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Seek's avatar

Seeking advice or words of wisdom for handling serious family drama?

Asked by Seek (34734points) August 1st, 2010

This issue could easily be thirty questions, so forgive me if I appear rambling. I just don’t know where else to go for help.

Many of you know at least a little about the issues between myself and my family. Three years ago I put my foot down after a lifetime of mental, emotional, and physical abuse, and after my mother assaulted me had a restraining order issued against her. It was supposed to last for one year. My mother extended her own personal interpretation of the order to include my siblings and my entire extended family, and an unlimited timeline. There has been no effort on her part to contact me, and I frankly have no interest in seeing her another moment of my life.

I regret deeply having missed the last three years of my little sister’s life – the assault happened on her 16th birthday. I’ve tried to stay in contact via phone and internet, but I feel she’s being encouraged to not keep in touch. I saw her at the mall two weeks ago, and let’s just say she didn’t share my enthusiasm at our reunion.

Today, I got a text message from my sister. First contact from her since we met at the mall.
“You should come see nanny”.

Okay. Random.


“She has cancer”

Oh. “What kind?”

“Lung cancer. Her live long wish is to see her first great grand child. And she is having to go through Kemo and radiation. She is at the ________ hospital ((40 miles away from my house)) for three days.”

I didn’t reply – I was driving when that last one came through. A couple of hours later, I get ”You gotta go see nanny”

This sounds nothing like my sister at all. I am 99.999% sure she is being fed what to say to me. It does sound like my mother. The demanding nature of the instructions – that apparently expected me to know from the start that my grandmother is in the hospital, even though I haven’t seen her since 2007.

I have never been close with my grandmother – at least not since I was very, very young – but I hold no grudge against her. And I would have no problem letting her meet my son. However, I know my mother well enough to know that she will be at that hospital every moment of the day she can get away with – to the point of driving the nurses insane.

So, if I go, I have to deal with psycho my mother. This could lead to anything from verbal harassment to physical harm. It will certainly not go smoothly – civil is not her style.

If I don’t go, I’m the heartless heathen that denied a dying 70 year old woman the chance to meet her great grandson. All I know of her situation is what was in the texts, so I don’t know how serious the situation is, but I can tell you how it will be perceived by the people who shunned me out of their religion because I dared call the police on my mother the night she choked me.

What do I do?

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25 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

Can you call the hospital and ask to speak with your grandmother? That way you can get a clearer picture of how serious the situation is, and possibly arrange to see her when she gets home from the hospital—presumably your mother won’t be by her side every second until she dies.

Also, I know you didn’t ask about this and it’s putting a lot of responsibility on you, but is there anything you can do to make sure your sister doesn’t get put through the same kind of abuse you did?

Jeruba's avatar

If you do visit her, go alone and size up the situation yourself. Know what you’re walking into before you consider taking a child.

le_inferno's avatar

Well, say you do go… can’t you bring your husband, or another third party member to make you feel more safe/comfortable?

jerv's avatar

We had a similar situation with my father-in-law (who my wife loves and we both pity) since seeing him when he was in the ICU would involve the risk of seeing “momster”, whom my wife is certifiably afraid of and I only manage to avoid killing because she knows I won’t take her shit so she leaves me alone.

We managed to sneak in some time when momster wasn’t there. It wasn’t standard visiting hours, but a sympathetic nurse understood how these things can happen within a family so we got in drama free.

Seek's avatar


Thank you for thinking of my sister. I’ve done little else. Unfortunately, I had no authority to take her when she was younger, and now that she’s 18, she apparently doesn’t want anything to do with me.

She is, what I would call, “indoctrinated”. It really, really sucks, too, because she’s right where I was at her age – in the middle of being talked out of doing everything she had ever aspired to do in her life. Only, she believes all the “you’re not good enough” “It’ll be too hard”, etc. She didn’t have our father in her life. I only had eight years with him, but that was enough to get in some good information to battle through her abuse.

When I talked to her at the mall, asking about how she was coming along with getting licensed to be a vet tech (her WHOLE LIFE she wanted to be a veterinarian. She took a class in school, and was supposed to keep up her training and start looking for jobs) and her answer was “Well, you know we’re all procrastinators”.

My heart broke right there.

lillycoyote's avatar

All I can say is that, based on my own experience, my own observations of others relationships with their family members, with my own regrets and my observations of others, is that if your sister wants you to come and be with your grandmother and you want to have a relationship with your sister in the future, and only you can guage this for yourself… if you think that not going, considering that it is your sister who has asked you to come, might effect the possibility of having a relationship with your sister in the future, and this is something you seem to want, then you should go, I think. She may be parroting someone else, if you think that, if you are sure, well, then do what you think it right, but it is at least a chance to reconnect with your sister, feel things out.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

This is going to be really underhanded advice but sometimes psycho unreasonable people don’t respond well to the best methods.

Text your mom directly (not your sister’s phone) and say you have learned of Nanny’s cancer and you want to talk to her/your mom, one on one about it all and will she agree to meet you somewhere for breakfast/lunch/dinner? Make it somewhere at least 40 minutes from Nanny’s hospital and public. A restaurant is great because you can text, say you’re running just a few minutes late and ask her to take a table for you both. Once seated she’ll feel more pressure to sit tight and wait for you. Don’t go to the restaurant, go to see your Nanny instead.

john65pennington's avatar

This answer is coming from me as your friend and not a retired police officer.

First, are the restraining orders still in effect? legally, not just because of your mother wanting it to be that way? if so, i would find some other solution to visit your grandmother. second, if the restraining order is now null and void, take your child to see his grandmother. right now, you do not know if your mother is behind this scheme or not. i would take the chance and visit the hospital. for your security, i would take a trusted friend with me, in order to be a wintess and take photos, if the situation warrants it. i would not deprive my granmother from seeing her grandson.

