Last week, one of my grandfathers passed away after many years of suffering, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the past, making some sort of mental scrapbook, because, from now on, this is all I’ve got left of him. There’s nothing more to add to that relationship, no “next summer” or “next month”. Everything we’ve ever shared is in the past, and… I’m grateful for the richness of that past.
Thinking about him, I ended up recalling all my grandparents together, family Sundays, picnics and trips. Grandma M. and my late grandfather have always been mad about gatherings. They never had a guest limit. Every relative or friend was welcome for a snack and a drink, especially on Sundays and at special occasions. And even though these were totally informal parties, with kids running around, pillow fighting, or “camping” under the dining table, dancing, singing, talking, or even taking naps, the place was usually crowded. My maternal grandparents brought people together, and created an incredible atmosphere of openness. There was no perfect understanding, some people could hardly stand each other, but everyone could sit down at the table and enjoy a long meal and a good conversation.
I’ve been closer to my paternal grandparents – I am their only grandchild, thus the object of their obsessive love, bless their hearts. However, I love and understand all four of them, fully grateful for their care and all the wonderful times we’ve spent together.
After my family broke apart, and the protective childhood haze vanished, I spent much time reflecting, weighing and dissecting family values. On my way to and through adulthood, I tried and managed to avoid becoming the product of my circumstances. I grew to see relatives as other adults, detaching from old perspectives and conventions, because I wanted truth, a clear view on my life. And it was rewarding. Not always easy, but rewarding.
Childhood passes quickly, turns into memories, and then you have the rest of your life and no way back to being a child again. As an adult, you may need the depth of accepting that your former caretakers were human too, sometimes faulty and limited, just like yourself. To me, this was what grounded and solidified my love and appreciation for my grandparents. Idealizations were cute, but inconsistent.
So, I’d rather remember my grandfather as he really was – a genuinely benign soul, patient, and far too tolerant even with who didn’t deserve it. He always came with us grandchildren wherever we wanted to go, whenever we wanted company. And when he had to wait for us, like when we went ice-skating, he just stood aside patiently, smoking his cigarettes, until we got exhausted and asked to go home. Silence was easy with him. Speaking, as well. His lifestyle made him sick (including those cigarettes I mentioned), but it was his choice, eventually, and no one loved him less for it. I hope he’s free and fine now…