Friday, July 8, 2011

Notes on the death of my grandfather

A gentle warning--this post touches on physical and sexual abuse. Please be gently forewarned if you suffer from PTSD around these issues.

I learned today that my grandfather David "Buddy" Eaton died on July 1st, 2011, one week ago. He is survived by four of his six children and seven grandchildren and a bunch of great grandchildren.

This is my story about my granddad.

I'm pretty sure I met my granddad three times during my lifetime--Once when I was very young, my family visited Boston--I remember being at his house, and seeing him with two of his beautiful fascinating colorful parrots, who were riding on his left and right shoulders. I remember he seemed to have a funny egg shaped bump on his forehead, and a funny egg shaped concavity next to it, and thinking they balanced each other out somehow. I remember him talking to me a little bit about birds, and learning that he was president of the local birding society. I remember his house, in which my mother grew up, seeming very large, with multiple floors going up and a basement going down. That would have been in Saugus, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. All this must have been around about 1980.

I didn't see him again until 'round about 2004. But first, I should tell you that I learned in ~2001 that my grandfather was a pedophile. He raped my mother many times during the years of her adolescence. He was also psychologically, verbally, and physically abusive toward all his 5 children. He used to hit the children in the face with a fork at dinnertime if they did something wrong. Apparently both my mum and all her siblings left home and got as far away as possible pretty much the moment they turned 18--all joining the U.S. military, I believe. In the intervening years, they all settled in the general vicinity of Seattle, Washington, pretty much as far away as you can get from Saugus, Massachusetts and still be in the contiguous U.S. At some point my lovely amazing grandmother learned some of the details of what her husband had done to her children and she divorced him and moved to the Seattle area as well.

Back to 2004. In 2004 the extended family heard from an old neighbor/friend that Buddy was very sick, was refusing medical treatment, and was probably going to more or less die in his own shit in his home in the near future if nothing was done. At this point, having been taught a rather toxic brand of forgiveness by the Christian church with which they were involved, my mum and dad flew to Saugus, helped my granddad, apparently more or less against his will, sorted his affairs, sold his house, and brought him back to live in their own home in the Seattle area.

Here's to inviting toxic monsters into your home in the name of God.

Having lived in the same home with her childhood nightmare for a year, in 2005 my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She died of it in June 2008. By the way, you can read my eulogy for my mum here. She was an amazing person.

Anyway, in 2004 when my grandfather was living in my parents' home, I went to meet him. I just wanted to tell him thank you for the $120 he had given to help start a college fund for me back when I was a very young child. I did tell him that, and he didn't seem to totally understand what I was saying, but we did have a little connection--he looked at me and verbally responded in some way. My dad overheard that conversation and explained to me afterwards that it was actually my godfather, a different man altogether, who had given that $120. Ah well.

After my mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2005, the decision was made to place my grand dad in an assisted living facility in Monroe, Washington, close enough that my dad could still go take care for him there, but far enough that my dad could mostly focus on spending time with and caring for my mum. My granddad was at that facility from 2005 until ~2010, when the exorbitant monthly fees finally depleted his substantial life savings and he had to be moved to a government funded facility nearby. It was at that first facility, Merrill Gardens in Monroe, that I met him for the 3rd and last time. I decided to go spend father's day with him one year--I think 2009. I went and had dinner with him in the dining room, and hung out with him and some others who lived there. He was I think 82 years old at the time, and pretty much unresponsive. You couldn't really have any sort of conversation with him. I didn't see him again.

During 2004-2008, there were multiple instances where my mother's extended family were getting together for various occasions, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, when I had to clearly explain to all them that I and my little family with two young girls would not be coming if grand dad were invited, because I didn't want him around my young daughters. I was usually roundly castigated for this, and sometimes they agreed not to have him come, but other times he was invited and thus our little family didn't go.

Other bits and pieces: My understanding is that my granddad fought in WWII in Europe, but I'm not totally sure about that. Also, he worked for many years as a chemist, I'm pretty sure, for some petrochemical company in the greater Boston area, from which he retired when he got to the age for retiring.

It's also my understanding that he made inappropriate and illegal sexual advances and comments toward the young nurses who worked at the assisted living facilities he was at from 2005-2011, and that the police were called multiple times because of this.

I'm glad he has died. He was an ongoing financial and emotional drain on my dad, who has enough of his own stuff to deal with, but who promised my mum before she died that he would look after my granddad.

Finally, if you or someone you know is committing or has committed sexual abuse of children, please call StopItNow's free helpline at 1888PREVENT. The folks at stop it now have a lot of experience helping abusers find the help they need to stop abusing and become safe people. And if you know of a situation of ongoing abuse, please act now to protect the victims--the phone counselors at Stopitnow can guide you as to what steps you can take to protect the victims and prevent further abuse. Even if you're just suspicious and want to know how to tell, they can help you with that as well. If you're not in the U.S., please find an organization in your own country that can help.

1 comment:

  1. I love that you are changing the power imbalance, taking power from protecting the abusers, giving power to protect the abused, to protect children from being abused. It's hard to stand up against that system, so deeply and tragically entrenched within our society.

    I love you Benjamin.

    I believe in you.