The Believer: Something Witchy for Leslie Van Houton

I’ve been thinking about Martha as part of a longer piece about my grandparents.  My grandmother, with Munchausen by Proxy, killed four or five people—mostly by accident, but still. (My experience with the police—I’ve talked to them—is not exactly CSI.)  One victim was her husband (her second husband, who was terminally ill, and took a very sudden turn for the worse), one was her lover (he was younger than her, in his 70s, not 80s, but he kept breaking limbs, and after Grandma’s series of several frantic calls about the level of care he required, he dropped dead), and two were her children. Martha and Norman. Or, well, I shouldn’t blame Grandma entirely. Martha died of melanoma, which doesn’t usually kill people (though Grandma may have cared for her to death), and Norman died in a scuba diving accident. 

To explain: Grandma didn’t want Norman to go diving that day, but he had already put money down for the boat (scuba diving is very expensive), and he insisted on going, so she poisoned him, probably with prescription pills (but it could have been vitamins, she had been a nutritionist), and then when he went anyway he made a fatal miscalculation (he waited, um, on the sea floor, for help). 

Should I say that my brother, my mother, my wife and I all believe this, but hope to be mistaken?  My parents were very young when they had me, and until I was old enough to care for myself, Grandma would take me in for weeks at a time, and at Grandma’s I’d be amazed by this unusual thing that happened, which I assumed happened to everyone.  Sometimes I would sleep for 48 hours straight.  Also, a few times in the middle of the night, maybe half a dozen, I had trouble breathing, and Grandma had to rush me to the hospital.

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