Sunday, July 31, 2011

Letting Go

A few weeks ago my grandfather passed away. Before you start feeling any sympathy, let me tell you a bit about this guy.

When I was a child my parents brought him into our home, because, honestly, I don't think anyone else would take him. He was a miserable person to be around, always 'joking around' by ferreting out your deepest insecurities and jabbing witticisms down your throat to make you feel as small and insignificant as possible. It wasn't hard for him, he was a genius. He was musically talented in multiple instruments, first class at chess, and his memory was nearly flawless.

So a young boy of 5, of course, was an easy target.

Both of my parents worked 9 to 5 jobs when I was growing up, and so they needed a babysitter to watch over their youngest from time to time, and having my grandpa living with us was convenient for that purpose. In all honesty I think I've blocked out most of the memories from my younger childhood just to stay away from any chance of coming across a memory I'd rather not have... what I do have is bad enough. Him putting me in closets on St. Patrick's day because my red hair made me a lucky leprechaun, or some such thing. Him taking taking me back to the super market with used TV dinners to get refunds. The cruel, relentless 'teasing' of a self conscious little boy with no one around to stick up for him.

One of my clearest memories from childhood is about a 30 second snapshot. I'm playing with G.I. Joe's in my living room near the fireplace. I hear the front door open and his voice call my name, and a shot of fear races through me. I hide behind the armchair and have this fervent hope that he won't see me as long as I refuse to look at him. For some reason, I was absolutely convinced that he didn't exist outside of my field of view. He finds me despite that flawless logic, and I feel... disappointed? That's where it breaks off for me.

So, taking into account the above, I was obviously not sad to see him go. Angie and I packed up to go out to Idaho for the funeral, but really I was just going to be with family and offer my mom some support. Just because I didn't love him doesn't mean his children weren't upset. And maybe I wanted proof that he was gone, that he wouldn't be able to hurt me anymore. I needed that scene at the end of the horror movie where you see the killer's body and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's dead.

Maybe that's being too dramatic.

Anyway, when I went to the funeral, I didn't feel anything at all. I wasn't even mad. Where was the anger I had for this terrible guy who made my childhood so difficult? Then I realized that holding a grudge against a dead guy was pointless. The only thing holding on to those negative feelings would do is just bring more negativity into my life. In a moment of wistful anger maybe I'd say something hurtful to someone I love, or maybe I'd do something stupid while driving and hurt someone, or any of a million other stupid things people do while they're angry. But the scariest thing to think about was of taking that anger and turning into him, into a pathetic person who can't manage to feel better about himself unless he's putting someone down.

And that's when I walked up to his coffin and said, "Sam, I forgive you." I couldn't bear the thought of those emotions bottling up and erupting in scary ways. I already have enough crap knocking around in my head as is, thanks. So I just let it go.

If there is an afterlife, and I pray with all my might that there is so I can see my sweet Aiden again, but if there really is some sort of existence after death I truly hope my grandfather heard those words, and finds some sort of peace.

Even if he doesn't, I did.


Kathy Bailey said...

You are the most amazing son. Truly gifted by God to express yourself in writing. I am so proud of who you have become. I really didn't know That Sam was such a JERK to you. I haven't cried since he died. I don't know if I have it in me. I loved him, but I was appalled by the damage he did to my family. And you were one else wanted him around. I was the sap who took him in. Your Dad should have received St. Hood. Heavy sigh....Mom

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