Seek's avatar


I honestly have no idea whether they are or not. It was treated as a domestic violence situation even though we weren’t living together (I was married at the time), and after talking with the DA, opted to let the State press charges so I wouldn’t have to go to court.

The letter I got in the mail just said she was required to “anger management classes – 1 year, fine $____,” and “no victim contact”.

How would I find out?

YARNLADY's avatar

I would call Nanny directly and ask her if I could bring over the baby to meet her.

MissAusten's avatar

I second @nikipedia ‘s suggestion to call the hospital and try to find about the situation first. Visit with your husband or a close friend but leave your child out of it for now. You can always turn around and walk out if anyone gives you problems. Maybe you can talk to a nurse and ask if she/he can help you visit with your grandmother alone. Depending on how it goes, you can then decide if you want to go back with your son.

john65pennington's avatar

Kolinahr, tomorrow, call your local DA office. give your name and they can advise you. let me know if i can help.

escapedone7's avatar

Does your mother’s church have a Wednesday service she often goes to? Does she go to a prayer meeting every Tuesday without fail? How predictable is she? Is there a time when she may not be around the hospital? Listen to John and be careful. You have a small child, and your mother has a history of being violent and abusive to children. Although in a setting like a hospital with nurses, other patients, and witnesses she would not get away with her dramatics. Most hospitals DO have security personnel. I wonder if you could ask specifically for a security escort to the room if you called and asked to speak to a security personnel about the situation. I’m worried. That’s a very tough situation to be in.

Seek's avatar

^_^ Oh, they stopped going to church before I did. The pastor is my stepfather’s brother, so they’re allowed to be hypocrites. Or something. I don’t even know where she works anymore – I’ve never known her to hold a job for more than a couple of years, so I’d be utterly shocked if she still worked at the same place she did when I last saw her.

I feel like… somehow I’m the bad guy here. And I know that’s exactly how my mom would want me to feel. It’s a really strange fight going on in my head. On one side it’s the conditioning talking – the years of their voices in my head, and on the other side is everything I know now, trying to balance it. No matter what I do, one of those sides is going to lose and I’ll feel like a douche.

I hate that woman and her husband for what they’ve done to me.

escapedone7's avatar

I am certainly no mental health professional, but she sounds like a person with borderline personality disorder or something. Well something is wrong anyway. It’s definitely not you. None of her antics are remotely normal.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

Put the drama with your mother aside and see your grandmother. I know that is easier said than done, but you really should try. Make it clear you are there for your grandmother and nothing else.

Frenchfry's avatar

I would go see your Grandmother but real late at night alone first. Your mom has to go home to sleep. Cancer wards let family in at all hours. Call before to see if she has visitors at the moment. Maybe talk to the nurse and see if you can arrange a visit for your grandson. Explain about the restraining order. Just a thought.

Jeruba's avatar

Don’t let your mind get all twisted up over this, @Seek_Kolinahr. Hang onto the health you’ve achieved.

So far the worst consequence you’ve named for failing to take the bait is this: If I don’t go, I’m the heartless heathen that denied a dying 70 year old woman the chance to meet her great grandson. You’ve done no such thing. You’ve denied nothing. Nanny can call you up any time she wants and invite you over or ask if she can visit. (And right after a chemo treatment is probably not the best time anyway.) You have in no way acted to destroy her dearest wish. She’s in the hospital for three days, and Mother is using the situation to manipulate you. Let her do that if you want, but see it for what it is.

Three days of treatments does not mean she’s dying in three days. Plenty of people come through their treatments and live for years. Don’t be startled into a stampede. Calm down, take your time, and think it through.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, take your time. There must be a good time when your mother isn’t around the hospital and you can find out before you actually enter the building. You can avoid meeting your mother and still see your nanny.

sleepdoc's avatar

I think that the suggestion of calling the hospital and asking for your granmother’s room is not a bad one. Additionally, I would ask what the hospital’s policy is for visiting. It may be that depending on where she is staying they may not allow children under a certain age in for visiting. If that is the case, then you can just explain that over the phone.
If all checks out, I might go with a group and leave the kiddo in the care with someone to see what the lay of the land is. You can always turn on your heel and leave if you have to. Most places have some rules about how many people can be in the room at a time. If this is the case, you can ask the nurse on the floor if she has visitors. And if she does ask your Nanny if those visitors could leave to allow you to come in.

I hope it all works out!

Smashley's avatar

One option would be to entrust your son with a close friend who can take him there for you, and send a hand written letter along with him that your friend can read to your grandmother. This obviously isn’t ideal, but if your mother is as bad as you say she is, and the chance of encountering her is just too much to risk it, then it might not be a bad idea. Let your grandmother see your son, and get your message across in a personal way, without exposing yourself to this situation, especially under these circumstances that are just rife with opportunity to be emotionally blackmailed. There might be a whole lot more to this story than you even guess, but if you take these steps, at least you won’t have any guilt, and you know you did the right thing.

While you’re at it, a hand written letter to your sister, telling her what you tell us here might not be a bad idea.

Jeruba's avatar

Any update now, a week later, @Seek_Kolinahr?

Seek's avatar

Not really.

I didn’t go to the hospital – mainly because I couldn’t afford the extra full tank of gas for the round trip. Turns out she’s going to be staying at my mother’s house. So, visiting her at home is out, too.

I’ve spoken with my mother’s sister, who has offered to let us use her house as a neutral meeting ground, mom-free. So, I just have to find a day that’s free for everyone, during a time I have the money to get over there.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Thanks for the update. My best thought and wishes are with you.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – My best wishes and hopes are with you as well ! A tough situation, but I think you will handle it well.

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