Grandma started to lose her mind as she aged, and Mother thought it would be wise to take her into our home. She thought it might slow the progression, or at least keep her comfortable until her mind was emptied of every last one of it's marbles. Grandma was always a strict, bitter, and admittedly terrifying woman. She was well respected, but also feared. No one dared stand up to her, even as she started insisting that her delusions and hallucinations were true. We went along with it, but we also anxiously awaited the day that the 90 year old would pass.
Myself being nearly twenty five meant that I did the majority of the housework to pay my dues, and Grandma was strict about it. Dad's been gone my entire life, I had no other siblings, and an ectopic pregnancy ruined my chances at having my own family and tore apart my fragile relationship. These two women are all I've got, and I needed them when I was alone and my mind slunk into dark places. Living with my mother wasn't the most desirable thing, but since my loss I haven't been able to function at 100%. Mom could use the help anyways, living alone can be depressing.
I had been back home for a month when Grandma had come to stay with us. She wasn't quite as crazy when she first got there, just constantly mumbling about voices. I wasn't ecstatic about housing and caring for a mad woman, but I figured it could be worse. I thought it would be something else to take my mind off of constant dark thoughts, but she ended up being a black hole. After a few weeks of staying with us her condition was becoming noticeably worse. Her mumbling turned to shouting, and she began insisting the things she saw and heard were real.
We had to play along or risk facing a violent outburst. She'd throw anything close enough to grab, and it fucking hurt if you were in the way of whatever she was throwing. We were nearly two months into this hell when she got my mother across the chest with a plate. It cut her deeply, and she had to go to the hospital for stitches. Grandma had always been a bitter woman, but this illness was bringing it to new levels. Mom refused to tell anyone outside the family how she really got the injury, and you could tell the secret was eating her up inside. She followed the one most important rule: You don't do that to family. Which meant, you never admit to someone outside the family that someone inside did something wrong. It was a rule that had been heavily enforced for generations.
After that incident the situation in the house got very tense, and it made me wish I could get my shit together enough to leave. I'd feel awful leaving my mother alone with Grandma though.
Another month and things were intolerable. The house was a constant cascade of noises, TVs, radios, and loud uncomfortable voices filled any silence. Silence was no longer allowed. Partaking in the delusions meant more than just patting the old woman on the shoulder and saying, “Yes, I hear it too.” We had to help her block out the voices, or face her wrath. I honestly couldn't understand why my mother wouldn't just put her in a home.
I'd asked her, and every time she'd given the same reply. “You don't do that to family.”
I can understand the sentiment, I couldn't imagine how I'd feel if I had a child who sent me away to die in a false paradise. Old age homes are depressing, I've never met someone with any happy stories about sending a family member to one. Now, Grandma would be a different case. She didn't really deserve the amount of kindness we afforded her, but it wasn't entirely her fault. Sure she was a bitch before she went crazy, but it wasn't nearly as bad.
The constant noise was enough to drive you up the wall, and I ended up finally using my prescription for sleeping pills. Along with the antidepressants I'd already been taking they helped enough to bring living there to a level only slightly below intolerable. It was okay, at least I could sleep through the noise. Mom didn't get the luxury of taking pills to shut it out, though she tried. The sleeping pills didn't work well enough for her, and the blaring radio coming from Grandma's room kept her up nearly every night.
I think her true breaking point was about a month and a half ago. We were sitting down for dinner together, both the TV and radio were screaming the news from the living room. I could tell she was agitated, but I didn't realize how much until she got up and unplugged everything. The house fell into a moment of silence before Grandma started screaming.
“Laura, Laura! Why are you letting them take me! Why?!” she shrieked, grasping her head in both hands. After another quiet moment she looked to me instead, “Mary, sweet child, don't let her do this to me. God, make it stop! MAKE IT STOP!” I recoiled as her voice raised, unsure of what to do.
“Grandma it's okay, please--”
“Shut the fuck up. Is it so hard to just have a minute of quiet?” my mother cut me off with a glare.
I was shocked, to say the least. I didn't understand why she was suddenly and so aggressively deciding to stop playing into Grandma's delusions. I didn't have time to ask her either, because that was the moment when a butter knife flew across the table. The heavy metal handle her hit her just above her temple, and the blood was immediate. She was pissed, but in a terrifyingly calm way. She touched her fingers to the wound, looked at the blood, and smiled.
