I often think of ways to protect my little girl from falling victim to someone like my grandfather and struggle with how to proceed with this task. I have had the conversation with her on the topic of inappropriate touching from anyone including family members because though I remember my father having that conversation with me, it did not help. It did not help because the warning was only towards strangers and not family members. If I had received a warning that family members too can hurt you, I think I would have said something.
During a therapy session, when I was discussing the subject of what to say to my daughter (now and as she gets older), my therapist mentioned some things I could say to her and one thing was regarding “the feeling of being uncomfortable”. Then I realized that the feeling of being uncomfortable did not occur for me until two years after my grandfather began to molest me. You see, as much as it is difficult to say this, it is the truth. The truth is, between the ages of 8 and 10.5 years old, none of his touching felt uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, I remember it feeling good. I was very comfortable. So even if someone had told me that the “uncomfortable feeling” was an indicator of something being wrong, it would not have applied to me. My grandfather groomed me and groomed me well. He paid very close attention to me and everything that was happening to me and around me.
I watched my grandfather manipulate everyone by lying and being his charming self. I knew he was fooling everyone but I thought he was doing it in order to maintain the relationship that we had going. At no point did it even cross my mind that he was manipulating and lying to me. I truly believed that I was his favourite and that I was special. He told me those very words each time he got the chance to. So after hearing those words so often, I really believed it. Not to mention that the touching would proceed the “nice compliments”, always. He never told me nice things if the touching was not going to happen. But that was a problem for me because each time my grandfather saw me and did NOT touch me, I became very upset. I thought I did something to make him angry with me. Little did I know that he would not touch me because there were no opportunities for him to do it without being caught. It was so confusing to me because there were several times where he would touch me when people were in the same room. This was how he convinced me that all he was doing was “okay”.
He fooled my parents so much; he used them and their weaknesses to get to me. My parents were immigrants and so was my grandfather. When he arrived in Canada, he became one our main caregivers. It was convenient to have him come over every Saturday to watch us while my parents went out to run errands. Saturday was the only day that they could go shopping for the week and get other things done. He knew they appreciated the help and so he would always volunteer to come to our home to care for us. So he did not have to work hard to gain the trust of my parents.
Once the trust was there, he began to develop a unique relationship with me. He would work on gaining my trust. He did this by observing how my parents would deal with me and then find a way to convince me that they did not love me as much as he did; that he was the only one who paid attention to me. My grandfather gave me attention by appearing interested in things that I did. He asked me a lot of questions and made me feel that he cared about me and my well being. When I was little my weakness was money. I learned that people with money received lots of attention and made you popular around your friends. I would ask my grandfather for money (other than the money he would give me, my brother and sister) and he would it give me….no questions asked. However, when he did ask me what I needed the money for, I would lie…of course. I did not know then, but I was manipulating him to get things I needed because I knew he would. I also knew how much he loved me and that he would do anything to keeps things that way. My grandfather made sure that I would keep things he did with me a secret, because I did not want to lose the great treatment he was giving me. I mean, what kid would not want to a have someone who catered to their every need. I had so much to lose or at least that is what I thought.
My grandfather had a few personalities and I think I must have been one of the few people to see them all. He was a mean bastard! He ill treated my grandmother all the time. I loved my grandmother and could not understand why he was so mean to her. I watched him be nice to all his neighbours and friends. He would give a helping hand to anyone who needed him. He actually became the landlord or “go to” person in his apartment building that was a little community for seniors. The man was very charming when he wanted to be; but turn around and raise his voice to my humble grandmother and would call her names and belittled her in front of us (my brother and sister). Even though it bothered me to see him treating her like that, I did not worry because my grandmother and I would have conversations about how much worse he use to be. So what I observed was actually good as far as my grandmother was concerned. I became very angry later on in life when I learned from my father that he was abused by my grandfather as a young man. He physically, emotionally and mentally abused my father. I remember that my grandfather would call my dad any time he needed help with something. He would also tell my dad to bring us along for a visit. My dad was always doing favours for his father and it never seemed to be enough. I now know that it was my dad’s way of trying to get his father’s approval. So sad. I saw first hand the evil, the charming and the sick man that my grandfather was.
Earlier, I stated that for the first two and a half years I did not feel uncomfortable when my grandfather would molest me but there did come a time when things did begin to feel weird and uncomfortable. However, by then it was too late; he had me in his clutches and was not about to let go. It was 1983 and my parents were in their bedroom with my sister packing suitcases to take a trip to Jamaica. My sister was born here in Toronto and this would be her first visit to the island. My grandfather came by to get instructions for the next two weeks because he and my grandmother were going to stay at our place to care for my brother and I. Yes, that is right. Two weeks of being alone with my grandfather; I will share with you how he manipuatlated the circumstance to make sure that we were alone together. But that day when my parents were in their bedroom, he walked me across the living room floor held my little face in his hand, he bent down to give me a kiss and for the first time stuck his tongue in my mouth and told me that I was growing nicely and he kissed me like that because I am a big girl now…….that was the first time I felt uncomfortable and grossed out…… (to be continued