Toxic Grandparents and Family Update

In my last post on family matters I was making some breakthroughs with my brother Brad. We had gone on a 4 day camping trip in the Florida Keys. We spent a lot of time having fun and getting reacquainted. I feel we have a much better relationship now that I was able to explain the fallout with the toxic grandfather and now that we’ve spent some time together doing fun things. One of the highlights of the trip (for me) was when Brad said the trip was one of his best birthdays ever.

Today I’d like to share where we stand with grandmother and share some breakthroughs we’ve had with my other brother, Mike.

If you’re new here and would like to catch up on the whole saga, you can go here. As a very brief summary, our daughter, Faith, has Selective Mutism (SM) and grandfather (my father) did some hurtful things because she wouldn’t (couldn’t) speak to him. I asked him to stop and he got worse, thus causing us to cut our ties with him.

Mike’s family got caught up in that a bit because the daughter of his fiancé became favored by toxic grandfather due to her extremely outgoing nature. This caused additional friction as toxic grandfather used her positive attributes to put down Faith’s negative ones. (Positive and negative being from his viewpoint, not that either is necessarily positive or negative)

We had taken quite a bit of time away from that side of the family for nearly a year. Grandmother visited on holidays and until I reached out to Brad in September we hadn’t seen him since the previous Christmas.

Mike and his fiancé, Beth, had a new baby of their own in September, bringing their family to a total of three kids. Mike and Beth also moved into a new home after finding a good deal on a short sale. Regrettably, as he is finding out, their new home is just minutes from the toxic grandparents and they drop by entirely too often.

Christmas Dinner with Grandmother and Brad

Brad and grandmother came for a visit at Christmas. We started a new tradition last year where we get together a few days before Christmas and go out for Mexican food and margaritas. That new tradition is 100 times better than anything we had ever done with that side of the family in Christmases past.

Grandmother is about the same. She talks a lot about work.  She announced that she had taken a voluntary layoff to transition into retirement. She still isn’t very careful about what she talks about around us, given the hurtful past with Grandfather and his negative comparisons among grandkids.

One bit of the conversation had Dream upset by the time we got back home. Grandmother mentioned the outgoing child and said something about her needing a parent-teacher conference due to excessive talking at school. Grandmother dismissed the issue as “she’s just chatty and that’s not atypical for girls.” 

We later found out when talking with Mike that it’s a pretty big problem for the outgoing child and she’s repeatedly getting in trouble at school for talking and disrupting the class.

The implication to be taken from grandmother is that chatty is typical and our daughter, with SM, would be abnormal. I feel for the outgoing child since it is partly in her nature, but for grandmother to choose to bring that up and then dismiss it being normal was insensitive given the past history of talking issues and Faith’s SM.

A Drunk Dial from Brad

I thought drunk dialing was urban legend as I have never actually experienced it. On New Year’s Day I was awoken by my phone ringing… at 3:30 in the morning. My brother Brad had called and I didn’t make it to the phone in time to answer. He left a voicemail that was pretty much unintelligible. Concerned that something might be wrong I called him back. No answer, so I left a voicemail. A few minutes later as I was drifting off again he called back.

He spent New Year’s Eve at Mike’s house and had some interesting conversations. He was feeling emotional and decided to call me to share.

Brad told me that he shared with Mike much of what he and I had talked about in September and during our Keys trip about the situation with the toxic grandparents. I hadn’t talked with Mike at all for at least a year, so he really didn’t have a clear picture of what we were going through with the toxic grandparents. Brad filled him in on that and also about the name change. It seems Mike was a bit offended by the name change.

Brad suggested I connect with Mike. We were planning to do that anyway since we had some Christmas gifts for the kids. It took me a couple days to text him, as I wasn’t really looking forward to it and the conversations we needed to have. Mike had come into favor with toxic grandfather when he started bringing the outgoing child for visits, and since he was in favor I was sure he was getting a one sided and have a twisted view of what happened.

A Productive Visit with Mike and Beth

Mike called back later in the day and we setup a time to visit them in their new home. After we arrived we handed out their gifts and then their two daughters and Faith headed off to play. Mike, his fiancé Beth, Dream, and I chatted for a while. When the time was right I decided to broach the topic of toxic grandfather.

I started tentatively to gauge his reaction as I described what had happened between the grandparents and our family. As we were talking Mike and Beth started to unload all the issues they have been having with toxic grandfather.  I was suprised they were having issues with grandfather, as they were now favored by him. 

Here are some of the highlights. When they bought their new house they were a little short on some extra money that was needed for closing. Toxic grandparents loaned them $1500 with the agreement that it would be paid back when they got their tax return. Then at the last minute the FHA required that the put some money in escrow for some repairs that would need to be made, that came to another $700. That was loaned with the agreement that it would be paid back after the repairs were made. Since they were doing the repairs themselves, they wouldn’t actually need the escrow money to make the repairs and it would simply be returned.

