They called him a pain in the ass. His family did, anyway. That among other things. Maybe I was lucky: to have a distanced view. I didn’t have to grow up with him – to put up with his somewhat rigid expectations, narrow viewpoints, or stubborn, overbearing attitudes. He didn’t judge me, at least out loud, so I got to create my own impression of him that wasn’t tainted a bit by resentment.
Or whatever it was he inflicted. I only, really, got one side of the story.
The other side of the story, I imagine, was that he was trying his best to make a good life. For his family. For himself. For those that ever stayed under his roof.
That’s what we are all trying to do, after all.
My husband’s grandfather was a character though, that is for certain. A narcissist, perhaps, but one with swagger and style. One with values and integrity. One with absolute authenticity. I often thought, over the years, he could have contributed a memorable character to a Seinfeld skit. He’d fit right in with George’s dad, yelling at Estelle to turn down the TV and make him a sandwich.
The kind of guy you want to slap for being so tyrannical, but forgive in the same instant because you know, if you asked, he’d give you his shirt.
So he’s gone, now. A day has passed and the family is working with everything that comes up in times like these – confusion, sadness, relief, regret. Denial, too. That gets us through the first few moments, at least.
But this man, he was ready. He planned it. Made one last trip out to visit the family only days before. Enjoyed what he loved most – togetherness. And fresh fruit from the tree (thank you Okanagan harvest). He fed watermelon, his favorite, to his great-grand-daughter and experienced first-hand the investments he’d made – financially, emotionally – in his children’s lives. And then he went home. And then he moved on, peacefully.
If we could all be so lucky.
He wasn’t my blood, but I was honored to call him family. Even when everyone else said, “I wish the old bugger would just go already”. Because nobody really meant it. Because he was a good man who did right by his family. And that matters.
Today I am, understandably, introspective. I am interrogating my inner self, the way we do after deaths, as to whether or not I am satisfied with my own life. Because we are all egoists, in the end, and everything that happens to others must mean something to our own lives. In order for us to care. In order for us to pay attention.
Today I am paying attention to my family. To the joy they bring me. To the sacrifices I have made in choosing to make a family, to give up “freedom”, to have people around I love that need me. And to own the responsibilities that brings. Because Paul did. No matter how much of a pain in the ass he may have been, he honored that. He enjoyed, and loved, and did what needed to be done to make sure those that mattered were taken care of. And he lived. He followed his heart and did what he loved and lived, responsibilities and all.
And to my husband, Paul was a man to honor. And so I am, the best I can.
Thank you, Paul. For your responsibility. For being responsible, in actuality, for my life now. For my husband. For the integrity I see in him that came from you. For being unequivocally yourself. And may you rest in peace.