Parents that are Grand…

I used to get this question a lot… ‘How did you turn out so normal considering your crazy childhood?’  I have to admit, I never knew how to answer.  I think ‘normal’ is a relative term, and I used to be stumped by the question.  It took me years to finally figure out what kept me sane through the craziness… my Grandparents!

Vera Jane and Forrest Grady Tate (circa 1965)

 

A little back story… My grandfather was a Southern Baptist minister, who was very physically abusive to his 4 kids. They were very strict with their kids.   Their only social life was all church all the time!  Sunday morning and evening… Tuesday bible study… Wednesday prayer meeting…etc.  So they all left home as quickly as they could and proceeded to go hog wild.  They’ve all had drinking problems, bad marriages, etc.

My mother was the least stable of the lot.  She’s been an alcoholic for most of my life (she wasn’t legal drinking age until I was 4), and she’s been divorced six times that I know of, not to mention all the men between (and sometimes during) marriages.  I recently learned she’s also bi-polar.  So dear old Betty has had quite the ride through her life.

I don’t think you need a psychology degree to make the connection between abusive father and insatiable search for love from a man.  She never felt her father really did love her.   I know he did love her.  But I think he loved me more.
I was just 21 in this picture with Granddaddy and had 2 babies of my own.

 

I didn’t put this all together until I was about 45 yrs. old.  Betty and I would be estranged for sometimes years, and then she’d cry and apologize and I’d give her another chance, because I so badly wanted it to be good.  I have given my mother more chances than you can imagine.  It’s always good… even fun for a while… then she goes to the dark side and hates me.

I had heard all the stories about how abusive my grandfather was and refused to believe them.  He had always adored me.  And, I lived with my grandparents more often than not in my 1st 10 years of life.  Add to that the fact that my mother was barely 17 when she had me.  Our relationship was more about sibling rivalry than mother and daughter.
The other big ‘aha’ was realizing that all those years I was dying inside wanting my mother to love me like a mother should love her child, I had 2 wonderful, loving parents… they were Grandparents!  I think my grandfather thought of me as his redemption.  I just know that they are the answer to the question…’how’d you turn out normal?’ 
My Grandparents on the 50th wedding anniversary

 

I have to add a strange but somewhat funny story to end this post.  Betty and I were visiting my Grandparents one day when I was about 8 years old, (she was on her 3rd husband then) and I sassed my Grandfather.  She looked at him and said, “If I’d ever spoken to you like that you’d have beat my ass!”  Then he looked at me and said, “Well maybe I ought to.”

All those stories I had been refusing to believe started rushing through my head!  I was scared to death when he said, “Girl, go lay across the bed while I get my belt!”   OMG!  So I did as he told me to and waited… and waited… then all of a sudden he came in and I could hear the belt being pulled from his pants and I held my breath… then I heard this big thwap and realized he had hit the bed.  He whispered to me, “You better scream girl!”

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5 comments

  1. Shelly Ruta

    You better scream, girl!! LOVE THAT! Great post, AGAIN!

  2. bernicewood

    Barbara,
    I just found you on Blog Frog and came over to read. I can so resonate with your stories of childhood! Not that mine are the same, but youspeak of being dysfunctional and wanting to be normal, and I have the same 'themes' in my blog. Come by and visit, check out the arviced 'ramblings' you will see posts about being normal. I also am dealing with an age thing, although I am just turning 45 this year! Oh, and I will be following you!

  3. LBDDiaries

    I adore this grandfather story. It gave me a lump in my throat.