My Great-Grandmother and Me

Janice Konstantinidis
9 min readOct 19, 2023

Our Symbiotic Mutualistic Relationship

The cool air of 1964’s Easter week whispered promises of change as I boarded the bus to Dover, a ritual journey to my grandparent’s home from the clutches of my aunt’s iron grip in Hobart. The bus rolled out of Hobart at the twilight hour of 5 p.m., and by 7 p.m., I was greeted by the familiar greenery of Dover.

These trips had become a solace, a sanctuary every two weeks or so, perhaps my aunt’s attempt to maintain some familial semblance. But more than that, it was her way of seeking respite.

For me, every visit was an escape. My aunt’s strict demeanor and volatile temper made our home feel like a pressure cooker. I recall a morning when the wind flapped my bedroom’s curtain outside as I made my bed. I’d opened my window, and she saw it. Her fury knew no bounds. I was met with a stinging slap, and that wasn’t the first. I walked on eggshells; I think we all did. I wasn’t the only one to experience my aunt’s wrath.

Yet a different kind of sadness settled in upon my return to Dover. My childhood memories were slowly being erased — my grandfather had sold my bike, and a doll gifted by my mother was handed over to a cousin. This doll, which I had held so dear, had been kept away from me by my grandmother to prevent any damage. My bedroom had been repainted, refurnished, and now labeled the “guest room.” It felt like she was wiping away traces of me with every brushstroke.

But amidst all this, the warmth of my great-grandmother’s embrace was like a balm. Our laughter echoed on Saturday nights, especially when I recounted my maternal grandmother’s audacity to blame her flatulence on me. Nana told me that “Laughter was the best medicine.” So, we laughed, shaking the bed with our mirth, yet I felt a lingering taste of something I couldn’t define. I think I was depressed.

In Hobart, my life at Claremont High was a fresh chapter. New friendships had blossomed, and school became an adventure. Yet, there were moments of ennui. During math class, I would sketch comical renditions of a classmate, Ron, passing them to him under the table. His stifled giggles often got him thrown out, but he never snitched on me.

Conversations with my grandmother often veered toward my mother. Her disdain for my mother was palpable. And then, after ten long years, I heard my mother’s voice on the phone in Hobart. It felt dreamlike, and I grappled with this sudden reconnection. I…

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Janice Konstantinidis

I am a lover of fine cheese, my dogs, my garden, knitting, photography, writing and more!