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Old 09-19-2004, 01:02 PM
MaddyStrut MaddyStrut is offline
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Maryland
Posts: 1,817
How should I deal with my gumpy Grandpa?

My grandfather is 93. He's old and not happy about it. He's always been extremely independent. Now, however, he is almost totally blind. That means he can't drive anywhere and walking is difficult for him. As someone whose favorite pasttime was going out to his cabin in the country and taking long walks, that's a huge blow. He's also in pain and his hearing is going. As a result, he's become incredibly crabby and is grumping at all of us.

For the most part, I can handle his grouchiness. However, I received a letter last week and I don't know how to respond. Advice would be appreciated.

His letter included the following:

1) An accusation that I haven't had any contact with him for over 2 1/2 years. He's always loved me and this rejection of him is cruel and hurtful. He doesn't know how I could have become a person like that.
2) He will no longer give me his usual monetary gift at Christmas because he doesn't feel it's appreciated and I spend the money on useless things.
3) I live an "alternative lifestyle" (his words). He doesn't approve and it has caused him great pain. Where did all this selfishness come from?

To top it off, my birthday is next Friday. When I got this letter from him the envelope was covered in "happy birthday" stickers. I assumed it was a nice letter for my birthday. I did not expect this. It was also typed in an 18 point font. I know this is so he could read it--but seeing those mean words in such BIG TYPE really threw me off!

I wrote a letter to him explaining the following. I don't know if I'll send it and I don't know how diplomatic I should be.

1) I visit him every Christmas (a trip of over 1,000 miles) plus I was there this past March for his 93rd birthday. I talk at length to him every visit (even though he usually falls asleep in the middle of our conversations--something I didn't put in the letter). I do not send him frequent letters because he does not like what I have to say. If I write about my life (which would mean what's going on with my job, my horse and dogs, my other interests), he gets upset that I'm wasting it on such trivial things. So I have limited my letters to thank you's, birthday cards, and holiday greetings. Things that won't make him mad.
2) I do not need monetary gifts. It's his money; he can do with it as he wishes. I have never felt entitled to it. I do not base my love or respect for him on receiving money. That said, I have always appreciated his generosity and have thanked him both personally and in writing for those gifts. I also give him gifts every Christmas and on his birthdays (for which I have never received a written thank you but I didn't put that in the letter). As for spending money on "useless things," if you give a gift there shouldn't be strings attached. I spent the money I received last Christmas to enter a series of horse shows. He may feel that is useless, but being able to do so meant a great deal to me. I was very appreciative of the opportunity.
3) This one threw me for a loop! When I read "alternative lifestyle" I assumed he thought I was gay. However, I later found out from my parents that what he meant is he doesn't approve of me being an unmarried, childless woman. He thinks it's horribly selfish that I'm not giving my parents grandbabies. (I guess that's "alternative" to him.) So I wrote that my life is my own. I am happy with it. This is 2004 and I am not the old "maiden aunt" who lives on the charity of others. I am a burden to no one.

I wrapped it up by saying I love him and have always had great respect for him. I value our relationship and hope it can continue. I look forward to seeing him next Christmas.

Now I'm struggling with whether or not to send the letter as is. I don't want to hurt him. I don't want this letter to be the last thing he reads from me before he dies (he's not critically ill or anything, but he is 93). So how do I respond and not cause a fight? My brother suggested I just say I love him and am sorry if he thinks that I've rejected him or hurt him and let the letter end with that. But part of me doesn't want to let these accusations stand. He's 93, but that's not an excuse for just lashing out at me like this. Is that petty or selfish? I don't think I've said anything mean, accusatory, or negative about him (I just addressed what he said about me), but he's just so grumpy these days I don't know how he'll take it.
Old 09-19-2004, 01:19 PM
Laughing Lagomorph Laughing Lagomorph is offline
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Banks of the Assabet
Posts: 3,906
Originally Posted by MaddyStrut
... He's 93, but that's not an excuse for just lashing out at me like this. ....

In my completely non-expert opinion, it might be an excuse. Have you considered the possibility that he is experiencing Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia? He might literally not be himself.
Old 09-19-2004, 01:29 PM
MaddyStrut MaddyStrut is offline
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Maryland
Posts: 1,817
That's a good point and I should have made that clear in my OP. He does not have Alzheimers or age related dementia. He can be a bit forgetful of some things though no more than a younger person who's stressed. For the most part, he's still quite sharp. He may be a bit depressed, which is something to consider.
Old 09-19-2004, 01:44 PM
AHunter3 AHunter3 is offline
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Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: NY (Manhattan) NY USA
Posts: 19,464
I think it's deceptively condescending to treat him differently than you would anyone else you really cared about who had sent you such a letter, and that therefore you should send it. Sending it creates (IMHO) more room for the two of you to make up and be back on honest and open terms. I didn't find it to be an angry or escalating kind of letter.

Might be even better if you had the opportunity to hash it out with him in person, though, or perhaps via phone call (if his hearing is sufficient for a meaningful phone conversation).
Old 09-19-2004, 02:02 PM
aaslatten aaslatten is offline
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 896
He sounds depressed to me, or at least lonely and sad, and his anger is just a way of expressing that. Even the money thing seems like he's trying to demonstrate that he is important; he wants his money to matter to you because he wants to matter. Maybe being 93's not an excuse for being mean, but maybe it is. He's had a long life and probably experienced more heartbreak than most of us can possibly imagine.

I don't have much advice to offer, but I wouldn't take the attacks too personally.
Old 09-19-2004, 06:57 PM
Vlad/Igor Vlad/Igor is offline
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: A Derby City lab
Posts: 1,292
I had to deal with similar attitudes from my maternal grandfather. It took me a long time to get out from under his shadow and be comfortable with the decisions I made about my life. My grandmother is still alive and in her mid-90s, but is becoming somewhat curmudgeonly herself. I think a lot of it (in my case) is generational. They couldn't understand why I didn't work my way through college like they did (I did the math and would have had to work 40hrs/week), or why I didn't leave my girlfriend (whom I later married) to find a respectable job. They also gave my brother a hard time during his oat-sowing years. Life for us now is so different than it was for them that they have a hard time understanding why we make the decisions we do. I just had to accept that they saw things differently, and I made the most of things we could hold in common.

I see your grandfather slowly withering, unable to do what he used to do, and unable to adjust and capitalize on what he can still do. I saw my grandparents do the same, to the point where I wasn't allowed to complete what they couldn't finish because it underscored their loss of functioning. I learned to just let it go.



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