My grandfather has passed. I barely knew him and his legend in my family was not a good one. I know I met him first when I was around five.
He’d left my grandmother when my mother was a kid. My grandmother struggled to raise four girls in the projects on her own. I remember him being present as my grandmother was in a nursing home after a series of strokes. I was going to tell her he was there, but my aunts shut me up. Now I realize that where my announcement would have upset an already fragile woman.
His death has caused me to think of her. She was a strong woman from what I know and what I’ve heard. She worked hard to meet the basic needs of her girls. I recall her sitting at the kitchen table smoking and sometimes just zoning out. I often wonder what she was thinking about in those solitary moments. I also remember getting her her car and the adventures we took; to visit nuns, stores, and my great grandparents house. I know that she was the center of my world in my younger days but died when I was sick. Yet her memory remains fresh in my mind.
I remember my grandfather, he would show up at holidays after my grandmother passed. Always stories about his life. I remember his energy most of all, it was chaotic and focused. He wanted attention from us all, especially the kids and got it. He seemed magical in a way. But as suddenly as he entered my life he disappeared after a few years. I felt my moms and aunts distrust of his presence but they never spoke of him negatively in my youth and never prevented me from having a relationship with him. I attempted to maintain contact, as much as a child can but it too faded by the time I was 12. I didn’t see him again until I was 37. He talked to my daughter and I about his time serving in World War 2. It was good seeing him and he even discussed my mothers absence at his visit and not understanding why she hated him.
My mom can hold a grudge for life I told him and I know it. I’ve seen and heard it in action. It saddened him. It is a different kind of sadness when it comes from an elder. Yet it surprised me that he did not own or know that his actions caused the discord with his daughters. That where my aunts were willing to forgive; not all could or would. My mom would not be the forgiving one.
But I just listened. Who can contribute to an old mans hurt? He was hoping to see my mom in that visit; but I knew that my daughter and I being there would be as close as he would ever get to my mother.
So now, today, he has left us, forever.
Next day: I’m still thinking of my grandfather. Did he regret his decision? Did he feel bad for the things he did to his daughters and wife? Did he compensate with being present for his son? Who was he. He told me his mother was white and worked on a cruise ship; left him in the states and returned to Europe. As a child he told his mother was French, my aunt said He once said German. Who was Jonny? I know he made jewelry. He made playboy rings from the key to the clubs until they threatened to sue him. I once had a charm he made me but I gave it away to my friend who is religious and I’m not. I wish I knew who he was beyond the tales he told me as a child and even two years ago. Strangely enough I am sad he has passed, this man I barely knew. I am of his blood, this enigma of a man. My mom looks like him but I’ll never tell her!!!
I send a prayer to Jonny and hope he finds peace. I pray for my mom and aunts and again hope they’ve found a peace with their father. I pray for my uncles and hope that the father they knew found peace. In that I realize that my grandfather was something different for us all and that is where we must let things be. I’ll keep him magical as he appeared in my youth. Even though I know his story from my aunts and mother, and I honor their experience it’s not mine to hold.
See you later grandfather! I love you and thank you for the path you’ve put us on in dealing with healing, forgiveness and moving forward in our generations. Without knowing you made some strong women and that has passed along to the next generation.
Until next lifetime,