“You fucking bitch,” she said in a low voice, “I care for you, take you into my home, put up with your bullshit, and when we don't play along for thirty seconds you hurt us?”
Grandma looked a little shocked but resumed her yelling, “They're going to take me, they took my baby! Look how she disobeys me, she's handing me to the voices!”
Mother shook her head and walked away from the table, and I did the only thing I thought would help. I started a random conversation with Grandma, something to distract her from her screaming and give my mom a chance to calm down and relax. It wasn't very helpful, I wasn't loud enough to block out the false voices in Grandma's head. I ended up sitting her in front of the TV and putting the news back on at a disgustingly loud volume. I went to find my mom and ask her if she was okay. She was in the bathroom tending to her wound.
“Are you going to the hospital?”
“Did you really turn that damn TV back on?” she replied without looking at me.
“Um.. Yea. I figured it was better than the screaming..”
“I'm not going anywhere, someone will wonder why I've needed stitches twice in as many months. We don't talk about this kind of thing with other people. You don't do that to family. Oh, and stop making noise. I have a migraine and I'm going to lose it on someone if I hear another sound for the rest of the day.” She pushed past me and walked away, leaving me conflicted.
I spent the rest of the day trying to deal with the screaming, and when I could no longer take it I decided I needed to calm Grandma down. Mom had gotten so pissed off that she had moved the TV and radio from the living room into her own bedroom and closed herself in with them. There was only screaming to be heard in the house. I spent hours trying to talk Grandma out of it, but it only calmed her slightly. When mom finally came out of the room she looked exhausted.
“Didn't I tell you to shut up?” She sighed. I felt bad for disobeying, but I didn't know how else to deal with it. “You want tea, Mary? I’m gonna make us all some tea so we can forget about this stressful day.”
I nodded, wanting to avoid her freaking out again. We all sat and drank the tea, while Mom sang loudly to avoid the screaming. It was almost a peaceful moment. I checked the time after we finished and it was getting late, so I helped Grandma up the stairs and into bed. I turned on her bedside radio, and she was asleep within a few minutes. Relative peace at last. The day had exhausted me. I called a goodnight down the stairs to mom, and went into my own room. I couldn't immediately find my sleeping pills, but I was so exhausted that I didn't bother searching. I'd sleep fine without taking one.
I slept better than I had in months, it was deep and peaceful and when I finally woke up I wished I could have stayed asleep forever. It was still dark, I was groggy and in a great amount of pain. I brought my hand to my face and I could feel that something was very, very wrong. I ran to the bathroom and caught sight of myself in the mirror, and my mouth bled as it attempted to open and vomit. I choked it down and cried silent tears. My mouth was sewn shut. Somehow through my shock I noticed an empty pill bottle in the sink, my sleeping pills. I had refilled the prescription only two days ago, meaning that nearly thirty pills had been used. I felt sick as I realized what my mother had done.
I ran to Grandma's room next, and found her in the same mutilated state as I was. Only she was also cold to the touch. I fought the urge to vomit again, and left the room. She either overdosed or asphyxiated and I wasn't trained to tell which was the case with her mouth sewn. I couldn't find my mother anywhere in the house, and when I pulled out my phone I realized that she could be anywhere right now. I had slept for nearly two days. No wonder I didn't wake up while being mutilated, I was nearly comatose.
I wanted to call the police, but as I was about to dial I kicked myself internally. You can't talk, stupid. I walked my sorry ass to the nearest hospital, not wanting to traumatize anyone on the way. My car was missing, so I guess that's what mom used. The hospital staff nearly shit themselves when I walked into the emergency room, it was almost funny.
This entire part of my journey is fairly boring, except for when they realized that behind my sewn lips I had no tongue. They “replaced” it, but I haven't learned how to speak again yet. I'm scared to talk ever again. The police came to question me about what happened, but I only wrote down that I couldn't remember. Obviously my mother was a suspect, they had found Grandma's body in her house. I know it seems messed up that I wouldn't directly admit what my mother did, but I have three very good reasons for that.
- She was already the only suspect.
- I was afraid she'd find me and punish me again for speaking when I shouldn't.
- You don't do that to family.