Bad Grandma

No, not me. I am not a bad grandma. I am at the very least an okay grandma.

My grandmas?

I had a good grandma and a bad grandma. They even looked the part. My good grandma had fluffy white hair and she made amazing fudge. My bad grandma had hair that looked like a hell hound blew ropy black snot all over her head.

It’s possible I exaggerated. She had salt and pepper hair. And she was a horrible woman.

She lived until I was nearing my mid twenties. My older son was still an infant. Quite frankly, I am stunned she lived as long as she did.

My grandmother’s left hand thumb and index finger were permanently stained an unholy color of orange. The nails were yellow. She smoked filterless cigarettes all day long, lighting one from the other without stop.

She wasn’t an alcoholic, though. I am sure of this because because she explained to me many times that she was not an alcoholic. For one thing, she only drank beer and she never drank a beer before noon.

When that clock struck 12, that first beer was cracked and she didn’t stop until she passed out.

Was she a happy drunk?



My grandmother had this dog. I don’t know what breed, but he kind of looked like a wiener dog, except a lot fatter. Like a wiener dog that ate another wiener dog. The dog didn’t have any fur on his sides, just exposed maroon skin. His name was Fatso.

Fatso, the bald wiener dog, would sit at her feet, while she sat in a dingy housecoat and slippers, and lick her shins. For hours. Feel free to shudder a little.

Before you start feeling sorry for her because I’m painting this horrible picture of a woman who has been dead for 27 years, hear me out.

My grandmother kept a fly swatter in her hands at all times. If you got too close, she would just wail on you. After all, you did something wrong and she made goddamn sure you were going to be punished. Even though the only thing you had done since you got there was stare at the clock and will time to move faster.

She abused her children and said miserable, horrible things every time she opened her mouth. She had favorite grandchildren and was not shy about keeping that a secret. I wasn’t a favorite.

I am a bad housekeeper but compared to my bad grandma, I am Alice from The Brady Bunch.

Her house was disgusting and smelled bad. There were rats and everything was covered in hair, which is amazing considering how bald her dog was.

We rarely ate there because eww.

I remember her burning hard boiled eggs.

I remember thinking “How can you burn a hard boiled egg? Anyone can make hard boiled eggs.

Well, I have recently found myself in a position to admit that I might have something in common with my grandmother. I mean, other than my middle name was her first name.

I found the perfect way to hard boil eggs. You put the eggs in cold water on the stove, bring the water to a roiling boil then remove the pot from the heat and just let the water cool off. Works like a charm, every time.

Until last night, when I put a dozen eggs on the stove, came upstairs to my bedroom and forgot about them for nearly two hours.

By the time I discovered my extra, ultra, uber hard boiled eggs, there was barely any water left and the shells were scorched.

I immediately thought of my grandmother and her burned hard boiled eggs and thought “Fuckity fuck. I’m turning into my grandmother.”

I threw out my dozen eggs and decided to try again tonight.

I fucking forgot about the eggs again.

Two nights in a row.

Okay, tonight, I did remember before too very long. I mean, all the water hadn’t boiled out and they weren’t scorched. I’m thinking the yolks are going to be extra crumbly. Maybe, even sandy.

So….to my long dead grandma,

I haven’t missed you at all. You weren’t nice to me and I’m pretty sure that it is entirely due to you that my dad was such a shitty father. I mean, his actions as an adult were his decision, but I’m sure you didn’t give him much to work with.

However, I do feel compelled to apologize for holding onto that memory of your burning hard boiled eggs, because apparently, that can be a thing.


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    • Oh, I don’t doubt she was suffering. Not at all..The atrocities that she heaped on my dad came from somewhere…but that means very little to a child.

  • This so fits in to some stuff I’ve been dealing with lately. There seems to be this idea that you’re supposed to love your family no matter what, because “they are the only … (fill in family relationship) you’ve got”, even if they are destructive people who have ruined whatever part of your life they had access to. It’s kind of hard to try to explain that no, these people not automatically have value in your life simply because of their relation, without coming off as a douche. But you explained it perfectly 🙂

  • The moral here is don’t count your hard boiled eggs until they’re…something. The important thing is that your bad grandma did set an example of how not to behave, even though it’s pretty much common sense that you would have figured out anyway and she never should have been allowed around children. Or adults. Or probably even dogs.

