this lovely priest in this photo is my grandfather. the photo was taken by my grandmother, who was primarily an excellent cook and caterer, but also a fabulous photographer. i have a few of her wonderful pieces hanging in my house. and i don't have much on my walls to begin with....
anyway, my grandfather is reaching the peak of his 80's and is not able to get around very well at all anymore. sometimes crossing a room tires him out, as he has extremely low blood pressure. so he is not able to do any of the activities he once loved. i've heard, recently, that he no longer feeds his precious birds every morning and evening, some by hand~ mourning doves, thrashers, cactus wrens, quail, cardinal, and more. i know that if he could do nothing else during the day, besides walk to the table for a meal or cross the room to use the facilities, the only other thing he would do is feed the birds. so hearing that he can no longer do that, or do it very often, tells me how very little he can do.
all of that to say, he is no longer working at a living history museum. my grandmother, who passed away the day after thanksgiving this past year, was always the active one. she was involved in church, making meals for a few dozen to a hundred people every few weeks or even every week during the busy "snow bird months" that happen every year in southern arizona.
my grandmother was such a powerful presence, that she could easily overshadow most people in the room. my grandfather is quiet, where my grandmother, most certainly, was not.
his silence, and his few words, which often came out cuttingly, forbade me from ever getting close to him.
my grandfather had two activities that were his own. he worked at a food bank one day a week, helping sort food at a warehouse for those in need, and the other was a volunteer position at one of the oldest missions in arizona. once a year they would have living history re-enactments. and with his wrinkled skin, and white hair, he made the perfect fit for the role as the mission's priest. i think my grandmother did a fabulous job capturing him truly looking like he was performing that function.
i probably love this photo more, that my grandmother took it, and that wherever she lived, i loved. so in that, i am so fond of it. but even though my grandfather came officially in my life when i was five (he knew of me even when i was born), we never bonded.
or i suppose i should say, I never bonded with HIM.
one of the last things my grandmother said to me, as i so thankfully said "see ya later" to her, is to keep in touch with my grandfather.
"he really loves you kids," she said.
i had never told her how many times he had hurt my feelings and angered me. i never told her that as she laid in the hospital after her colon surgery during her first cancer bout ten years ago, how he snapped at me, and hurt my feelings so, after i had talked to her on the phone.
i never told her any of it. and sadly, i doubt she recognized any of those feelings i had, or chose to ignore them.
so i did what anyone would say to the most precious person in their life the last time they would speak to them on earth.
well, i thought for her i could do it. i could find a way to keep in touch.
but when it came down to it, i just couldn't.
calling her was always so hard because i was afraid he was going to answer. he is just one of those people that having any conversation, let alone a phone conversation with, is so strained.
i would think, really think, really hard....ahead of time; planning what i was going to say so i wouldn't feel too uncomfortable.
i tolerated him because of her.
after she was gone i guess i just decided to do what was true in my heart. why pretend anymore? i felt , deep inside, that all these years he had tolerated me because of her, tolerated, but did not love me.
about a month ago, i asked my mother how he was doing. she told me all that i have explained to you above.
then, she said something quite amazing. she said that grandpa wanted to make the trip from southern arizona to sw washington to see the grandkids and great grandkids.
my mouth just about dropped open!
first of all, because he can't get around anymore, and doesn't even sleep in a bed, because of his bad back. he hasn't been able to travel for years. it's been so bad, that when his son lay dying of cancer, he couldn't come and see him, let alone attend his funeral.
i knew he would come, if he could.
now, here he was talking about making a 24 hr. drive to come see all of us.
woah~ i thought.
out of all the grandchildren, my husband and i are one of the few that have made about 10 or more trips to see them in the sixteen years that they have lived there. i made two trips in two months when i found out she was having surgery for colon cancer. i made two trips in two months, when i found out she was dying and to attend her funeral. my husband and i have always made an effort to spend almost any vacation that involved flying, to see them.
well, honestly, to see her.
and she's gone. her presence surrounds the house, but she's no longer there.
but he wants to see us, i thought.
he's almost asking to see us....
i began to think that maybe i should go. my husband is going to pheonix with a friend in november for a golfing trip. i had wanted to do something special with the kids. we have never flown, that many of us.
but he was asking....
i began to think that perhaps i should make plans to do it.
this evening my mom said she had some news.
i said, are you pregnant? immaculate conception? mom's almost 60!!
no, she said your grandfather is in bakersfield, california.
i said, what?!
she said they left this morning and they made it all the way to bakersfield. they hope to make vancouver, washington (they, meaning my mom's brother and wife who have moved into care for him) to spend the night at my cousin's house.
i couldn't believe he did it! incredulous!
why didn't he fly? i asked...i mean, it would make more sense to fly, than such a greuling drive.
she told me that he was afraid of how long he might have to wait and how much pain and discomfort he would have doing that. the car they were driving reclined, and they thought it would be more comfortable for him.
amazing~ bakersfield. not here yet, maybe they'll have to turn around. or take a few days' break, but he's coming.
his granddaughter (my step-cousin) just had her first child. he will get to see her. he will get to see my brother's son who is about to turn 8 mos. old. he will get to see his other granddaughter's two boys. one he saw in october, at one month old. the other he has never seen.
he will see my three kids, that he hasn't seen in about 2 years, and maybe even my cousin from southern oregon with her three kids. and of course there's the cousin in vancouver, who has three kids as well. one he hasn't seen in about seven years.
i'm hoping that after i get back from our camping trip, he'll be here all safe and sound. that we will have maybe four or five days with him before he heads back to arizona.
if he's able to make the drive.
my mom is hoping that for most of his stay, he will stay in a special apartment at a retirement facility. a REALLY NICE retirement facility. she's hoping he'll like it so much that he'll stay. i doubt he will. but he may be so exhausted from the trip that he can't return home. i know his two granddaughters, whose dad died just about a year ago, are secretly hoping that he'll stay.
i am too.
i'd like closure with him. i'd like to know that i could accept him, flaws and all, and learn how to be myself, secure, carefree and ungaurded around him. i would also, if it's possible, to even feel loved. but perhaps, he's in my life, not to love me but BE loved BY me.
hard stuff, and i really don't know that i'm up for the task.
i'll have to fight off the urge to hang my head at first. not even so much as a phone call i have made since leaving him in december after the funeral.
oh, maybe a few cards and a few e-mails with photos attached. but i doubt that's hardly what my grammies was thinking when she ASKED me to stay in touch.
i think what i needed was an invitation.
to know that i was wanted.
saying he was wanting to come is as close as you'll ever get with a man like him.
i'll accept that.
and i'll let you know how our visits go. we'll see if i can be so loving and eloquent in person with a crusty old soul as i am with all the names without faces here in internetland.
you're safe. he's scarry!