When I was 13 years old my grandfather went to prison for molesting my cousin. That year a bomb hit my family. I was close to my aunts, uncles and cousins. We had family parties for birthdays and holidays, we spent a lot of time together. My family was shattered when this happened. My parents separated briefly and my relationship with my extended family would never be the same.
My grandfather pled guilty to the charges, he said to spare us all from a trial. But I knew he was a coward. When things happen in movies we never see what happens after the conviction and sentencing. We just see the perp convicted and everyone goes home satisfied.
I was particularly close to my grandparents. I spent most summers with them. When my grandfather went to prison, my grandma wanted me to come and stay because she didn’t want to be alone. Being the dutiful granddaughter, I went.
My grandfather called, collect, everyday. He cried on the phone, my grandma cried too. Witnessing this daily tornado of pain was excruciating.
My grandma was terrified that people in the community were going to come and hurt her because of what he had done. She was scared to death if anyone pulled down our road and she rarely went to town.
We sat at home and listened to the radio and watched TV. She cooked and we cried. She talked on the phone to her sisters and my aunts and uncles quite a lot. The consensus seemed obvious, she should divorce him while in prison and move to town, closer to family. It all seemed so easy.
Staying with her during that time I knew something most didn’t understand. She couldn’t divorce him. She was terrified he would hurt someone else, she had to stay and keep an eye on him. She was responsible for him and what he had done. Even at thirteen I knew this was wrong, but there was no convincing her.
I learned a lot about compassion that summer. My grandma was in an impossible situation, no matter what she did someone disagreed, and there was no answer that would bring her peace and happiness. All I could do was be there and love her.
My grandfather was released after serving only 6 months. They never show in the movies what a family does in this situation. It was ugly and painful. It was also filled with love and compassion. We could not leave my grandma behind because of his actions. We knew how she felt, we knew we had to help her keep everyone safe. And so we did.
We tentatively let my grandfather back into our lives, for my grandma’s sake. As children we were never allowed to be alone with him. My mom could barely speak to him, but we started seeing them regularly. They eventually moved in next door to my parents. As adults we helped care for them both. Many people in our family did not understand how we could do this. Didn’t we know he was a monster? Oh we knew alright, but we also knew that he and my grandma were human beings. Elderly, ill and in need of help. He may have been a monster, but we weren’t. We could not deny the need they had, we loved them both anyway.
I went deeper on this topic on my radio show, Kindred Spirits
Watch the show here!