Quiet Time

I currently have a death in the family looming. He could go at any minute. I may not post for a few days as I deal with this.

Dave, my stepmother's father has been important in my life. A successful man, well off, multiple business ventures presented him the opportunity of a comfortable life. And he availed himself of those opportunities.

I recall when I first met the man, I was an 11 or 12 year old boy. Illiterate, mouthy and had to demonstrate that to any adult that would stand still long enough to listen. "Pop" would have none of it. At the time, my family was what is currently referred to as white trash, minus the welfare. Both parents worked, neither was college educated and we had nothing. My now step mother was my mother's best friend and they both worked third shift in a muffler factory. However, Becky (my now step mother), loved us kids from the moment she met us all. Then reality went sideways. My parents divorced, we kids were thrown back and forth with custody battles, attempted suicides, alcohol, physical abuse charges about as ugly a divorce as can be had. Finally my father got full custody and then a job offer out of state. While my mother was losing her mind, Becky stayed with us kids and brought her son along. We all moved to New Jersey. the change of scenary, schools and people helped us all become a family, sort of. Becky's parents became very agitated as Becky had left, had taken their first grand child with her and the drama went crazy for about 3 years. 6 months or so, later, Becky and my father married. Worse, she married the son of working class hicks from Kentucky. They never came to visit us, but we always found a way to make it back to them for Christmas or Thanksgiving. My father got a better job in Cincinnati, so we moved, again. "Close enough to Indianapolis to visit, far enough that you won't show up, unannounced" was the way my father described it. We were better off, in a larger house that was not run down we were 'becomming human' is how Pop described us one Thanksgiving. All of us were in school and were able to read well, and just in general we were more 'balanced' even if we were impossible to handle by their standards of being seen, but not heard.

On the day of my high school graduation, we had in the house, my father, my step mother, my mother (whom I did not invite), both of my father's parents, my sister, younger brother and Becky's son, whom my father had adopted as his own. On that day, Pop invested in me a small piece of wisdom over the phone, as I recall. "Always look before you move, think before you speak and be honest in business. Do these things and you will be found by success" he said. 6 weeks later I started Basic Training in the Army. On holidays and family visits when Pop was around, we would have heated debates on education, religion, politics, society and anything else, until eventually, he would kick me out of the house for being a spoiled ignorant kid. That is when I learned he was a drunkard. Pop always had a taste for the bottle, mostly scotch as I recall. Then I made a mistake, an error in judgement and went to prison. I received a letter from Becky while in prison telling me how Pop was disappointed in me and how I was never welcome in his home, ever again. This did not bother me, much, as I thought him to be an arrogant, self righteous person. A few years later, I drove to Cincy to visit my father. On the way back to Oklahoma, I stopped in Indiana to visit my father's parents. I also took a chance to stop in a local pub that Pop had purchased an interest in. He was there. We spoke, we debated, we came to a mutual understanding and respectful agreement. On my way out of town I stopped by to drop off a package to his wife, from my step mother. A few more years and several visits later, we are at Pop's for Christmas. And he is very drunk, loud and rude, but also 'better'. I believe this to be because of my lineage. My wife was playing a carol on their piano as she was telling about teaching kids to play piano after school where she taught. He started quizzing her on music and what she taught the kids. She admitted that she used modern music to teach the kids to play, because they would practice it and this bigoted, hypocritical man started berating my wife about how she can't be a very good teacher if she has to resort to teaching 'jungle music' just to get kids to learn. He kept this crap up, harassing a woman he had met for the first time not more than 2 hours, before. That is when I learned the MOST important lesson the man would ever teach me.

Money, wealth, privilege, possessions and opportunity were not enough. If your heart was not filled, as well with love, compassion and understanding you would have nothing to give the world but bitterness, cruelty and sorrowful regret. I don't know if this is something he has ever realized himself.

A few years ago, Pop was in a very bad auto accident. Nearly killed himself and others. Alcohol was involved in the incident. It took him, I think 6 months or more, to be able to walk, again, without assistance. I have been back to visit far too infrequently. And recently I learned from my step mother that he has been very proud of me. I climbed so far, then fell, and climbed even farther and harder, again to make something of myself. He told her I was his 'other' grandson, for the first time. That means a lot to me, for some reason I don't really understand, myself.

Rest in Peace, you tired, embittered man. Your strength of limb may have faded, but never shall the strength of your memory be lost. I love you and I will miss you, Pop.

1 comment:

Kate said...

My sympathies to you in your loss.