When Mike got the $700 out of escrow he took the cash to toxic grandfather. Since grandmother was out of town on business travel grandfather declined to take it and told Mike to hang onto it until grandmother returned, which would be about two weeks later. You know how life goes – whenever you have money some emergency pops up that requires that money. That happened in this case and Mike had to use the $700 to cover some minor emergencies.

A short time later grandparents invited Mike and Beth to dinner and sprung on them that they wanted all the money owed, including the portion that had been agreed to be paid with the tax return. Keep in mind this happened at the end of November with Christmas right around the corner. 

From some conversation with Brad, word has it that the grandparents think Mike is treating them like a bank and they are none too pleased. My take is that toxic grandfather should have taken the money when Mike offered it. Beyond that, I think toxic grandfather is trying to keep Mike owing him, as it keeps Mike subservient to him.

Beth also shared how she can’t stand to be around toxic grandfather and will usually make herself scarce anytime he comes to visit. She shared another horror story. When they were moving in, toxic grandfather helped them fix the place up. He loves doing this kind of stuff, although he’ll hold it over your head for years to come. After they had it fixed up, Beth was outside their place talking to toxic grandfather and a neighbor came by. Toxic grandfather boasted about his son’s house (note there is no mention of Beth) and then proceeded to invite the neighbor into the house.

Keep in mind Beth is home alone with her three kids during the day.  She certainly doesn’t need neighbors she doesn’t know traipsing about her house.   

She additionally shared that the house and the two cars are referred to as Mike’s on a regular basis.  They are in Mike’s name, but Mike and Beth are a family, engaged to be married, living together, and now with a child together.  Most would refer to everything as “theirs”, but to toxic grandfather it’s all Mike’s.  

They went on and on and I also shared a little more since I could see that they were having some of the same issues we had.  We dealt with all these and more until toxic grandfather started hurting our daughter, at which point we walked away.  Now it seems they have taken our place and are dealing with all the same things we always dealt with.

We also explained our name change and assured Mike and Beth that it had nothing to do with them or any of the family drama.   We had starting planning that long before any of the family drama flared up.  

At the end of the day we found we had a lot in common with respect to the grandparents (our parents.)  

I thought they may have been getting better treatment since they had a child that pleased toxic grandfather, but apparently I was wrong.  I think the favoritism was short lived, and the favored treatment diminished when we exited the picture.  

Narcissism

I still hold a lot of anger towards grandfather for the way we were treated, but I also pity him.  He is consumed with Narcissism, and it’s really driving away everyone he knows.  He has no friends, his aunts and uncles don’t like him, and grandmother’s side of the family hates him.  The only people that still speak to him at all are grandmother (his wife) and my two brothers.  He’s driven away everyone else.  

I had a thought on the way home.  “If you think you are a Narcissist, you’re not.”  That’s because everyone has a little narcissism in them, but true Narcissists do not recognize it inthemselves.

I see some narcissistic tendencies in myself and in my brothers.  I heard it as Mike was talking about his coworkers, speaking in the same manner  as grandfather had spoken about his coworkers when we were kids; basically how they useless and not worth a sh**.  

As children of a narcissistic parent, I think we have to be extra cautious of how we see others and make sure we don’t start moving towards grandfather’s narcissistic viewpoint.  

I want to end on a positive note, so I’ll conclude by saying I’m glad we reconnected with Mike and his family.  They have some big challenges ahead in dealing with toxic grandfather, and I hope that sharing our experiences will help them be better prepared in dealing with him.  Faith also had a great time playing with their kids, and was already talking about inviting their five year old (the outgoing child) over for a sleepover.  

Comments

  1. Amy says

    I’m so glad that you’ve been able to reconnect with both your brothers! I know it’s not likely but i hope that your father has a change of heart and sees that he does have a problem and seeks help.

    • says

      It would be great if my dad would recognize his problems and seek help, but I don’t expect that will ever happen. It has been nice getting to know my brothers again. They’ve each changed a lot in some ways, yet remained the same in others.

  2. says

    Step one for Mike: pay off the debt asap.
    I’m glad you are reconnecting with your brothers. It’s important and will be more so as you need to deal with your parents as they age (particularly your mom).
    Narcissism: if you think you are one, you’re not. So true!

    • says

      Agreed, Mike definitely needs to get that money paid back asap. I hope his tax return covers it, but I’m not really sure he’ll be getting enough back to cover it.

      It will be interesting to see how the next five to ten years unfold. My dad has been getting worse as he gets older, so who knows how bad things will ultimately get. I’m sure my mom will need some support at some point, and if nothing else, we provide her with a chance to get away from him once in a while.

  3. says

    I’m so glad to hear things are on the mend with your family relationships! I’m sure it was also reassuring and nice to know you aren’t the only one dealing with your father’s issues. I hope things continue to look up for you and your brothers!
    Megyn´s last blog post ..One Bulky Change

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