Commenting on parenting, soul-searching, and everything in between... on YOUR blog!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Keeping it in the family

Have you ever watched those crazy families on Jerry Springer or some other trashy talk show?  You know the ones, the wife left her hubby to marry her cousin and now she's pregnant and not sure if the baby belongs to said cousin or her uncle?   My family could be on that show.  Ok, not we're not quite the same as that family, but it's pretty strange.

My grandmother got married when she was only 15.  She had my mother a year later, and they had a son (my uncle) a few years after that.  It was a rough life. They didn't have a lot.  My grandparents didn't have a great marriage.  He was quite a bit older than her (close to ten years, I believe), and things were rocky. 

[Hmm, as I writing this, I realize that I don't know many of the details.  It's not something that the family sits around the kitchen table chatting about.]  On to say that my grandfather ended up having an affair with... my great-grandmother.  That's right.  His wife's own mother!  He left my grandmother and the two kids, and continued his relationship with his mother-in-law.  Needless to say, my grandmother was devasted.  Not only did her husband, who was the only bread-winner of the family, just leave her and her children to fend for themselves, but he left her for her mother!  I can't imagine how she felt.  She had no money, no husband, and no mother to cry to or lean on for support.

They divorced and she got on with her life.  She provided for her children as best as she could.  After a few years she found another man.  A gentle, caring man who she married (and is still married to).  And my grandfather married my great-grandmother.  His ex-mother-in-law.

So, yes.  My grandfather was also my step-great-grandfather.  My great-grandmother was my step-grandmother.  Meaning my mom's grandmother became her step-mother.  How weird is that?!

I got thinking about this and what really struck me is my grandmother's attitude and her relationship with her mother.  I'm sure the first few years were rocky.  Maybe they didn't even speak to each other.  But she came to forgive her mother.  When I was little, I had no idea that there had ever been a problem.  My great-grandmother was at my nan's house everyday.  They talked together, drank tea together.  Their homes were only a short walk through a path in the woods away from one another.  And my grandmother's new husband became friends with her ex.  Good friends.  They would visit and do things together all the time.  My great-grandmother had some health problems, and it was Nan who took care of her until she died.

I don't think I could do that.  My mom and I are close.  We are great friends.  But how can you forgive something like that?  And how could a mother even contemplate doing that to her daughter and grandchildren?  I consider myself to be a forgiving person.  I may not forget, but I do make an effort to forgive.  But I would have a hard time with this.  I suppose you never know how you will react to something so devastating until it happens, right?  Maybe they had a heart-to-heart and she was at peace with it.  It's true that they most likely would have divorced anyway.  As I mentioned, I don't know the fine details of the story, but I do know that my grandmother made some incredible sacrifices and decisions for her children.  Maybe forgiving her mother was something she felt she had to do for the sake of her family.  Whatever the reason, I think it took a lot of strength for her to continue a relationship with her.  She was, and still is, a very strong and amazing woman.

What do you think you would do in this situation?
Do you have any crazy family stories to share?
Do you ever watch trashy talk shows ("You ARE the father!")?


  1. that's amazing. the forgiveness part in particular.

    i have some stories too: i have an aunt who married and divorced the same man three times. and some others but ive gotta go :(

  2. No problem, Alex. Thanks for stopping by!
    I think most people have at least one special relative to tell a story about.

  3. Wow... My head was spinning trying to keep up :)
    I don't know that i'd be able to do that as well. That's really a testament to (like Alex said) forgiveness.

  4. That was a brain test for sure!
    Unbelievable the forgiveness that families are able to muster for one another. Not sure I could have done that.
    My family is crazy but I think just in the normal-every day-every family has crazy people kind of way.

  5. Wow, that is a ZINGER of a story. We have some crazy family stories, but nothing that crazy.

    Honestly, I'm not sure I could forgive my mother. I'm a bit of a grudge-holder at the best of times, and this is such a major betrayal. Your grandmother must be an incredibly forgiving woman!

  6. That is a bit convoluted! All I have is my great-great grandparents who were first cousins and had rhyming names and my grandparents who married each other three times, divorcing twice.

  7. Sorry guys! Didn't mean to make it so confusing... it made PERFECT sense in my head (since I already know the story, of course)!

    Charlotte - Married first cousins with rhyming names? That is DEFINITELY trashy talk show-worthy. ;-)

  8. Wow! First, forgiveness is potent stuff.

    Family stories - yes! My great great grandfather was a railroad man with at least 3 families. Yikes! His daughter NEVER forgave that. And, on another side, there was an aunt who was engaged, learned her sister was pregnant by her fiancé and gave her sister the wedding dress she'd spent a year sewing.

    Shannon, you are kindness itself. Thank you!

  9. Holy, wow! What a confusing story - not in how you told it, but with all the overlapping titles!

    So, was it weird for your mom? What was it like to have her grandma married to her father? That must have been confusing.

    That is quite a story of forgiveness. Kudos to your grandmother. As for me? I probably would have forgiven my mom for doing that... I have forgiven her for doing things that I feel was an equal betrayal, or worse even.

  10. Kate - those stories are doozies! She GAVE her the wedding dress?! Wow.

    Sarah - Yes, I think it was pretty confusing and hard - especially for my mom's little brother. I think my mom finally did forgive her dad, but not until she was quite older.

    I'm so sorry to hear about your mother. A mom should be there for their children to love, support, protect. Never betray. I'm not sure what kind of relationship you have now, but it's nice that you seem to have such a good one with your brother. {hugs}

  11. Thanks, Shannon. I can honestly say I'm over it. It took a decade, but it's over now. No easy feat, though. She and I get along really well now and understand each other on a deeper level than we might have, otherwise. I think realizing it she was falliable and then spending ten years contemplating her worth to me was a powerful process.

    Yes, my brother and I have always been close.

  12. Wow! Sounds like Jerry Springer of yore, though it seems like all partied handled it relatively well, all things considered. If it had happened today, Jerry probably wouldn't have let them be on the show unless they promised to pull each other's hair out! =>