On My Adopted Grandmother, Who Is a Hamster

On My Adopted Grandmother, Who Is a Hamster

My marriage replenished the staggering low number of my family members. Besides winning the smart and brave younger sister(-in-law) that I always wanted, I also got a silly younger brother(-in-law) and two complete sets of grandparents(-in-law) to replace those that I had lost to old age and death. I didn’t anticipate that I’d end up sharing one house with one of the pairs of grandparents, but now that it happened, I could very well use the opportunity for psychosociological research.

My husband’s and hence my adopted grandfather is easy-going, sociable and almost entirely deaf. He is too well-disposed to provide an interesting subject for analysis. A former caretaker, he makes it a point of pride to fix anything that breaks and improve anything that doesn’t. His upgrades admittedly work, but typically come with a health and/or life hazard due to things being different than fifty years ago, his increasing poor sight and decreasing fine motor skill.

The grandmother presents more of a puzzle in her complex combination of selflessness and self-centeredness, tolerance and judgmentalism, endurance and fragility. She bakes cakes to give away to family each week but demands to be praised for their exquisiteness to the skies. She ignores any fatal flaw in a family member but harshly criticises the neighbour for not mowing his lawn soon enough and good enough. She withstands physical ailment but breaks down at the smallest sign of family discord.

Grandmother's potatoes
Grandmother’s potatoes

The grandmother apparently doesn’t function as an individual person outside of her family circle. She serves as an extension of the house, garden and yard. When she doesn’t attend to any of these, she stares at the telly. She watches reality shows and turns other people’s business into her business. She watches crime news, gossip news and teleshopping and believes everything that they say on air. She is limited in education and experience, but why would she lack common sense?

She puzzles me. She lives by a set of idiosyncratic rules that have long become her habit. She doesn’t cook on Mondays because it’s the day for finishing leftovers from the weekend. She cleans the bedroom on Thursdays and the living room on Fridays. She bakes on Saturdays and spends most of the week eating her superfluous produce. She mops the floors every day after lunch. She uses a wet rag and wipes also the carpets with this. I don’t dare to suggest the vacuum cleaner for the task.

She has answers for all things. When you want something, pray to Virgin Mary. When you’re gay, you’re not normal. When it’s weekend, you bake cake. When you have a letter to pick up at the post office, you do it now because what would the post employees say? When it’s holiday, you wash the windows because what would the neighbours think? When the husband makes a mess, you clean it because it has always been like this.

The grandmother strikes me as both admirable and pitiable. It is certainly a triumph of will and stamina that she keeps on repeating her learned rituals no matter what. She doesn’t swerve from her schedule for illness or injury, and she went on even with her hand broken. Sometimes I’m thinking if she just shuts down or disappears when she is not cleaning or baking. She is a hamster running on a wheel forever until it kills itself by exhaustion.

40 thoughts on “On My Adopted Grandmother, Who Is a Hamster

  1. And you, of course, will learn from her triumphs (baking once a week, cleaning up after husband) and move on from her failings?😊😊

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  2. Thanks for the intro to grandma. I’ve been waiting for it with much curiosity. And you made it worth the while. She’s an character.
    The rituals are amazing.
    I think you can start a series of posts about her. She has plenty you can share.
    Thanks for sharing more about your family. These extended family members are a great gift to you.

    Giant hug. Xx
    Thanks

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    1. Thank you for reading! The post isn’t much, I’m afraid, but it is at least about the granny. Unlike the last Sunday’s post, which was my original attempt to tackle the topic, but eventually ended up not mentioning the grandmother at all… This post was hard to write and not too comfortable for me, so I think I might stop here, and move on different topics now, such that are more topical and acute. In any case, thank you again. Hugs back!

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        1. I know little of my family too, however, it was interesting trying to recall at least something. It did me some good to write two posts about my family, recommended!

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  3. That complex contradiction would be both fascinating and frustrating to experience every day. I didn’t have grandparents in my life, nor did my husband, so I guess I’ll never find out. You’ll need to share more of your grandmother (in-law)’s exploits so I can live vicariously through you … and don’t forget to bring the cake 😉

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    1. Oh, it’s a shame you didn’t experience any grandparents. It is very interesting, to say the least. I’m not sure I’m returning to this topic, but hopefully there will be other interesting topics coming up too 😉 Thank you for reading!

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    1. Yes, this is an interesting thought, I sometimes too think what others make out of my quirks. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but the nature of the grandmother’s habits puzzles me a bit. I can’t make sense out of her…

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  4. Another deeply personal and brave post, Mara. And I love it.

    Once, I hope a long time ago, many women (in particular) lived their lives along these tram lines and thought little of their own lives and what might fulfil them.

    It is not wrong to want your own life. I believe with some passion that if we dedicate ourselves to others in the way you describe then we all lose. There is a balance and if we are not good and true to ourselves we end up failing others too. And for what?

    I think a lot is about education and compassion. We should all have the right to “be”. And not be who someone else wants us to be.

    Anyway, bravo to you for making us think. Again.

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    1. I very much agree with your sentiments. Or I agree with your agreeing with my sentiments? Whatever. Don’t forget that what you said about the right to live applies to you as well.

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  5. What an intriguing woman. I know a few people with varying degrees of these traits as well. Those qualities can be endearing at times, but incredibly frustrating at others. It’s amazing to me that she probably wanted something else when she was a lot younger but has let that go. It makes me wonder what I might give up along the way.
    PS love the title 😄

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    1. Oh yes, there is a narrow dividing line between endearing and irritating! As I said in the post, the grandmother puzzles me. I have no idea what her wishes are or were, and how she might have ended up in different circumstances. In any case I am under the impression that you life is much more varied and enjoyable, and I’m glad for that!

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  6. Well i had to read to the end as was so intrigued. She is quite a character and then so are you 🙂 i didnt realize you all lived actually together in the same house that must prove to give interesting dynamics xxx

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          1. oh good i am feeling how good you are feeling, well feeling a little good of how good you are feeling as it is rubbing off on me but not wasting it on you lol, does that make sense or should I repeat myself? grins

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  7. I was wondering about the title…I suppose we are all like hamsters in a way. The treadmill keeps going, and we keep treading. Your adoptive grandmother does sound fascinating. From observation, I’d say that as one ages, there are certain habits that become ritual, and change is often not welcome. I wonder whether grandmother would want to change her habits?

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    1. Yes, you are very right. We are all in a way like the little hamster running around and around in its treadmill, oblivious of the very fact. Ritual is the very word — my grandmother lives by ritual so much that it limits her and people around her. I don’t think she would wish to change her habits — I fear she might not be able to start anew, giving her age (she is over seventy).

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  8. To me, your grandmother in-law is practically the archetypical octogenarian woman. She sounds just like my neighbor’s mother in law, my mother’s neighbor and my own mother-in-law. But that fate is not inevitable. There is hope, my mother is still bohemian, liberal, hilariously witty and adventurous. Hold on to those traits with all you’ve got!

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    1. Yes, she is very archetypical, that is a poignant observation. That is precisely my complaint with her, she lacks individuality and it is bothering me. I have been recently recognising that this fate is not inevitable. We should cling to our respective quirks, that’s what makes us unique. Thank you for your sound advice and a lovely comment!

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