Flash Fiction #129
“My Grandma Is The Best” –That’s the title of her first composition in middle school when it was required of her, in her writing class, to describe a family member. Even those boys and girls who had the crazy version of dysfunctional families painted a rosy picture of one relative, knowing that the teacher would only give you good grade if you wrote something positive.
And she’s sincere in her writing of her grandma. She truly thought that her grandma is the best woman in the world–she has nine children, for whom she worked every minute of her life; she cooks, cleans, knits sweaters; her pots and pans shine brighter than mirrors; she talks loudly in that accent from a remote fishing village; she calls her “Shermi” in her unique way. She’s the epitome of a diligent womanhood that no other woman can match.
Now Shermi has all grown up, finished college, and got a job. She only comes back for the holiday gathering in her grandparent’s place. Shermi’s grandma married very young–when she was 17–and Shermi’s mother is the first child. Consequently her grandmother is not even 70 yet with a big girl like Shermi as her first grand daughter.
Shermi’s late to the dinner party. When she arrives, everybody has already started having Grandma’s signature soup with fermented fish. When she emerges, everybody stops, staring at her. It seems a little weird since her presence has never been so conspicuously felt by others. She sits down and starts to ladle the soup in the middle of the table into a small bowl for herself.
Something is really wrong. Everybody stops eating and is looking at her. She pretends that she hasn’t noticed it. In this family, turning a blind eye has been daily practiced and enforced.
At length, her grandpa gives her cousin Ardan a signal and Ardan starts, “Grandma said you are very ungrateful and very un-filial in writing that story. You are a traitor.” Ardan is in high school now and he’s the golden child and golden grandchild of the family.
Shermi did write a short story and submitted to a magazine, which published it. She tried her best to change the composition of the characters etc, but several incidents in the story are obviously drawn from her own family. The story is unmistakably concerning her grandma, her mother, and her uncles and aunts, if Ardan or any of her relatives read it. This is the problem with writing–when one writes, it’s usually about things one has experienced and people one has met even if one is writing about an alien character in a science fiction.
At first, Shermi can’t decide what to do: to defend her self or to keep quiet. As she is hesitating, her relatives’ voice of accusation grows louder and she’s marked out as a stain on the family reputation. And finally, she explodes. What the heck. She has to defend herself while making this a teachable moment for everybody. If all the adults are set in their old ways and can’t be changed, at least Ardan is still young and he can benefit from her truth telling.
“Can’t you see our family is not normal? Have we ever had a shared laugh? No. Have my uncles ever had an brotherly conversation with each other? No. Have my aunts ever chatted in the truly sister way that is endless and affectionate? No. They talk as if they are strangers, acknowledging each other only in transactional ways. They come for a family dinner as if they are attending funerals or some serious formal occasions that demand the most rigid behavior. We are not normal. Grandma works like a savage and she controls the family like a savage narcissist. She is the best model of womanhood who has to be admired and adored at all time. She controls and manipulates every child so that my aunts and my uncles can’t form normal bonds with each other. She talks ill of one child to another child and sabotage their relationship with each other. We are a dysfunctional narcissist family. This is why most of my aunts and uncles have bad marriages. By the way, my parents have the worst marriage of all. The reason for that is because we grew up in this family devoid of normal emotions. We become little narcissists following a big narcissist who controls us. This has to be stopped. And I want Ardan to grow up to be a normal boy, has normal relationship with others. We have to talk about this. If we don’t, we are going to continue in this dark twisted family tragedy forever. My parents almost killed each other, my uncle’s wife committed suicide, my grandpa never says a word. This is a mad house. Can’t you see it? It is right before your eyes.”
“How can you turn against your own family? How can you be one of us when you speak ill of us? We have treated you like a kin but you bite the hand that feeds you. You are the worst kind of girl and you should rot in hell.” Her relatives are all up in arms in criticizing her. Finally she has to quit the place and they continue their tirade against her long after she is gone.