Friday, April 02, 2004

meet the grandparents
Ah yes, the long-awaited post on the grandparents...
Because I was fostered until I was four, the grandparents were allowed to send gifts and letters during my early years. Small children can be quite mercenary and I'll admit that I cherished affectionate thoughts of these mystery bestowers of prams and expensive dolls. My parents always made sure that the grandparents' gifts were played with carefully and preserved from the full toddler onslaught, consquently they survived my childhood intact as mute reminders of my tenuous blood connexions. At some point I learnt that the grandparents had been asked if they would take care of me when it became apparent that my birth mother couldn't cope with raising a child, they had declined. I believe the reason they gave was something along the lines of: we've only just got the spare bedroom decorated, we don't want a baby with all the mess and disruption to spoil our life, which I can almost understand.

Fast forward to my eighteenth birthday...
I received a birthday card from the grandparents asking me to re-establish contact. I thought about it for a few days, remembered the efforts they'd gone to to keep in touch, and felt as though I owed them something. So I rang and arranged to visit them on my way up to uni. I went with my boyfriend at the time, J, for moral support. It was one of the most disturbing days of my life.

  • they insisted on calling me by my pre-adoption name

  • there were hundreds of china dolls - the kind that have names and come dressed in Victorian costumes - looking down on proceedings from shelves around the room

  • the grandparents are younger than my parents, but were old before their time (spam salad is something I associate with the war generation) everything they said and did seemed to age them and mark them as little Englanders, ugh

  • they were over solicitous of me, almost as if I was still a small child

  • one of them picked up a photo of their daughter, my birth mother, and her husband (this was the first I'd heard of her being married), gripped my jaw, turned my head to profile and said, 'you're not his then, we did wonder at the time'

  • they showed me family photos, fair enough you might think, but this really unsettled me because I'd never seen people that looked like me before - and, once you discounted the different clothes that showed pictures of her had been taken twenty years before, my birth mother and I could have been twins


  • but what really made me want to run away and never talk to them again happened just before we left:

  • they invited a neighbour in and introduced me to her with the words, 'this is our granddaughter, you know, the one we told you was dead'


  • I was in shock, we soon made our excuses and drove away very fast, I vowed I'd never see them again. However, I'd resumed contact and, for all their faults, I felt as though I couldn't just cut them off. So we settled down to a routine, I'd write to them at Christmas and to thank them for my birthday card - a chatty newsy letter that explained in the broadest terms what was going on in my life, without ever giving too much away or agreeing to go and visit them.

    Then I got married.
    There was a short discussion with my parents beforehand about whether or not I should let the grandparents know I was getting married, I even briefly considered inviting them to the reception, but several factors combined to make this totally inappropriate:

  • my real family were going to be there in all their extended glory, can you imagine a/ the confusion and b/ how hurtful it would have been to have these strangers there

  • of all the animator's relations, only his brother could make it over from Oz - it would have been unfair for me to have two sets of family to his one brother

  • numbers were limited because we were broke and in somewhat of a hurry

  • we weren't getting married in church and actually only had a couple of guests each at the ceremony itself

  • most important, it was a day for the animator and me to celebrate our love for each other with those who are closest to us, in no way could the grandparents be considered to be close to us


  • After the event I wrote them a very long letter describing the day in detail and enclosed some photos. I didn't hear back from them for months, which surprised me somewhat. Finally, a very strange letter arrived of which I read the first page. In it the grandmother began by describing all the lovely weddings they had been to over the previous summer, proper white weddings in churches. Their goddaughter had had a wonderful wedding in a beautiful white dress and they were the guests of honour... I could see where this was leading and threw the letter on the bed, thinking I'll read this once I've had a fortifying cup of tea. Perhaps luckily, the animator got there first. This was his first run in with the grandparents and he was appalled. I never got to read the rest of the posionous letter, the animator destroyed it in a rather lovely act of chivalry. Suffice to say the grandmother had gone on to question whether our marriage could be considered real for the following reasons:

  • no 'real' family was there to witness it

  • I'd got married under a 'false' name

  • the wedding wasn't in a church


  • I was furious, although touched that the animator had wanted to protect me. At that point the animator and I decided that really I'd given these people their dues and now it was time to break off contact, my parents, particularly my dad, stuck up for the grandparents, but I'm relieved to be free of them and don't feel in the least bit guilty.

    When I wonder about my birth mother, wonder what made her unable to cope with a baby, what made her violent, I think of the grandparents and think I know the answer. I'm filled with relief that my birth mother realised that she needed help and that the grandparents didn't take up social services' suggestion that they adopt me.

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    Elisabeth I am not violent. Your grandmother is. Find out the truth will you. I love you and always have. What about the things I bought you? where are they? social workers are theives and liars. Your so called parents the Weats are liars. I will name names. Rosemary Thomas is a spy. June Martin is a thief and a liar. Need I go on. What about Suki that I got for you? I am still owe nearly £30,000 for her upkeep. Do you care? from your mother.