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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Requiem For A Good Man

I went to my daughter's baby shower today. It was great, food, fun and family. I left feeling pretty good and happy. Both of my daughters were there along with my granddaughter. Sort of a girl day for all of us.

I got home and had just come inside and my phone started ringing. It rarely rings any more now that Time Warner showed me how to block a good many sales and pollster calls. I saw it was my mother and I picked it up. She told me that my grandfather who was 99 years old had died in his sleep earlier today. She then called me seven more times to tell me because her dementia is so bad she couldn't remember after that emotional shock. I finally told her to write it down next to her phone because I was busy processing so much anger and I didn't want to take it out on her, even though she's the cause of all that anger. Simply put, it's too late because her mind can no longer make the connections necessary to accept that I mourned the man decades ago when she cut him out of our lives.

So she's going to have to forgive me if I'm not all choked up and bawling my eyes out because Papa is dead.

The last time I saw my grandfather was shortly before my grandmother died. I never saw him again after that. Not once, never even heard from him again. Not one time.

My youngest daughter was doing an essay on World War 2 and she spoke with him on the phone briefly, but his mind was already going with senility by that time that I didn't even get a chance to talk to him.

My earliest memories of my Papa are of snow and snowmobiles in the Idaho wilds. As a child, I was terrified of loud noises, but the snowmobiles were fine because Papa would keep me safe. He's the man who helped me learn to ski, to ice skate, to fire a rifle, to catch a fish and clean it for dinner. He was in the Air Force, stationed at Gowan Field, at that time just outside Boise, ID. I remember being so proud of seeing him in his uniform. We were very close until I was 9 and my cousin Matthew was born. Then my sister and I ceased to exist and my cousin, Rachel, was only endured because she was his sister. That was also the year my mother began moving us around from pillar to post, Idaho to California to Wyoming and eventually Texas. We rarely saw my grandparents unless it was summer and we were sent off because, Parenting? That's for other people. My mother used to send us off for the entire summer, bringing us back just before school started, but my step-dad put a stop to that and we were gone for a month, then back so we could spent time being with our friends and playing in the pool, like normal kids.

My grandfather would take us up to the lake house at McCall and we would fish and swim and leave strings all over his wall to wall carpeting from our cut offs. The 70s were rough on fashion and a nightmare for my neatnik grandfather. The last summer I spent up there was in 1979. I was about to start high school and thought I was all grown up and worldly, because I'd been all over the US and had "seen things" as I told my cousins.

My grandparents came to visit us in Texas a few times, most notably, the Christmas before I gave birth to my eldest. At that point, the breech was so wide that there was a great gulf fixed and we couldn't find a way over it or around it. I didn't care, because I had mourned the loss of my grandfather a long time before, so the disconnect at that point was almost a formality. My mother had worked very hard to make that so, and she lied to us so badly about her parents that I will never know the truth of things and there is nobody left alive who can tell me.

I know, because I asked, that my grandfather was from Ohio and he was a moonshine runner up there during Prohibition and in Kentucky before the War and he joined the Army Air Corps. He was shot down over Anzio, came home in time to make my mother, then was off again until he came home in 1946. Then he spent years moving all over the country as a warrant officer in the air force. He retired in the late 70's, built a second home and he had made a very nice life. He had worked hard and had a very nice estate.

My mother and aunt were vultures my entire life. It's possibly the best explanation I have for why I despise them both. I heard the sentence, "When my dad dies..." out of their mouths too often as a young girl to trust either one of them for a second. They spent their entire lives waiting for their dad to die so they could spend HIS money that HE made working his ass off.

They used to winter down in South Padre, my grandparents did. I went down there once to visit them. It was a short weekend trip that I could ill afford, but I took it because I wanted to see them. My grandfather and I took a long walk on the beach and we discussed my mother. For the first time in my life I spoke honestly about her to someone in the family, having always been cautioned to never tell anyone in the family about what went on in our home. My mom loved pot after she divorced my dad and had announced our house as a crash pad for all the hippies coming through.

I asked my grandfather, point blank, WTF was wrong with the woman who'd given birth to me? He told me that my mother had a great hole in her that nothing would fill. She had gotten polio when she was 9 and could never go back to being normal or the loss of the attention once all the braces were gone and crutches put away. She missed the attention and special concessions she received as "The Cripple". Her term. She refers to herself as a cripple. She pretended to have MS for decades, when that's not how that disease works. She's lied to every doctors she's ever been to. She so badly wants to be "The Cripple" again, but even now that she is genuinely crippled, it's not enough for her.

He started to speak of inheritance and I stopped him, telling him I had no right to the money he'd worked for. I told him to live long and spend it all on hats if he wanted, but I didn't want it, and no one else deserved it. You see, I knew from reading books and watching movies that family vultures were considered an over the top depiction, but in my family it was true. My mother, her sister, my cousin? All of them circled around him for years waiting for him to kick off so they could spend his money that he worked to earn for years. If I never hear, "When Dad dies..." one more time it will be too soon. Once my aunt took over the living trust we stopped getting our trust fund checks. I never counted on them, so it was no loss to me. But the reason why made me irate. To me it was a reminder that my grandfather was still alive and out there thinking about us.

It's telling that when I sat the kids down and told them this afternoon, they were surprised to find he was still alive. They didn't know him and he didn't know them. It is what it is. Nobody's life was lessened by not knowing.

So I hope he did manage to spend it all on that home he was in the past few years. I hope he leaves nothing at all the his children who were the biggest ingrates I've ever witnessed in my life and had no care that we might have loved them. He was a good man and deserved better that the children he got. I hope he did buy hats.


Sharon Scully said...

Right before you last sentence, I was going to say that I hoped he'd bought lots of hats. I'm sorry about your grandfather's death. I'm glad for you that you had him for part of your life. They say that we only need one adult who genuinely cares about us to be whole. And you are definitely whole. xo

Sharon Scully said...

your last sentence :/

Severine said...

Thank you, Sharon. I loved him, but he was lost to me so long ago that his death today just makes me sad, but I do not mourn, if that makes any sense. I wish we had been closer, had more contact, but that was not to be and I must deal with what is. I'm processing so much anger right now, that I don't feel that I'm really doing much good, so I'm watching some Jane Austen and the guys fixed pizza for dinner. (Lord, I am sick of pizza). It will take me a long time to work through this.

Sharon Scully said...

It makes sense. We all mourn differently and that even varies depending upon whom we lose. Anger is a good place to start.. Take good care of yourself at this time. Bless.