Monday, March 02, 2009

H.L.D.

My grandfather died two days ago in the early morning hours. I feel like I can say that without any sadness. I barely knew him, because in his days of living he was a stubborn, unforgiving man. And today at his funeral as everyone waxed poetically about his virtues they all sounded like far fetched lies to me. That was not the man I knew. I'm not trying to speak ill of the dead, but I do feel that in covering up who he really was I'd be dishonoring his memory. I never met my grandfather until I was ten years old. He had a long grudge against my father for reasons unknown to anyone but him. He finally let it go when I was ten, but the resentments were always there, we always walked on eggshells around him. Things were never easy between us. Our conversations were awkward and stilted. He asked me about my schooling, and where I was working. And in my answers he heard the voice of a boy who had come from a man he never could stand. And in his questions I heard the voice of the man who had never treated my mother the way she was meant to be treated. When he looked at me, he never really saw me. When I looked at him I saw a giant of man, that I would never understand. He never asked me about my friends, about my interests, about my personal life. I don't know if he didn't ask because he didn't care. Maybe he just knew that a line was drawn in the sand, and there was only so much I was willing to tell him.

When I was seventeen the questions stopped. There was a fight, I started it. though some have said that if it hasn't been because of me it would have been because of something else. The fragile ice we had been skating on all those years had finally cracked. I didn't speak to him again until he was almost too weak to respond. Finally five years later when he was sick, and it would have looked to horrible not to visit him I saw him again. The questions started again, though this time with a slow and measured breath. Now, he would ask them repeatedly, because he couldn't remember having asked them in the first place. I didn't mind them as much now. And I was glad not to be asked about anything that was actually important to me. And in the five years that had passed he had become so much smaller in my eyes. Whether it was because of the curvature of his spine, or the lack of respect I now had for him, I am not sure.

Today as I was sitting in the pew during his memorial service, it struck me how conflicted I felt about the entire situation. Here was a man, who was more closely related to me than nearly anyone else in my life who I truly love. Yet, I felt no affection for him at all. I felt no stir of emotions at all as I looked at his casket. I felt nothing. And in feeling nothing, I felt everything. I can't believe how dead inside I was concerning this man. I just couldn't understand how that could be, as I am the most emotional person you will ever meet. I never realized I could hold such resentments that I never even knew I had. And as the rest of the people attending the services began their procession out of the room the family made it's way to him. As my mother and her mother, and her siblings crowded around him I found myself shying away in the corner. They finally left, and I realized I was alone in the room with him. I couldn't tell you when the last time that has happened. I walked up to his coffin, and said goodbye. And as I walked out of the room, I forgave him. I only hope he can forgive me too.

3 comments:

Nomad said...

Very good piece you have written here. Every time you write, it seems like you get better and better. Perhaps you might have added one detailed memory of some typical interaction between you and your grandfather. You might be surprised how enlightening it can be, to both you and the reader.

When my mother passed on, people, presumably with the best of intentions, would come up to me and say, "I understand." At first, I was happy for the sympathy but then , it really got under my skin. I kept thinking.. "And what do you understand exactly?" Every family relationship is unique and therefore its loss has a unique impact on the survivors.

Firefly said...

This is beautiful, Jordan. How sad it is for your grandfather that he will never know what a remarkable person you are.

Kelli said...

Hope you're OK. Call if you need to talk.