How To Survive as a Family

To me it is very important to tell your kids, spouse, parents, siblings that you love them and tell them often.  My family was always like that but it became an affirmation, a way to tell each other to stay safe.  25 years ago our world was blown apart when we found out that my grandfather had murdered my Grammy.  Everything shifts and nothing is ever the same again.  Somehow we survived as a family and we are very strong but it wasn’t easy.

I remember where I was the last time I heard her voice.  Something was off as we were on holiday and she called out of the blue.  But it was a good conversation and I told her I loved her.  Two weeks later she was gone.  We’ve never found her.  I think that contributes to it still feeling raw after all these years.  Because we never found her we could never get the justice we were hoping for even though we knew immediately it was him so did the police but a funny thing called law got in the way.  In Massachusetts you need a body.  I think he knew that.

My aunt was living with them at the time so she moved in with us.  We had five people reeling all dealing with this differently.  I was in the middle of my teenage years and a couple of days after this happened I had to break up with my first boyfriend because he was cheating on me and he didn’t have the guts to break up with me.  The start of my sophomore year was surreal.  I was an angry person to begin with but man I was consumed after that.

My mum was working very long hours, trying to find Grammy, get some justice, and somehow manage to keep it all together.  I’m not sure how she did it.  I mean, it wasn’t completely successful, not sure how it could be, but I think she did better than most would have.  Being a parent now I understand you just keep going, you have no choice.

I have to hand it to my dad.  He was the glue.  He listened any time I needed it and he did that for all of us.  All the while grieving as he loved Grammy very much.  They were two peas in a pod.  But he was there.  Gradually we learned how to cope and learned how to laugh.  Even though each of us dealt with this differently none of us turned away from our family unit.  The show Broadchurch is on over here now and the first episode was so hard to watch.  It hit way to close to home.  But it also gave me a light bulb moment.  We were spared the seeds of doubt.  In the show each of the parents have secrets which makes the other question.  I can see how families don’t survive.  I don’t know what would have happened if it happened in our household.  We never had to question where the other was coming from.

We survived because we loved each other.  There was forgiveness many times in our journey.  Just not for him.  I hear people say that a lot.  I don’t understand it.  To me it is releasing them of any responsibility.  While being angry a lot isn’t always healthy it seems better than the alternative of letting him off the hook.  That, to me, would be letting Grammy down.  And you hear some daft things.  One of my mum’s cousins said in front of me and my Grammy’s brother it was God’s will.  Excuse me?  Who says that to someone.  That she was supposed to die a horrible death.  That did not go over well.

We all think about her often.  Mostly now it is fondly and we can laugh about her adventures and the memories we have of her.  It is hard when there is a life event.  Leading up to getting married, my husband and I watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  I had seen it before and loved it.  This time round though it was like a knife in the heart watching the scene with the grandmother and they were looking at heirlooms.  She should have been there.

We have an amazing family now that has grown from the 5 of us to 12.  We get to see all the quirks passed down as well as the traditions Grammy and others introduced.  Homemade mac n cheese at Thanksgiving is something I remember from her groaning table!

As we figured out how to move on and continue with life we know how much we’ve changed.  I deal with anxiety when something bad happens.  If anyone of my family is within an hour of it I stress until I hear from them.  We became even more street smart than we were before.  My husband will at times sigh when he sees me locking up the house like Fort Knox.  Me?  I think why invite trouble.  But hey, I told him I had quirks!  I wish he could have met her, they would have gotten along really well.

She is sorely missed but her memory lives on and she will never be forgotten.

Irish History 3 2013

 

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16 thoughts on “How To Survive as a Family

  1. Incredible story. And timely. We found out yesterday that Grandfather has advanced cancer. It makes you think about the person’s life and all sorts of deep feelings. It is overwhelming when they do not go peacefully or ideally. Thank you for sharing.

    • Oh I’m so sorry about your grandfather. I’ll be thinking of you and your family. A suggestion? If there is anything you want to ask him about life, family history, his memories do it. It’s a treasure trove to pass on to future generations and it helps the process as well.

      • Oh, Virginia…if you only knew how much we have all wanted to know Grandfather from the inside out. He offers very little of his heart and soul. To be honest, he thinks he is God’s next prophet of the world and therefore, he doesn’t want to appear…human? Like yours, it’s a looooong, bizarre story and I grieve the loss of yet another family member who has kept their deepest parts to themselves.:(

  2. Truly sorry to read of your Grandmother’s horrific passing and its effect on your family. Thank you for sharing her story and a few of your happier memories with us.

  3. I send you love for this terrible anniversary though I am glad that you can now remember your very beautiful and much loved Grammy with equanimity. It’s very brave to tell this story and I hope the telling proves cathartic. All the best to you and your family. 🙂

  4. What a sad story! I’m glad you still have good memories of Grammy. Growing up, my (very close) family rarely ever said “I love you,” but over the last few years, we’ve learned how important it is to hear, and I think you nailed it on the head—not only as an affirmation, but as a reminder to stay safe.

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