Something I’m Afraid Of

 

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My grandfather died just before I was to be married. He was sick, very, very sick. I didn’t see him just before he went, but when my mother told me he looked like a different person then, I was glad I only had the memory of a big, burly man to hold on to.

I love(d) my grandfather, as I love the rest of my immediate family; but the truth is, we rarely see each other. As a child, there were more gatherings, more visits, even dinner at someone’s home. Then things faded to holidays, and when I moved out, to nothing. Phone calls are rare now, except to say “Happy Birthday” or “I’m so sorry”; the “necessities”. And then, there’s barely that. At my grandfather’s funeral, the photo collage by the front door included a picture of me on his lap, young and plump. Nothing within the past…ten years or so.

We headed to a cigar bar after, for food and drinks and cigarettes. I’ve quit smoking, but I bummed one from my mother. It felt okay to indulge after the stiffness of the morning. As our shoulders loosened we shared stories. I smiled, laughed, and then I considered how each story I played a part in happened before I ever knew who I was. I was just a child. A silly, moody child that said all the wrong things, still scolded for making mistakes. Every scenario my aunt recounted involved a time she’d been babysitting while my parents were out with friends. She was still calling me “kiddo”. If I saw more of these people in the present, would they realize I hadn’t been frozen in time as a forever-twelve-year-old? The Jack Daniels in my hand and cigarette in my lips wasn’t enough to break the image.

Maybe I’m digging too far into things. Or maybe, just maybe I’m onto something. Now that I am twenty-five, a full-fledged adult with a husband and a house, I realize my part in it all. Communication needs two  outlets to work, and I’ve come to realize mine needs some rewiring. But then, so does the other side’s.

Life is too short; taking nothing for granted; cherish your loved ones; etc., etc. All of this is true. But who takes the initiative? Me, perhaps, since I’m the one considering it all, here. But when you’ve been hurt, do you bother? I’m good at holding grudges. (Not a specialty I am necessarily proud of.) While there is a lot of love in my family, there is also a lot of hurt. Every family can relate to this.

My grandfather died just before I was married. Death happened, mourning happened, recovery began. Several people once close to me – still closest to him – were invited. None came. Fine. This is the hardest of times.

None acknowledged. Not then, not now, will not, likely, ever. I am hurt. Am I selfish? I don’t know. But I will not feel bad for feeling hurt. The time of calling for the “necessities” has come to a solid, grim end. Death happens, we hurt, we heal, life never stops.

So now I slink backward into my hole and think, every day, about whether or not I am right, about what it all means. I don’t even wish to be right, I just want to know why things are how they are. Is this love? If we don’t celebrate our milestones, then how do we define this dynamic? I want reason. I shimmy back and forth between anger and sadness, all the while not doing a damn thing about it. Not speaking out, not making an effort to yell, to ask “how are you?”. For me, now, it’s pointless.

Some who may get a hold of these words may be upset by them. But then, if they are, they’ll only feel that way if they were the ones who ignored the most important day of my life. I’ve never posted something I was afraid of. I didn’t need an audience – a man died, an important man, death shadowed everything, how can one celebrate a new life when one had only just come to an end? But words – so important. One word makes all the difference. Congratulations. Instead, nothing.

There may be some form of love there, but still, we go on in damaged silence.

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33 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

33 responses to “Something I’m Afraid Of

  1. This is incredible. I feel like your writing gets better with every post. I was forced to confront a lot of what you’ve said here when my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer several years ago. Suddenly I started realizing that I had so much time with her, and not enough. I was lucky that she survived, and now I realize all my time with her is borrowed.

    • Ah, Jen!! That really means a lot to me. Thank you so much.

      I’m glad – in a way – that you can relate. It was cancer that took my grandfather (it’s the black cloud that hangs low over my father’s side of the family). If I never rediscover some kind of closeness with that part of the family, I can only use it as a reminder to cherish the family I AM still close to.

      So happy to hear your grandmother survived, and you got a second chance of sorts. xoxo

  2. I don’t understand how people feel that doing or saying nothing is ever the right option. Even if you say or do the wrong thing sometimes it’s better than nothing at all. I have been through this first hand and have also had to guide someone through the hurt that this can cause.

    I do understand that some people don’t know when or what to say and then perhaps feel like it is too late and that there is too much hurt to try. People are afraid and I wish they weren’t. I hope you get some acknowledgement before it is eternally too late, and I’m sorry to hear about your Grandfather.

    • Thank you, Daile. I don’t understand it either. But I continue to question my own silence in it all, while simultaneously being pissed off and feeling justified for not saying a word. Even though I feel I’ve been wronged, do I continue to go on upset and angry, or do I address these people and tell them what they did was so very hurtful? Blegh. Thank you for your comment, it really makes me think about things beyond just a blog post.

  3. You have a lovely way with words…..your post reminds me of the importance to stay close to immediate family if we can…..it’s never too late….

  4. I think your friends should have been there for you, and at some point, you need to tell them this. Many do not know how to handle grief. We know there are words to be said, but which ones? We know there are gestures to make, but which? In the end, people should say something, do something, be something, when you are suffering. It is not because any of these things can actually lessen grief. We must each work through that in our own way. These gestures are important because it is how we say to one another that we see their hurt and we are there.

