Lessons from Grandpa #2

As Father’s Day approaches, I’m thinking about my grandfather and another lesson he taught me repeatedly when he was still here.

When I was a teen, my grandfather always told me,

“Love your father, he’s the only one you’re ever going to get.”

I heard it often, because I was upset about my father a lot. He’s an alcoholic and was consistently doing foolish things. My grandfather knew it, but because he was up in age, he began to forgive everyone for everything. Plus, there were so many things my grandfather didn’t know, things that he would never understand.

Me with my brother and grandfather -1980 – My grandfather bought a vintage wire clock from a rummage sale and put this picture in it to cover the clock face. It hung on the wall into my adulthood.

Growing up, I was raised by my grandfather and he taught me everything he could. I would only visit my dad every other weekend (many of which were cancelled by him), and in all actuality was closer to my step-mom than him. My step-mom and I spent most of the weekend time together while my dad got wasted. There were plenty of times I didn’t belong with my dad when he was drunk-driving and many weekends I wished I would’ve just stayed home. It was hard for me and I didn’t understand why he wanted to do this to himself and to others. He would get violent and there were times when he hurt himself and others physically. As I got older, I understood why my mom couldn’t stay married to him, and also that if it weren’t for my father’s violence and stupidity, I would’ve had an older sister. My mom miscarried their first child related to his violence.

At one point in my childhood, my dad was in an institution for a few months. He’d gotten so wasted and decided he didn’t want to live anymore. He was listening to some really loud music and got it stuck in his head that he wanted to die. He started a fire in his house and tried to burn himself down with it. I don’t know who got there first, but there was considerable damage to the house and it needed many repairs. I know that my step-mother was fed up with him and she had issues of her own, including losing her young brother in an accident and an older brother in a separate truck accident. She wasn’t dealing with any of this well and began using drugs heavily. A few years later, she died from a drug overdose. Just before that, she sat me down along with my brother and told us that she was planning to divorce my dad, but that she would always love us. There were events like this that my grandfather didn’t know about and he didn’t know the pain my dad caused my step-mother or that she was using drugs. I don’t know if it would’ve changed his thoughts anyhow. 

The last time my grandfather reminded me to love my father was my oldest son’s 4th birthday in January, 2004. My step-mom had died a few months before that after her overdose and I’d invited my dad over to my son’s b-day. My son was sitting on my grandpa’s lap and here came my dad up to the house. He fell just outside the door and gashed his head because he was drunk. He couldn’t even stay sober for his grandson’s b-day party. So, I rolled my eyes and sighed. I just didn’t want to deal with it and by this point I’d had enough and was embarrassed. My grandfather looked at me and told me once again to love my father. When my dad finally made it in the house, my grandfather shook his hand and said, “Hey, I love ya.” The party went on as my dad stood there with his head bleeding. The following month my grandfather passed away.

There were many times I reminded myself of what my grandfather taught me about loving my father. With my step-mom just passing, my dad was drunk even more. He didn’t live far from me and I started inviting him over all the time for dinner, trying to do the right thing. My dad loved food, so the idea of cooking for him seemed right, plus I was really missing my grandfather. I guess I thought I could straighten my dad out and maybe once and for all we could have a normal family life together. He would show up sometimes on his motorcycle when he was drunk and a few times he dropped it right outside my driveway. Again, I would remind myself of my grandfather’s request and not get upset. Then, my dad decided that he wanted to find someone to settle down with because he couldn’t be alone anymore ( it had only been a few months since my step-mom’s passing.) It was all he cared about and wouldn’t stop talking about it, that and getting drunk. The fact that he had a loving daughter and grandchildren that wanted a relationship with him didn’t matter. I was relentless and again continued inviting him over. That following month after subsequent drama, I invited him over for lunch. We ordered from this new Mexican restaurant not far from my house. I brought in the food, got everything set up, and handed out the tacos. Everyone started eating and I heard my son laughing. As I looked over at my dad, I noticed that he was eating his taco with the wrapper on it. He was so drunk, he didn’t even realize it and had eaten half the taco and wrapper. Even after all of the repeated drama throughout my childhood and into young adulthood, I still couldn’t understand it. This was life with an alcoholic and somehow I was going to have to remove myself from it, just like my mom did. It was either do that, or my kids were eventually going to be seriously affected by it.

