My aunt posted something about her father – my mom’s father – who passed 7 years ago today.
She spoke great words about this man. Words I have heard from my mother and her other siblings. Glimpses I saw too – but in the end, I could not have used them.
I recall one of my 25 cousins commenting how patient he was – how giving he was – after this cousin was kicked out of his own family due to laziness and alcoholism. My grandfather took him in – arranged for him to have work. And got him on the right path.
Another ran away from a bad marriage – divorced her husband who happened to be a childhood sweetheart that we all knew. My grandpa gave her safe harbor.
Each grandchild told a story of feeling special – feeling loved – feeling ….
I didn’t cry when he passed.
Not because I’m uncaring, but because he was just someone in my life. He was no one special – no one insightful – no one spectacular the way he seemed to be for everyone else. I grieved more for my mother – who lost her father that day. And that was all.
Seven years ago today, my parents traveled back to Iowa for a funeral. G, the girls and I drove to my parents’ house where a key was left – and my brothers and I held Thanksgiving. We joked that this was the most alcohol my family had seen in a house in a long time. We ate – we laughed – and we all hoped someone would take my parents in so they wouldn’t have to have a TV turkey dinner for Thanksgiving.
Sadly our hope was not met.
I made them a shitload of leftovers and froze them because of that. But that wasn’t the point.
None of us while there together grieved.
I think was all wished we could but sadly could not.
You see, my family was not Catholic. My parents wed out of love and not religious compatibility. My dad, as a result, was hated. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom’s family calling my dad horrible things – he was elitist, a prick, a loser – all of these things because A) he loved my mom and B) he was trying to be a good day, and C) he was trying to be a good member of the family. It never mattered. I recall sharing with my parents a time when I was like 5 yrs old and the shit that went down because my dad tried to do the right thing – and my parents (and G) were shocked. They couldn’t believe I remembered that.
Fuck – neither could I but the memory replayed like it was yesterday.
There were things I liked about my grandpa. Don’t get me wrong. “Son of a biscuit” was as close as you could get him to swear. He was a native man from Luxembourg – left behind to tend his family farm during WWII (he was the only son) – and marry a Catholic girl at 18 and start his own farm and his own family. He was a functional alcoholic until my mom was 17. He married a woman who was a functional prescription drug abuser until my mom was 40. My mom always commented how much he changed after he stopped drinking. I don’t know.
All I do remember about him is this:
He loved Rocky Road ice cream. He bought it from the Schwann’s man by the 5 gallons. We would eat it, what seemed like, late at night out on the farm.
He once traded for a litter of kits – baby foxes – after a truck driver showing up to pick up a dead cow showed him what a previous farm gave him – these baby foxes. They lived in a cage while he sorted out what to do with them.
He made me help with the pigs when he neutered the babies. Baby pigs scream when they are neutered. It was his way of showing the “city kids” how life on the farm was. I still remember my brother commenting how they were cutting off the baby pigs penises. He chuckled. It was their testicles.
His sausage he had made from said pigs was incredible. His brats were the best I’ve ever had. Family recipes for the win.
He did the best for his family. He offered his daughter birth control pills after it was clear she could not handle the 5 kids she had but was still doing “the lord’s work” by going without. He took care of his grandkids who were struggling. He took care of his wife who was always ailing for the prescription drugs of her choice. Even going as far as arranging for her to have sugar pills.
He was a good man.
But he was never what my other grandpa was for me. Not because of anything I did – but the division that came from my non-catholic problem.
I wish that I could have experienced the man he was.
But I was always —-> over here.
On my dad’s side of the family – we were all pulled close – held closed.
And that was the contrast.
When my grandpa died 7 years ago, I felt for my mom more than me. And I’m ok with that fact.
While part of me wishes I could feel more, I am glad for what I had. I learned unconditional love from other family – and that allowed me to see how screwed up certain things were. It allowed me to shape my own opinions about things. And I’m good with that. I love that.
Sadly, most of my mom’s family will never get it. And that makes me more sad that my grandpa dying.