June 15, 2008

dad shmad.

Happy Sunday! It's fathers day, which is always a hotly-debated topic in my family. You see - my father and I have a pretty good relationship. I wouldn't call it picture-perfect by any means, but we get along. I call him when I'm having a rough day, and he listens. He usually tells me it's my fault, but hey, he listens. We rarely fight, and he lets me live my life - more than most people can say I'm sure.

However, it's his father that's the problem. My grandpa. Don't get me wrong, I love him to death (you have to say that, right? It's bad karma not to) - but he has grated a few nerves in my immediate family for a long, long time. When I was a wee little kidlet, I remember my grandpa and my aunt talking to me and my sister about how fucked up our parents were. How they couldn't ever hold a real job, how they moved us way up north away from the 'family', and how they were ruining us. Way to cultivate a great relationship with the grandkids/nieces, eh? I always left those interactions so completely upset, devastated as only a child can be when they are told that their parents aren't perfect. I learned to keep my defenses up around my extended family - we were always on the outside because we were 'different'.

My grandparents are/were pretty rich, my grandpa was the county attorney in his smallish town most of his life. My dad is a musician and my mom was a seamstress/creative type - so not exactly moneybags. This created quite a rift in the family, which only got bigger when we moved out of the cities and 'up north' (four hours away) when I was ten years old. Also, my grandparents never cared much for my mother. Now that she's dead they say that they loved her, but I remember when she was alive - and they did not get along. I think it was a class thing - my dad's side of the family is the country club type - I never saw my grandmother without her hair done and lipstick on. My mom's side of the family loved sports, and my mom's mom is remembered best by her always present bloody marys and cigarettes.

To add insult to injury, my grandparent's two other children - my aunt and uncle, were very close with them. My aunt spent every weekend with them for her whole life (she never married or had children) and took all of her vacations with them. My uncle lived in Connecticut, (speaking of: why wasn't he ostracized for moving???) but him and my grandfather had the same political views, both had money, liked golf, etc. They talked all the time. Sadly - both my aunt and uncle died a couple of years ago. My uncle of colon cancer and my aunt of ovarian cancer. So the kid they are left with? The musician/hippy that they never got along with. And, of course, his two daughters.

So I had a long chat with my dad today about how guilty he feels that he doesn't get along with his dad - and how he can't even buy him a card, because all of those sappy sentiments? He doesn't feel them. My grandpa is 87 years old - he's lonely, caring for my grandma who has Alzheimer's, and is starting to get very confused. But my dad is still angry - angry for a childhood/adulthood where he felt that he didn't belong, for the years of disapproval and guilt - he's still understandably upset about it. It's hard to put all of that behind you just because you're the one left behind. I totally get it.

Tonight I'm going up to my grandparents to cook them dinner (spaghetti with chicken sausage), and give my grandfather his father's day card. I went for funny and cute - I think he'll like it. I enjoy going up there - I just hate the guilt trips. The talk about how I'm not there enough (because unlike my aunt, I'm far to busy to spend every weekend with them), and how my father still isn't living up to their expectations. Family stuff is hard, but what can you do? Just plow ahead, and hope that you don't spend the rest of your life regretting the way you treated the people you came from. Happy father's day.

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