My dad started some new relationships and of course I heard from the women often. They wanted normal relationships too, and it wasn’t going to happen. They didn’t understand and would repeatedly ask me what was wrong with him. My dad was never going to stop being a drunk. He ruined every relationship he had, except for the one that hadn’t been burned yet with my older brother. It wasn’t long after that my brother decided to give my dad a job at his shop working on cars. My dad, at one point when I was very young, was an amazing mechanic during the week and saved the drinking for the weekends. I’m sure my brother thought that he could keep it under control during the day. Things weren’t so bad for a while, at least I didn’t hear about it. I decided to make a visit to see my dad and brother one workday when I was in town. At this time, I’d gone on to have two more kids. These two children would meet him for the first time. As we got out of the car, he greeted my oldest son with the statement, “Hey girl.” I was shocked. He forgot that my oldest was a boy, I guess because he had long curly hair. I couldn’t wait to climb back in the car and leave. Why would I think that exposing my kids to this would be a good thing? Hadn’t I experienced enough of it?

Fast forward, five kids later, and I don’t even know where my dad is. The last I’d heard, he bought a bus ticket to Florida and got stuck in some other state. I guess he’s living in some homeless shelter. For awhile he had a cell phone and I tried calling him a few times. When I would talk to him on the phone, he would just slur his words and cry. He asked how many kids I had and talked about how much his back hurt, from years of picking up car transmissions I guess. My brother tried to keep in touch, but I guess it got harder when my dad got involved with drugs and didn’t have the money to pay the cell phone bill. We don’t know where he is now and I’ve finally given up.

So, I have to say that I don’t think I totally failed on this lesson. I loved my grandfather as he was my father. He raised me. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him or am reminded of something he taught me. He’s in my heart forever. In a way, I still love my dad too, just from a distance.

Thanks for reading…


15 thoughts on “Lessons from Grandpa #2

  1. Wow. What an emotional and very honest post. I am glad you had your grandfather and so sorry for what your family has been through in the past. It’s pretty amazing how you can take all of this and learn from it. Very open-minded, strong and refreshing. You’re pretty amazing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think some people are best loved from a distance. You did everything in your power to keep both your word to your grandfather, and keep your father in your life. I commend you for making such an effort. My own father died of alcoholism when I was 16, and though he wasn’t as extreme as what you’ve described with your own dad, mine was always off with some new woman, and often let his relationship with his children fall by the wayside as a result. I’m not sure what would have happened had things not turned out the way they did. I like to think perhaps he would have pulled it together later in his life and enjoyed the beauty of his kids and grandkids, but who knows. I really appreciate your honesty. This was a beautiful and brutal post, and speaks to the nature of love – good and bad. You’re a very strong person and your father, whether he ever acknowledges it, is fortunate to have you in his life.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Vanessa, I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. How tragic. I feel for the kids too because they won’t be able to enjoy their grandfather and grandparents are so special. I feel lucky to have had my grandfather for the time I did.

      Sometimes I sit and think about what it is that makes people become this way, but the truth is, we may never know or understand it. I think about my dad’s childhood which was a mess and I can make excuses for him. In fact, I have in the past. At some point you just wish they would wake up and look at what’s in front of them. I’m at the point now, in adulthood, where I’ve stopped feeling sorry for myself. I have to raise my kids and continue loving the family that I have.

      Thank you for reading my post and sharing with me. 😉 I appreciate you. <333

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, we none of us know what makes someone turn out the way they do, but I also believe we have choices in life, and we can choose to live our lives in a certain way. You definitely have, and I have, too. We are stronger and better for what we have gone through. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  3. A moving memoir of a difficult relationship. Thankful you had your grandfather in your life. He sounds like a wonderful role model. It is hard knowing we can’t change others, or make them better or whole. We can only control our reactions.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Grandpas are really something special, aren’t they? 🙂 I miss mine, too. ❤
    Your post was so honest and moving. You can tell you have a really good heart and how important your family is to you. I'm sorry for the hard times you've been through with your father. I've had an alcoholic in my life before as well, and it's so hard when it's someone you just want to love and be there for. It's so difficult when you can see exactly what the problem is but are powerless to stop them from continuing down that path. No one can stop them but themselves, and sadly too often they just won't. I really feel for you on that. It's such a hard thing to have to experience. Your outlook on all of this is inspiring. You are definitely a strong person, and it shows. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is so hard to watch and can really make you feel helpless. I do understand now that I’m older that someone will only change when and if they want to. It’s something others can’t control. I’m sorry you had to deal with this as well.

      I miss my grandfather so much and yes, they are so special. I appreciate the time I had with him and the knowledge I gained from him as well.

      Thanks for all your positive statements about me. I really appreciate that and thank you for sharing with me. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  5. starjustin

    I loved my father with all of my heart and still miss him so much to this day. He loved both of my children with all of his heart, and his first born great grandson even more, if that’s even possible, and I know, in my heart, he is our ‘guardian angel’ in heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

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