The Generational Curse

My grandma always said our family was cursed in relationships because so many of us ended up in marriages where we were mistreated. I can’t say she’s right because I have an aunt and uncle and some cousins and a brother who are all blessed with having chosen correctly. However, my grandma’s experience with her former husband parallels mine in so many ways, which has made her a source of strength and understanding with which I couldn’t have gotten through those struggles.

Like me, Grandma knew from the beginning that Juan wasn’t the one for her. He may not have been the one for anyone, really, because he felt entitled to engage with all women.

My grandma had come from Puerto Rico with her mother, who encouraged her to marry Juan, a charming, outgoing, talented singer and musician, who made a good income working for the City of Chicago. When they were urged to come together as a couple, however, Juan brought my grandma to the city and asked, “Do you want to meet my girlfriend?” Despite being put off, she was urged by their two families to remain with Juan, and then to marry him.

She should have been happy, according to those around her. Juan bought them a house. He did his duty as the breadwinner, so my grandma could be a housewife and mother to the daughter and two sons they had together. He was good to my great-grandmother, who adored him in return. But my grandma wasn’t happy. She was dying inside because of Juan’s continued infidelity, alcoholism, and mistreatment of her and the kids.

Juan would come home from work, shower, dress in nice clothes, and tell her he was going out with his friends. Irma would awaken in the night to Juan creating drunken chaos in the home, if Juan returned home at all. She’d found him in the living room having sex with a woman on their sofa on one occasion. Juan’s brother told her that Juan had brought almost two dozen different women back to his house over the years. When my grandma dared to confront her husband, he sprayed her in the eyes with mace and wielded the handgun he was provided with as part of his employment.

He used that same gun against their three children, too. Once, he came home drunk, herded his children out of bed and into the bathtub, held the gun to their heads and threatened them. When my grandma tried to stop him, he turned the gun onto her. Thankfully, no one was hurt that night.

Years later, he insisted on spending time with me. I was the first and only grandchild, born of their daughter. He took me to a bar he frequented, set me up on a bar stool with a glass of orange juice, and left with a woman. A bar patron who knew Juan well returned me to my grandma safely. I was only three years old, and only saw Juan a handful of times after that. He was a stranger, whom I couldn’t forgive for the pain he put our family through, which is why I could never call him “Grandpa.”

My grandma divorced Juan after twenty-five years of marriage. He attempted to dissuade her with promises of a new house and promises to stop drinking, but she knew he would never follow through and divorced him anyway.

Juan died in 2005, but not from the liver transplant he’d had, after which he’d immediately gone to the bar. Although he should have assigned his three children or five grandchildren as beneficiaries to his life insurance and other earthly possessions, he didn’t. He left everything to his most recent girlfriend and her three very young children. It was his last slap in the face to my grandma and the family they created together.

Grandma buried her younger son two years later, when his attempt to salvage his toxic relationship with his wife ended in what was made to look like suicide.

At eighty-three years old, Grandma is still trying to resolve the trauma of her abusive past. Listening to her relive her experiences and the pain associated with them over and over after all this time was one of the biggest motivations for me to make a change in my life. Although I wish for Grandma to find peace in her heart before her days are done, I’m not sure that she will. So, I had to end the generational curse, not just to end the abuse, but to end the abuse we purport unto ourselves by remaining in situations that allow it to happen.

So, Grandma, it’s over. For you, for me, for my uncle in Heaven, the abuse and the curse can no longer hurt us. We’re free.

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