It was all about the hidden lives of people, how beneath the angry and distant surface can be someone who has just been through hell and doesn't know how to deal with it. Her great-grandmother, Ida, was what was described as a "negligent" mother. She didn't take care of her kids, pretty much. Her son Buster, Gwyneth's grandfather, wasn't fond of his mother because of this (and really, why would he be?), and Gwyneth wanted to know what made this woman such a "bad" mother.
Here's why: the woman went through tragedy and death, plenty of both. Ida was in college when her mother died of cirrhosis of the liver (implied alcoholism, although it may have not been) and her brother died of an "intestinal blockage" just two months after that. A year after the deaths, Ida was "released" from college, probably for spotty attendance.
Later on she got married and had several kids. When she was pregnant with her sixth child, her fifth one died by being run over by a wagon. The little girl was three years old. Just three. Ida gave birth just three weeks after that.
This made me think about Flora. I have heard family stories about her, let's call it "parenting skills", and how they were lacking. She bounced around from husband to husband, she didn't really have roots I'm finding out. She supposedly kicked Robert (my great-grandfather) out when he was 14 or 15, causing a family rift, but he was the informant on her death certificate, so I'm not sure how true it was.
Crazy and heartbroken people are in every family. They have an impact whether we want to believe it our not. Ida was Gwyneth's.