Containing Rage

Bernadette Judaea
4 min readFeb 9, 2023

I overheard my grandma telling my grandpa that he threatened to slap my mom.

Photo by Christian Garcia on Unsplash

Grandpa has dementia. He doesn’t remember a lot of things. He often forgets why he even got up out of his chair sometimes. He gets very frustrated over his inability to piece together his short-term memory. He repeats the same stories about his past over and over. At times, he gets violent. He’s thrown pill bottles and once he raised his fist at my mother. He doesn’t remember that. I will never forget it. These are just the things I’ve observed while living here the past two years.

He’s also threatened to kick my ass, however, because I have never been subjected to his physical abuse, I presented my ass to him by turning to the side and gesturing with my arm behind me. “Go ahead, its right here.” I taunted. I knew he’d have trouble even standing up, much less attacking me. There are times I want to provoke him so I can teach him a lesson. I’ve thought about getting in his face in a way that he’d remember not to fuck with my mom. I haven’t because I know his condition, and I also don’t want to upset my grandma anymore than I have to.

But learning this secret while I was in the bathroom eavesdropping brought those feelings up again. He asked my grandma if he’d gotten into a fight with my mom. She replied by telling him that they had gotten into an argument and that he’d threatened to slap her. Sitting on the porcelain throne, I clenched my teeth and snarled (because of this information, not because of anything going on with my digestive tract). Then I heard grandma telling my sister ‘good morning’, because she’d just walked in to the house. As I sauntered through the living room to the kitchen, my eyes were locked on the back of his bald head that peaked above the top of his recliner. I imagined my gaze was a laser that could melt him into nothing.

I know without a doubt my grandpa was physically abusive. This is not easy for me to handle. I lived with an abuser. I know what its like to have hands clenched around my neck, with someone spitting and screaming in my face. It brings me into a state of rage. I’ve written many times about knowing my grandpa’s past. He was a womanizer and an abuser, and yet I give him hugs before I go to bed at night. Everyone in the house walks on eggshells and pretends this is all because of his dementia. Nobody corrected him before he was diagnosed so now everyone has to live with him the way he is; a pestilent old fuck that complains everyday. The same type of person I would have been with had I stayed with my ex.

So if theres something I’ve learned, it's patience and also that this is not my war to fight. Make no mistake, if he touches my mother, I’ll have him rotting in jail until the day the devil finally comes to take him away. But until then, this is not my battle to fight, it’s my mom’s and my grandma’s. My grandma for staying with him despite him being a threat to my mom and her. Its my mom’s because he’s her demon. He’s the reason she feels insecure, and for that I can’t stand him. But I am who I am in relation to these people. At the end of the day, I still have to like myself. No matter how much of a terror he’s been in the past, I cannot be the one that beats the crap out of an old man. I could not live with myself.

I’ve learned to watch my emotions and impulses, but not commit to or identify with them. I’ve learned to see myself getting worked up as the observed entity while still maintaining my grip on the hand of the Observer. Its hard not to intervene, but I know that God will inch us toward discomfort until we figure out how to change our own circumstances. My mother loves her parents, she even quit her job to care for them. She doesn’t deserve to be mistreated, but she has to figure that out. If I try to take on my grandpa for her, then she just feels the need to console me instead of realizing she is the one in danger. I have to wait and pray it never escalates to the point of a catastrophe, but its not easy.

Even though I won’t fight him, I know that part of the reason I stay is to protect my mom. It takes me back to that girl in the mirror that was crying because her boyfriend lost his temper; that girl was me (if that wasn’t obvious). She always wondered why he treated her so badly, when really she should have been asking why she ever stayed. Why she allowed him to hurt her. It was because she thought she could change him or at least help him to find his way. She was also scared of the world and he at least provided the potential to be protected from strangers.

That man-child was beyond hope and we have to understand this about my grandpa too. There will come a time when he has to be put away if he doesn’t die first. Honestly, I’m hoping the latter will come sooner than later. If not, I may have to remove myself from this situation and let the gentle women deal with the mess they allowed to fester. Turning my back on this problem is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. It's not worth it for me to abandon all the work I’ve been doing in healing myself. Dementia is bad, but rage is worse. I am not my grandpa and I refuse to allow him to control my emotions.

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