Enter the Evil Granny. This was not her official name, and I called her “Baba Masha” (“baba” being Russian child-speak for “granny”), but the sentiment was legit. Taking the “selective memory” amendment, I will stick with the sentiment.
Evil Granny was my Mom’s Mom, and hated Dad with a passion, making a point of mentioning this to everybody around, whether they wanted to listen to her or not.
“Your Dad is a proper idiot”, she would hiss, “a total looser!” (Donald Trump would have been so proud of my Evil Granny!…)
The only one in the family with the vocabulary and guts to swear out loud (I can definitely see some genes having been passed through), she did not need a reason, or even an audience to rant about my Dad. Why – I have never figured out… He married her daughter being absolutely and totally in love with her, provided for her and the family, even took the Evil Granny under his roof, fully knowing her hatred and loathing of him, and stoically shared our limited communal space with her for almost 10 years.
I never really listened to her rants – my Dad was my Dad, the best guy in the world, who would goof with me painting silly pictures with water on the walls (to the disgust of my Mom), and carve little animals out of tasteless cardboard cheese, when after one of my numerous childhood pneumonias the doctors said I should get more calcium. But Dad deserves and will get a separate story – we are on the Evil Granny now.
She must have hated my Mom/her daughter as well, although in a much more discreet and less obvious way, offering snide comments on her appearance, choice of clothing, parental abilities, and pretty much anything any time she would get a chance.
In my childhood memories she is always there, shuffling around the apartment wearing a kitchen apron, half bent, with one hand on the small of her back (radiculitis and other back problems were also part of the genetic inheritance, that does not allow me to forget Evil Granny), and swearing under her breath.
“Fucking senility is getting the best of me…” she would mutter, holding on to the small of her back.
For many years afterwards, I was convinced that “senility” was a medical term for radiculitis and back pain. Only later, when I grew up and stumbled upon the term in an encyclopedia, I started wondering if, maybe, Evil Granny was just plain crazy… This sure would explain her hatred of the world and those close to her. But in my childhood memories she remained just an Evil Granny.
I don’t remember her being particularly nasty to me personally – maybe she did not project her hatred of the world at me (at least back then). But she sure was not the homey, fuzzy Granny, reading fairy-tales and spoiling her only granddaughter rotten. She would babysit and look after me (my Mom went back to work pretty early after my birth – I suspect that sharing the same territory with Evil Granny 24/7 was simply more than she could bear), but I don’t remember any particular warmth, or love dispensed my way.
She was the first in the family to get her own place. Not because she deserved to have it, but because we deserved to be away from her. I vaguely remember that at some point she became so unbearable about my Dad, screaming obscenities out loud for the whole neighborhood to hear, that my parents threw some basic necessities into a suitcase, packed me up and moved out of the apartment, leaving Evil Granny to sort her shit out with Uncle Sasha. He stoically listened to her screams in the intoxicated haze of his “pay week”, and hid in his room during the “dry” rest of the month.
We temporarily moved in with the family of my Dad’s brother, who lived in a small 3 room apartment with a wife, son and his father/my Granddad. The change wasn’t that big – Granddad, long time divorced from my other Granny, Dad’s Mom, could easily beat Uncle Sasha in the drinking competition. He did not smoke, or shit himself, though, and did not swear at anybody, so in this respect this was an improvement of our living conditions. Me and my parents camped in the living room for about a week, but this was always supposed to be just a temporary solution – their place was way too small for 7 people to co-exist.
For the next year, we rented a room in a different area of the city from a nice family with a daughter my age. I finally had somebody to play with, and the cramped environment of a 10 square meter room I shared with my parents was not in any way an inconvenience. I was sorry to move back into our old apartment, when my Dad, for once in his life using his work connections and probably bribing a couple of people on the way (something he was physically un-capable of doing), got Evil Granny her own digs in a brand-new apartment block not too far from us. He moved her shit out, and from that moment on, never saw her or spoke a word to her again. I am sure the relief was mutual.
Evil Granny was born well before the war, survived the 900 days siege of Leningrad, when the city was left bare, cold and hungry, and despite her numerous health problems attributable to her hard life and poor healthcare, managed to drag on till a respectable age of 87. Like many people who looked real hunger in the face, she stocked up on flower, sugar, salt and matches ever since, and I remember opening the cupboards and shelves in her new apartment, only to find neat jars with sugar, and endless rows of matchboxes stacked inside. The fact that her cooker was electric, and there was not a single candle in the apartment did not stop Evil Granny – old habits die hard…
By the end of her life she alienated pretty much everybody – I stopped calling or visiting, and did not feel a pang of guilt about it. Every time I did show up she would just swear and tell me how useless my parents were (by now, her public hatred spread over to her daughter as well) and how it was no wonder that they produced such a useless piece of shit as me. I did not need to hear this every fucking time, so stopped visiting all together.
A couple of years ago, I finally managed to convince my Mom to let me scan the old photos from my parents’ childhood (those were already falling apart), as well as my own. I could not find any photos of Evil Granny there. The one on the cover of this story is the closest resemblance I could find on the Internet, and it looks about right.
Considering all Evil Granny had gone through – poverty, the war, starvation, communism, etc., I guess she had the right to be a bitch. But then, again, she had full right not to.