My grandfather died a few weeks ago, and ever since, I’ve been mulling over something the preacher said in the service.
He kept saying how much my grandfather loved his family. How he loved his wife, my grandmother. How his love was so great.
And I was biting my tongue in the pew as my cousin cried next to me, because I had to stop myself from sharing a number of things about his love.
My grandfather loved his wife. I do believe that. I believe that he loved his family – my dad and my aunt and all of us.
But I also believe, and more so than believe, I KNOW, that he was emotionally abusive to all of those people he loved so much.
And what bothered me so much about the preacher’s words, is that it almost seemed like the preacher was excusing granddaddy’s behavior. And sure, the preacher had known him for years and might not have been able to come up with another way to approach my grandfather’s personality. (Approximation of a quote: “He had a lot of opinions, and his opinions were very opinionated.”)
But that doesn’t matter. Because love does not overcome abuse. Love does not excuse abuse.
Love isn’t why my grandfather spoke to my grandmother so angrily.
Love isn’t why my grandfather would get offended by something my father said and proceed to ignore him – up to and including pretending he was not physically present in the same room – for months at a time.
That is not love.
That is abuse. It is emotional manipulation. It is wrong.
Love does not offer excuses for abusive behavior.
As a kid, I loved my grandfather. My grandfather was a 6’2″, 300 pound, loud, scowling man who walked with a permanent limp and a cane. He smiled and flirted with waitresses, and talked shit about them behind their backs. He had a huge laugh, and regularly took me with him to go to flea markets – our favorite way to spend a weekend.
But as an adult, I see the issues more clearly. I remember the way he yelled at my grandmother about anything and everything. I remember how he stopped speaking to me for six months when I asked him to stop saying racist things about my dad’s business partner. I remember him shaking his fist in someone’s face.
“Love” is not an excuse for abusive behavior. Not ever.