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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Madloch

Tracy Morris

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

This is a wedding picture of my maternal grandmother, Ivy Fagan. For her entire life, she lived in her house in Durban, South Africa. She never traveled farther than 150 km from her house.

Ivy never smiled or looked half-way happy.

She had nine grandchildren, but I do not remember her showing any emotions towards us. She did not do favorites, either. She never asked me any questions about myself nor took any interest in who I was becoming. My visits at her house were purely obligatory and completely devoid of any joy. My mother said they shared a similar cold relationship. My mother was one of three children, but she was sent to a boarding school when she was only six. I think it affected her quite significantly and she never recovered from this experience.

Ivy was a bitter person, with her behavior sometimes bordering on cruelty. For example, later in life, my mother had a stepdaughter who had an illegitimate child who lived with them in the family house. Ivy never wanted anything to do with this child nor ever spoke to him, even when they stayed under one roof. She was an avid Catholic, but her religion never softened her in any way, or taught her to show love to anyone. She also had the strangest and dullest of habits. Among other things, Ivy collected plastic bags, which she folded carefully and stored in drawers. She was very protective and fond of them. One day the house was ransacked, and I cannot stop thinking what a hard time the robbers had going through all those plastic bags.

Ivy was completely dissatisfied with her marriage. Her husband was a heavy drinker and had an affair, which she knew about but could do nothing to change in those times. When my grandfather died at the age of 64, she lived alone till my mother’s sister moved in with her along with her entire family under pretenses that Ivy needed help. In fact, it was my aunt who was seeking shelter and decided to live with her mother even though she had an extremely difficult character. Nobody in the family got along with Ivy. My father once said that she stayed alive for 84 years on pure hatred and spite.

While remembering all these things I try to understand Ivy. Only now I can see that while she made people around her miserable, she also suffered. I’m guessing that she suffered from clinical depression, which was never treated or even diagnosed. I believe that my middle daughter Jessica and I inherited our depression from her. On the other hand, her sad story helps me understand things about me and teaches me how to live or how not to live my life.

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