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Is It OK to Be Happy That My Grandma Died?

My grandma passed away. The profundity with which I do not care about her death cannot be overstated.

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The email from my father, titled "Grandma passed away," arrived at 8 AM on a Monday. The profundity with which I did not care about the message could not be overstated. Another email, which I received at the same time, informed me that my existence as a "social media influencer" rendered me eligible to redeem a Klout perk, the perk in question being unfettered access to the first episode of ABC's Selfie before other, less influential, plebes got a hold of it. I opened the Klout email first, even though I had no desire to watch the first episode of Selfie. I just found it more interesting than my father's.


After eventually reading his message (a matter-of-fact account of where my grandmother was born, and where and when she died, coupled with a photograph of her looking pained alongside my half sister), I immediately typed a response. "The profundity with which I do not care about this information cannot be overstated," I began, then promptly deleted, not out of tact but because I didn't want to give my father the satisfaction of knowing I had read his email. Because I don't speak to him, and neither did I speak to my (now deceased) grandmother. Because begrudgingly being related to someone does not mean you owe that person anything, up to and including mourning his or her "passing."

I've never been close to my father's side of the family; time has only estranged us further. People always assume the lack of intimacy and love I have for them is a personality flaw, the byproduct of sociopathy or narcissism. I am, however, neither a sociopath nor a narcissist. (Well, OK, I'm a slight narcissist, but that's to be expected-this is, after all, the Age of the Selfie.) I am, rather, a pragmatic person who fails to see the joy in flailing a dead horse, familial or no, when the corpse of said horse has spent decades stinking up her emotional barn.

Despite our blood ties, I do not feel the need to speak to my father, nor his (now deceased) mother, nor his sister, nor my half sister, because doing so has always been a soul-sucking ordeal. They are profoundly damaged individuals, the presence of whom in my life depresses me to no end. I don'tbelieve I'm alone in this line of thinking, but the combination of confusion and disgust potential mourners gave me when told them I viewed my grandmother's death with indifference made me feel monstrous. This feeling, however, is nothing new, and nothing I should feel monstrous about. It's logical.


When I was a child, the only thing I ever prayed for was the death of my grandmother. The hatred I had for the woman was intense enough that, while I was raised in a nonreligious household, I felt the need to beg a God I didn't believe in to smite her. Her death, as of last Monday, proved that sometimes prayers do come true, so long as one's willing to wait 20 years for them to come to pass. Do I think I though I should feel bad about the prayers I made as a frustrated preteen? Of course. Do I actually feel bad about them? Of course not.

"She was a pretty miserable person," my mother replied when I texted her the news of my grandmother's death. She was, indeed, miserable. In a way, miserable was all she was. The sort of person who relished the opportunity to make everyone in her vicinity feel as profoundly unhappy as she did, my grandmother constantly complained about physical ailments, loved yelling at retail employees (a particularly memorable incident involved a vocal dispute over a ten-cent overcharge at Kmart), and threatened suicide when she didn't get her way. The woman was infantile, an elderly child, whom I had the unpleasant experience of growing up around as a biological child.

My first memory is of walking into the ocean, being dragged into the undertow, then being dragged out by my grandmother and viciously spanked for the inconvenience of making her get her hair wet. I was three years old. Her childlike solution to the problem made sense, given the childlike way in which she interacted with the world. When I, as a ten-year-old, was given the task of watching my sister, I shook her undeveloped head when she cried, wanted nothing more than to shut her up. The difference between the actions of my grandmother and me, however, was that I was an actual child. She was merely an emotional one.


Photo via Wikimedia Commons

I know plenty of people who have either forgiven or chosen to ignore the unforgivable, unignorable faults of miscellaneous family members because "blood is thicker than water," "family comes first," and "insert third additional trite saying here." I know a girl who still Christmases at the home of a mother who used to beat her. A person who stays civil with a brother who used to molest her. And so on.

My grandmother never beat me, other than that time at the beach. She never locked me in a closet. She was more of a lock herself in the closet kind of gal. She never really did anything despicable enough to warrant my prayers for her "passing," yet I resented her nonetheless.

My father never beat me either, nor fingered me, or whatever else some fathers do to solicit the hatred of their children. But he did once dangle me over a third-floor balcony upside down, despite my pleas to stop, because he thought it was funny. He did punch a hole in the hallway wall, which my mother promptly covered up with a Sears portrait of my (now deceased) sister and me. He did write phrases like "blood money" and "fuck you" in the subject line of the child-support checks he gave me to pass along to my mother after a session of weekend dadding. He did impregnate a woman named Prandy. Prandy. With a P. And so on.

These actions, as well as the actions of my grandmother, in and of themselves are not inexcusable. The constructive criticisms I made afterward, however-the pleas for them to recognize what they had done, and why they had done it (mental illness, natch), and to seek assistance-always fell on deaf ears. It was always Koester v. World. You were with them or against them. The fact that they could be in the wrong was impossible. I, after bloodying my head against a wall for decades, gave up. Years later, I was told one-eighth of my DNA died. And I felt nothing.

There is something to be said for reaching a limit, understanding a person's a lost cause, and walking away. Is it selfish? Perhaps. But making you waste your time on their horseshit is pretty selfish in and of itself, ain't it? If someone's gotta be selfish, it may as well be the one without the problem.

Juvenile as the sentiment may be, I never asked to be born. (I did, however, ask for a side of ranch dressing.) Nor did my father actively, as far as I could tell, want to procreate-rather, he seemingly found it necessary as a virile, married man. He created life, sure, this life. By fucking my mother. La-di-da.

Coitus is the most self-indulgent act one could possibly participate in that creates the least self-indulgent result, human life. Popping off in a broad is no more of a commitment than paying a $30 bar tab-arguably, it's even less of one. He made me, because he didn't know any better, and his mother made him, in between suicide attempts, for the same reason. Should any of us be here? No. Is it OK that the less damaged ones among us ignore the more damaged? Yes. Because why should we not?

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