  • What a foul and spiteful woman (your grandma – not you!) At least she gives you a blazing (as in hell fire) example of what not to be as an older woman and btw I’m still trying to get the picture of her fat, semi-naked weiner dog out of my head 😛

  • HAHAHAHA!!! You can really paint an image with your words. Looking back the patterns are SO obvious – but again – doesn’t matter to the kid suffering through it at the time.

    My Bad Grandma was the opposite of yours. OCD-neat freak. We were allowed to sit on the plastic covered couch and “look” at her dog. She wouldn’t come to family functions unless she had been to the salon that morning. I completely understand where my father’s horrible control freak narc-iness behavior came from.

    P.S. I ADORE you!!! 😛

    • YAY! I will take all the love I can get. 🙂

      Yeah, narcissism has many different faces..but very often, the aftermath for the kids is much the same.

  • I agree with trillie; blood doesn’t make a family. My own grandmother wasn’t a warm and fuzzy woman. She hated my Dad and made no secret of it. But she wasn’t frightening. She made the best cinnamon rolls, as long as you overlooked the cigarette hanging from her mouth with an inch of ash waiting to fall into the dough.

  • I can only begin to imagine how uncomfortable those visits must have been for you. She certainly was the bad grandma. I’m not one for sticking up for family “no matter what.” For all I know I might be related to some seriously fucked up individuals from long ago. Who knows? (I’m kinda glad I don’t.) Got enough to deal with now. As for eggs: Once I put a few eggs to boil in a pyrex pot. Then my sister called. So I happily gabbed away on my couch until I heard an explosion of sorts from the kitchen. Water evaporated. Pot shattered. Eggs rocketed up to the 10ft ceiling. Part of one stuck there. I located another on yonder windowsill, obviously attempting a desperate escape from my culinary inadequacy. Sister still laughing. I’m still sorry I missed the “launch”. (Thanks for making me laugh and gag. You’re my kind of people.)

  • My Grandmother called me Shelly… I went by that name every time I went to Florida. She was a snob, an aristocrat snob. She was also an alcoholic and not a very nice one.
    From one Shelly to another… we survived… and broke that cycle 🙂

  • Sounds like a real delight, I’m very glad I had the grandparents I had, although one side were definitely barking mad and dysfunctional as it gets, they were never cruel to their grandchildren.
    I boiled an egg almost dry the other week, so you’re not alone in this. What makes it worse is that it’s three steps to my kitchen from here, so I really don’t have an excuse for forgetting.
    My brain is obviously turning to mush.

  • Wow. Grammas like that shouldn’t even be allowed to call themselves a Gramma.
    I knew within the third paragraph which Gramma was the Mom of your Dad. She shouldn’t have been allowed to call herself a Mom, either. Look what happens to adult children of alcoholics. Sometimes they become narcissistic, and sometimes they become other things. They are never not affected.
    I often think about what compassion we have for young children who are abused. Then I think about how we feel about them when they become adults. It all makes me sad.
    I know you are a wa-a-ay better Gramma than an okay Gramma.
    There are a lot of us Grammas who deserve the title.

  • I like that you can apologise for the wrong you did her. Even though she couldn’t apologise to you (even if she wasn’t dead). You are a strong and fair individual.

  • God that brings up some shit in me I had forgotten about but some time ago because of it I promised myself I would learn to be different especially with my three kids sometimes it works sometimes it don’t we can only try are best and if that’s not good enough well at lest we can say we fucking tried.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • My grandmother “smoked” without actually inhaling because it was fashionable to have a cigarette in your hand and her life’s ambition was to be decorative. She would also offer people things like apple pie and then snap, “Well too bad, we haven’t got any.” And when my dad was a kid, she kicked his puppy down the stairs, and laughed.

