My Grandfather was the lighthouse in the middle of the ocean on a dark, foggy night: steadfast and spearhead.
I recently realized that I have shared a lot about my Grandmother but only limited amounts about my Grandfather. This isn’t because I didn’t have a good relationship with him. He just happened to pass away during some of my most impressionable years. I was 12 when he passed away.
My GrandDad was the son of sharecroppers and was built for hard labor. He was a carpenter–a builder. His hands were large and calloused from years of construction but he was always gentle with his family. He was a big man–standing at 6 foot 2, 250 lbs–but his heart was bigger than his frame. He was secure in his manhood and put his faith in God. He was a provider for his family in more ways than money could buy. He had a 6th grade education but he was the smartest man I have ever known. Most of all, he loved my Grandmother unequivocally.
When I was a youngin’, I was very much a Daddy’s girl. As a small child, I spent a lot of time sitting at the kitchen table–or on the porch–with my GrandDad. Besides fishing, this was literally his favorite thing to do. “Turn on the news,” he would say. It always had to be Channel 12 WPRI. When I was in preschool, my bus would leave early in the morning. My Grandfather got up every single day around 5:00am like clockwork. By the time I was up and ready–by 6:00am–he had a fresh pot of coffee brewed with the tv tuned into the news. He would sit me in his lap and I would steal sips of his coffee (a Maxwell House blend with milk and sugar). I would watch along with him and shout “look Daddy, I’m on tv!” whenever our local Meteorologist Tony Petrarca would predict warm and breezy weather. Breezy is a family/childhood nickname of mine.
My Grandfather was very hard on me and was strict in his guidance–but with good intention. As I grew older, we would bump heads when I tried to push his limits. I wouldn’t push too hard. It wasn’t his judgement I was afraid of–it was his disappointment that terrified me.
My favorite memories of my Grandfather are those of love and laughter. He was never afraid to get dirty with the kids, and he was never afraid to stand up for his family. He could hold a grudge, but still he loved his family unconditionally. Because of my Grandfather, I know what love from a Dad should feel like. I know what love from a husband looks like. I am spoiled with the fact that my Grandparents loved each other unconditionally and fearfully. Because of them, I know love. Because of them, I know what I want my marriage (if I should be blessed) will look like.
My last memory of my GrandDad is the morning that would ultimately lead to his hospitalization and shortly after, his death. It was before 6am and I was getting ready for school. He was waiting for his ride to bring him to dialysis. He seemed to be disoriented and out of it. He didn’t really know where he was or where he was actually supposed to be going. He was stumbling and slurring his words. My Grandmother was already in the hospital at the time, so I couldn’t go to her for help. So I called my aunt, who then directed me to call 911. But I was 12 and confused. So my aunt called. My Grandfather had fallen on his way out the door to meet his ride and I remember becoming hysterical. I couldn’t help him get up and he was completely out of it. The paramedics arrived and I told my Grandfather I loved him as they wheeled him out of the house. Then I went to school. A few days later, I came home from school and my Grandmother told me with tears in her eyes that GrandDad was gone. I didn’t cry then. I didn’t cry at his memorial service. I willed myself to cry. Because that’s what you should do when someone you love dies, right? I was sad, and I missed him. But those tears never came. It wasn’t until my Grandmother passed away that I would cry for my Grandfather. 12 years later. I’d like to think that somewhere–deep inside my soul– I knew that I would be okay. Because I still had my Grandmother. And she was every bit of him as she was herself.
I think it was about a year after my GrandDad passed that I began looking for my biological father. I was unsuccessful. I wrote a lot of poetry during my middle school years, and most of my poems were about feeling lost and out-of-place. In hindsight, a lot of this had to do with the loss of my Grandfather–I didn’t have Dad around anymore. But once I couldn’t find my biological father, I realized that my GrandDad had given me all that I needed–he was more than enough.
And then a few years later, my biological father found me on Myspace. A part of me was excited. Because, in theory, I should have been able to make up for all that lost time. But there was an even bigger part of me that wanted to (and still does) push him away. I had a vision of what he was supposed to look like in my head from stories my family told me-but he didn’t live up to those expectations. I had dreams of he and I immediately clicking and bonding over funny stories–but again, he couldn’t deliver.
When my Grandmother passed, my father didn’t call to check on me, or pay his respects at her memorial service. The woman who essentially (in my eyes) did what he should have done as a parent had just passed away and he did not even have the decency to attend her service. Despite the many differences my father and I have, some part of me was willing to sacrifice my comfort in exchange for knowing him. This was not one of those things–this was the ultimate disrespect. How could he care about me–his only child– when he didn’t care enough to be there during those crucial moments? I still don’t understand. A part of me doesn’t want to. So I cut him off. Entirely. But life has taught me that people don’t always learn from silence–especially men. So now, when he calls, I don’t send him straight to voicemail. I answer the phone. I don’t have much to say, but I indulge him.
I may never have a “normal” relationship with my biological father, but at least I know that I possess the ability to forgive the people who have hurt me most. Every time I answer his call–that’s my growth and forgiveness. I will probably never be the one to pick up the phone and call him. At this point, I don’t feel that I am the one with something to prove. I am now at a point in my life where I can finally see things from someone else’s perspective. Who knows what he thinks of this whole situation? But I am at peace with my feelings. Finally.
So, no, I don’t have “daddy issues.” I have people issues. I have trusting issues. I had a Dad–my GrandDad. And he was the light of my life. There are bits of him engrained in the darkest parts of my soul. And those pieces of him I carry with me each day, are the very pieces that have helped me grow into the woman I am today.