    • You’re right, Andi. I should tell them some day. Beautifully said, by the way. We have to stop worrying about WHAT or HOW to say it, and just say it. Something is better than nothing. Just the acknowledgement is enough.

  5. This brought tears to my eyes.. beautiful writing.. and I am going to call my grandparents today. Thank you!

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  7. It’s sad that we don’t realize some of these things until after it no longer matters.

  8. I think it takes a lot of courage to write something so deeply personal, and that kind of writing always resonates with those who read the words, because we recognize the emotions and can relate. I think we can all share similar stories and it always makes me ponder on why it is that, simply because people are ‘family’ they can impact us and our lives so much. Would we allow friends to treat us the same way? Would we say something to a friend that we wouldn’t to family? And if not, why not? Also, thinking about your grandfather: I’ve always wondered what happens when those who knew me as an infant, toddler, gawky teen, etc., die, when those memories are gone, then will that infant me cease to exist? I certainly don’t remember me as an infant. There’s photos of course, but as a writer, you know the value of a story over a photo. Thanks for your bravery in posting this. No easy answers, but I hope your family recognizes value.

    • Thank you so much, Lisa. I wonder about the friend versus family thing too – and honestly, I think I WOULD be more likely to say something to a friend, simply because I’d feel more comfortable taking whatever drama may come with it. But also….the main reason I refuse to say anything to the family members who did this, is because I have a feeling they wouldn’t feel sorry at all. And that may hurt worse. But the silence is enough to tell me they really just don’t care.

      Your comment really means a lot to me.

      • And something I struggle to learn is to choose my battles. Do I want to waste this precious life on specific family members who may have broken my heart or do I want to spend my time with those, family or not, who value me and whom I value? I recently had to choose to simply not engage, because I realized that it would not change anything. Sometimes walking away takes strength and courage, too. If those family won’t feel sorry, and probably won’t change, are they worth your time, your peace of mind? This is something I struggle with too. Letting go is damn hard. My pride and ego wants to tell them how they have hurt, how angry I am, how wrong they are. But really, it won’t change anything. So I try to turn my face to those who love me and let go of that ego. Honestly, I fail at that. Often!

  9. Thank you for sharing this. I’m sort of going through this in my head now. We’re ‘orphans’ out here in Ohio. Everyone else in my family lives everywhere else. And since 1998, even my mother and brothers have lived elsewhere. And during all that time, it’s become increasingly easier to let lots of time go by between talking, or visiting, or even acknowledging.

    You put these thoughts so eloquently. They solidify when you say them. You have been doing a lot of self-reflection since getting married – or, you have been writing about it a lot more. It’s good to get your thoughts out there sometimes. You find lots of people have the same thoughts. It’s easier to let things go when you realize you share them.

    • Edward,

      Thank you for this comment. “It’s easier to let things go when you realize you share them” – so, so true. Seeing all of these comments, of those who have had similar experiences, it really does help. I found myself in a mess of tears when Joe got home last night, wondering why MY family isn’t “normal”. But really, whose is?

      • Ha! Really. No one’s family is normal. For example, my wife is what you might call the ‘white sheep’ of her family. Plus, there are always some strong emotions associated with birth, death, marriage, retirement, graduation, and a few other big events.

        Your wedding – it had people you loved at it, including the number one person Joe, so it was happy, no?

        I know it’s easier to be happy when others share that too, but I think lots of people shared in your happiness!

      • You’re right, it was wonderful, and there were a lot of important people there and we were all very happy. You’re also right about the abundance of self reflection since I got married – it wasn’t intentional, but now that you mention it I feel as though I am starting to look back a lot, since I have entered a new chapter of my life. It’s a sort of weeding-out-who-really-matters thing, I guess.

      • I know. You’ll do that lots of times. Some things will change, and some people won’t like it or won’t care, and next thing you know, they’re not around or you’re not around anymore. I’m pretty sure your friend and hubs and parents (and fake parents) will be around For. Ever.

      • My fake parents are immortal. So they will definitely be around forever,

        As for the others, I’m pretty sure they’ll be around too. 😉 ❤

      • LOL immortal. Becoming immortal is on my bucket list.

      • It’s on mine too! Father/daughter soulmates.

      • Absolutely. If I figure out the secret, I will share it with you.

  10. “…cherish your loved ones;” Very true, but also remember that the loved ones you should cherish the most (or the ones that deserve it, in some cases) are the ones you’re not related to, the ones you have in your life because you choose them to be there, those that choose to have you in theirs. Family is a tough thing (ours sound very similar), so I admire you for sharing this, Nicole.

    • Thank you, Mike. “Glad” to know I’m not the only one. This is the first time I’ve ever posted anything that sort of gave me bad butterflies about who may find and read it….but it’s also strangely liberating. Why should I be afraid? I left specifics out of it and they should be the ones who are sorry.

      You are so very right – blood or not, FAMILY are those who surround you with real love.

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