    I’m glad I don’t have anything in common with her, not even a burnt hard-boiled egg.

    • Wow. That’s terrible. I’m glad you don’t have anything in common with her! I just have the egg thing. Well..and the name thing. But I have an Aunt named Ruth on the other side of my family and I think I was named after her, not my grandmother.

  • Wow, I picture Maxine but at least Maxine had a sense of humor. I knew immediately this was your paternal grandmother. Explains a lot. Burned, hardboiled eggs—sounds like a metaphor for her personality. Great post. I was laughing, picturing the dog, poor thing.

  • While I cannot say I enjoyed your post, it was too familiar to be comfortable at all. But for those of us who have survived and those who are still struggling, I thank you. Léa

  • I only had one grandmother that I knew and she was a bad grandma as well, although of a completely different type. She was a very religious primitive southern baptist. Didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, but was quick to tell you all of the things that were wrong with you and what you believed. When I was 10 YEARS OLD I got a letter from her telling me that she was never going to be able to rest easy knowing that I was going to burn in the fires of hell (as my parents were raising me as a heathen Unitarian).

    She lived to be 89 (my mid thirties) and was able to share her self-righteous judgement with both of my children (happily only in very small doses). I am sad to say that I do not miss her either.

    • I have never felt bad about not missing my grandmother. She lived to her early 70s which is astounding. My good granny lived to 95 and just died a few years ago. I loved her and am happy she lived a long life.

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself, anyone can burn an egg… I did it more times than I can count working as a breakfast cook. Who orders their breakfast eggs boiled? Easy to forget them over there…

  • A friend of mine once put her eggs on to boil (for Easter) and left for church. When she got home, the water had boiled out and the eggs had exploded all over her kitchen. ‘Twas a sad, sad day…no Easter eggs to hide and Easter lunch was delayed while she cleaned egg off of the ceiling in her Easter dress. And her house reeked for days.

  • Bad Grandma is right. Hard boiled heart, more like… or something. Sorry for bad experiences, but happy for your way of writing out the experience- if that makes sense.

    • Hahaha…right? And the funny thing is, she HATED her sister in law (grandpa’s sister) and talked shit about her being an alcoholic because she drank whiskey.

  • So funny. Your grandmother sounds like quite a gal, to say the least. You do such a great job painting a picture of her. It sounds like with time and distance, you’re able to see her for the character she was, even if she wasn’t your favorite.

  • Just proves my point, WE are all fucked up in some way. And usually at the hands of our parents. They wer fucked up at the hands of their parent and so on and so on. My Dad was so screwed by his parents and died when I was 16. My Mom was my best friend but she had her “quirks” too. But they were mine and I loved them. Thank God didn’t have Grandparents like yours though. Cyber HUGS to Michelle.

  • I’ll see your one bad grandma and one good grandma and raise you. No good grandmas, one evil, one mean and another that turned out to not like me at all. Wait, maybe the problem was me? NAH! That can’t be it.

  • I also had a good grandma and a bad grandma – but my bad grandma was nowhere near as mean as yours. She was a woman who had no loving emotions – or at least did not have the capacity to verbalize or show them. My father says that she never, ever told any of her children that she loved them and never hugged them. Which is probably why my dad is also kind of that way (although he is getting better in his old age – at least making an effort). Since she seemed so stern (and rarely smiled) I was always terrified of Grandma Shaw – I spent a lot of time outside when I was at her house…basically trying to avoid her.

    • That sounds like my grandfather on my mother’s side. He wasn’t nice. He scared me. I just avoided him. I honestly only remember him saying one sentence to me “Shelly…put your shoes on”

  • I’m stuck on the dog licking her shins. I may be scarred for life. I had a mean grandma, too. She was my stepfather’s mother and she never let us forget we weren’t ‘blood’, which in an Italian family is every-fucking-thing.
    Your bad grandma definitely fought some demons which is tragic and really explains a lot of things about your father, as you said.

By Michelle


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