello, [Grandmother] starts in:

Grandmother: “Are you feeding that baby enough?”

Me: “Yes, we’ve been feeding her as we should. Thank you.”

Grandmother: “You need to support the head more; let me show you.”

Me: “No, thank you. She has just fallen asleep. Hello, by the way.”

Grandmother: “She looks cold.”

Wife: “Grandmother, please! The baby is fine; we are fine. Leave [My Name] alone.”

Grandmother: “I’m just saying.”

She quietens down but keeps sniping at me throughout the night. I ignore most of it, but it is getting tiring. To my surprise, my wife’s father — [Grandmother]’s son — pulls me to one side.

Father-In-Law: “Hey, you’re doing a great job. I don’t like to say this, but [Grandmother] — bless her — didn’t know what she was doing half the time she was raising us. It’s a wonder we survived.” *Laughs* “Some people just can’t help themselves but open their mouths when they think they know better.”

The grandmother never did stop giving us “advice,” but after that, it was easier to ignore.

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The Ending Is Up-Beet

, , , , , , | Related | February 8, 2021

Since my grandma died, my eighty-nine-year-old grandad has stubbornly decided to live on his own. He is still quite able and independent, so the family respects this, but I am often on-call to deal with anything he needs help with, including medical appointments.

One Friday evening, I get a call from my mother who lives five hours away.

Mum: “You need to meet [Grandad] at the hospital!”

Me: “Oh, no! What happened?!”

Mum: “He found blood in his stool and he’s going to get checked out. I told him to wait for you but you know what he’s like. Please meet him there and wait with him.”

I head out without delay and meet him there. The doctor is very quick and schedules the tests. I wait with him throughout the night; sadly, the place is very busy, and we have to wait until midnight. He gets called in for the test, and we are told to wait for a phone call on Monday.

We head home, and as my grandad settles in, I do what I usually do when I visit him and check his fridge and cupboards to assess his food supply. My grandma was the cook, and since her passing, my grandad only really cooks ready-meals, which he enjoys, so everyone is fine. I open the fridge and spot something I can’t ignore.

Me: “Grandad, why are there ten packs of chopped beetroot in the fridge?”

Grandad: *Quite proudly* “They were on sale as they’re going off soon! I bought all of them!”

Me: “Have you been eating all of these? For how long? There is a lot here!”

Grandad: “I couldn’t be bothered to cook the other day, so I just had a big bowl of the beetroot while I watched the telly.”

Me: *Bridging my nose* “Grandad, do you think the ‘blood’ you saw in your stool might have been the ridiculous amount of beetroot you’ve been eating for the last few days?”

My grandad sits there for a moment until he realises what I have implied.

Grandad: “Now that I think about it…”

On Monday morning, the hospital calls and confirms my hypothesis when I tell them. Their response?

Hospital: “At least he’s getting his antioxidants!”

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Never Too Big To Be Grandma’s Little ‘Un

, , , , , | Related | February 3, 2021

My grandma has a habit of always referring to me, her only grandchild, as “the little ‘un”. When she is talking TO me, she just calls me by my name, or something like “darling” or “sweetie” — or “rascal” if I am misbehaving — but if she is talking ABOUT me, even if I am in the same room, she always calls me “the little ‘un”. This continues into my teenage years, and when I leave for university. I don’t mind it; I actually think it’s kind of sweet. But at one point, my aunt starts to think that I am getting too old for the nickname, and she has the following conversation with Grandma, which she later recounts to me.

Grandma: “Good thing the little ‘un is coming to visit this weekend; my radio is acting up again and she fixed it last time.”

Aunt: “Yeah, but Mom, seriously. [My Name] is twenty-one, at university, and living on her own, not to mention nearly a head taller than both of us, and neither of us is small to begin with. Don’t you think it’s time you stopped calling her ‘the little ‘un’?”

Grandma: *Smugly* “Nuh-uh! Doesn’t matter if she grows two meters tall and becomes a professor. She’ll always be my little ‘un!”

And she kept referring to me as “the little ‘un” until the day she died. I miss her.

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