I decided my new mission in life is be less self-absorbed. I came to this conclusion after I lectured my two children for not wanting to visit my dad, their grandpa. Their indifference had nothing to do with their grandpa and everything to do with the fact that they can’t sit still for more two minutes. I’m not exaggerating.
“I never met either of my grandpas,” I told them. “They both died before I was born. See how lucky you are to have two living grandpas.”
This piqued their interest. “How did they die?”
The truth is, I’m not sure how they died. I remember once I remarked to my mother that both my dad’s parents had died in a car accident when he was young.
“No,” she gasped. “That’s not what happened at all.”
Oh. Okay…then what? I never heard the story. Quite possibly as a child I simply filled in the blanks, invented my own story where there was none. Seems like a reasonable thing a kid might do. You wonder as a parent how often kids may do this. Truthfully, you have no idea what they’re thinking and by the time, as an adult, you are reasonable to wonder what kids think, your mind doesn’t operate this way anymore. You can’t possibly understand how ideas take hold in their minds, all short-sighted and imaginative.
All grown up, you look for facts and a rational explanation. Did I miss the dinner when my dad talked about his family and his parents? Mind you, I grew up in a household where lots of sentences were left unfinished. Not to mention that there was a fanciful degree of chaos that whirled around us and shielded us from all directions, providing a safety net. Chaos provides energy and some tended thrive on it, if you know what I mean. I once had a boyfriend who described my childhood household as “uncivilized.” Well, we didn’t last. He never would have been comfortable in my family.
Perhaps the real reason I don’t know what happened to my dad’s parents is that I have never taken the time to hear the story, whether or not it was actually told is beside the point now. I didn’t hear it. It appears that a few of my sisters are not clear about these facts either, as I asked them recently. One thing they agreed is that my dad’s father died when he fairly young.
As a parent, I finally see the weight of that possibility and what that must have meant for his eleven siblings, my dad being number twelve. Beyond coping, I wonder how this event must have shaped him as a person, and later, as a parent. I’ve only guessed at this point and filled in the blanks.
I know that I’m lucky that my parents are still alive. In their seventies, I know I cannot take their lives for granted. My dad and I are going out for breakfast this week. I think it’s time for a little family history lesson. I’ll be sure to bring my notebook, so I won’t forget what he tells me. I want to get the story right this time.