Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Excuse Me Please, One More Drink....

My Grandpa is dying.

I think.

I’m not really sure. Either he’ll be dead soon or he will be as fine as some who is 87 years old and getting senile can be.

Honestly though, I really don’t care either way. I don’t talk about him much. I really don’t think about him much. This is why………

My Grandma died September 1995. I was 17 years old. She was my world; I know that is naive and perfection through the imperfect eyes of a child, but in my eyes she could do no wrong.

My brother and I spent almost everyday with her. Grandpa would drop her off at our house at 6am on his way to work and pick her up around 5pm on his way home. We spent at least one weekend a month at their house, often more. We went on many, many vacations with them. Even as a licensed teenager, I still choose to drive to their house and stay hours on end.

Grandma was the family matriarch. She held everything and everyone together. She arbitrated family fights, she gave the last word on right, wrong and priorities. I always saw my Grandpa as an accessory to her; the one who carried out the commands. Sure, I loved him and have plenty of good memories of him, but they all end after her death.

I was informed of her death moments after he discovered her on the couch via the phone. I don’t blame him for this, I just still wish it had happened differently. He called our house looking for my mom, I answered the phone instead.

Shan, he cried, she’s dead. Grandma is dead. I don’t know what to do. What should I do? Grandma is cold and dead and I don’t know what to do....

Yeah I was 17, but had never really lost anyone close to me. How was I supposed to give him guidance? Really, I don’t blame him though. She was his whole world too and now she wasn’t there to tell him what to do….

A few months after Grandma’s death, my mom booked him a trip to Florida to visit his sister. He never came back. His first week down there he met a lady. Less than 6 months after the death of the woman he was married to for over 35 years and had 7 children with, and without telling anyone what was happening, he married her in a civil ceremony.

He organized the sale of his/their home via the phone. His children and grandchildren found out about this, and the marriage, via the For Sale sign in the front yard and another phone call telling us we had one week to go through the house and take anything we wanted before cleaners came though to get it ready.

He never came back. He left all the family photos hanging on the walls and bookshelves. He left the pictures of me and Jerry in their frames. He declined offers from my mom to mail them to him, claiming it would make is new wife uncomfortable.

I take that back, he came home for a weekend about 2 years later in 1997. My mom decided she wanted to take me and Jerry to the Mall of America for a spur of the moment weekend trip. She bought me everything a teenaged heart desired and took us to an Indian casino where I won something like $400 dollars playing a slot machine.

On the way to the airport she claimed to have a voicemail from an Uncle saying he was having a party that night and we should come. My mom strong armed us into attending playing the goodwill card from the weekend. If Jerry and I had known he would be there we wouldn’t have gone. Not only was he there, but he brought his wife too.

When we walked through the door, he smiled and said hello like nothing had changed and that he wanted to introduce us to our grandmother.

I ran out of the room in tears, while his wife proceeded to tell my brother how selfish we were to hurt him this way and that our grandfather is much happier with her than he ever was before.

I think he went back to Chicago a few times after that, but I never attended. The wife died sometime around 2001. After her death he claimed that she was a drunk and emotionally abusive. Good.

Matt and I married in 2003. Under pressure from my mom, we invited him. I did hug him and stood next to him for 5 minutes to snap a few pictures. I can’t remember what words were spoken, but I do recall thinking about how old he looked now as opposed to the man in my memories. The man from my childhood was my Grandpa, this is just some look-a-like in much wrinklier skin.

Those pictures are the only ones from that day without a smile.

Over the years my mom brings up that I should call him at least once a season. My reply is always the same. What is there to say? Nothing. My Grandpa died when Grandma did. I do not know the man living in Florida and I have nothing to say to him.

As a compromise, I usually send updated photos of Grace when I get them. That takes little effort on my part to address one more envelope. According to relatives, he has a little shrine on his piano of all the photos I’ve sent him of Grace, ones my mom has supplied of us, and the unsmiling picture from my wedding day. I still have nothing else to say.

Yesterday, as I browsed through the online clearance section of a store, I stopped short and thought of him. There in front of me was a pair of Santa Claus and Rainbow suspenders. Rainbow suspenders were always his signature piece. At $3.00 each, I thought about purchasing them and sending them anonymously. I didn’t.

When I got home yesterday, Matt said my mom left a message on the machine saying my Grandpa was in the hospital. Apparently he has several blood clots in his lungs. Testing today should determine if they can do anything, but it doesn’t look good. She once again pushed me to call him.

My answer is again, unchanged. I am sorry for the pain this is causing her. I am even sorry for the pain and confusion that he must be going though, but my Grandpa is gone.

My Grandpa is dying.

I think.

I really don’t care either way. I don’t talk about him much. I really don’t think about him much. And now you know why.

1 comment:

noteverstill said...

My grandfather called when he heard I was pregnant with L. I never called back. Nothing to say. We went to the family reunion in Detroit when L was six months old - not to see him, but to see everyone else. He only has two great-grandkids in the whole world - my kids - and he never said hello to them, never looked at them, never held baby L the whole weekend. I was surprised to find when we got to his condo a whole shrine of photos of my girls on his piano that my mom had been dutifully sending. Probably a hundred photos. But he still never talked to them, and talked to me like he'd seen me last week instead of ignoring me for 20 years. He's got leukemia and prostate cancer now. I only know this through my dad. I think I know how you feel. I won't mourn him, per se, but I will mourn the relationship I should have had with him but never did.