Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Grumpy Old Man

When I was growing up my hero was my Grandpa R. I was the only grandson so he used to spoil me regularly. My sister and I got to stay with him and my Grandma in Winnipeg every now and then. I used to love those visits. We'd go out for breakfast or go to the airport to watch planes. Sometimes we'd build something (he was a great carpenter). Usually, unless he was at work or something I was at his side. If he tried to go out, I was there saying, "Where are we going now Grandpa?"

One of the best things about going to my Grandparents house was the fact that they used to go camping and fishing. Sometimes we'd go to their house and my Grandpa would be getting the trailer prepared. Oh the excitement! Once we went to Morris, MB for the stampede. I have very little memory of that trip but I know it was a great time. The usual spot for camping was a little place near Neepawa called Stony Creek. This is where I learned to fish. I spent a lot of time crashing through the bush with my Grandpa looking for nice trout holes. Usually we brought back a few, sometimes more than we should have. My favorite childhood memories are still of camping out at the bottom of the hill in my grandparents' trailer.

When I was in high school my grandparents moved to Nova Scotia. After my first year of university I bought myself a plane ticket and went out for a visit. While I was there we did a little bit of fishing but not too much. This time though the conversation between my Grandpa and myself felt really strained. We didn't really have much common ground to talk about. My Grandma was the same as always. She always had a great sense of humor and a certain silliness that made her fun to be around. This trip was unfortunately the last time I saw my Grandma Ripley. She died a couple of years later.

The last time I saw my Grandpa was not too long after my Grandma passed away. He flew out from Nova Scotia and we met up at Stony Creek for a weekend. Just like old times.

A few more years passed. I moved away met Jules and we had our first child, Number One. We'd planned on naming it Benjamin, after my Grandpa, if it was a boy. As we all know it was a girl so the name Benjamin didn't really fit. We were so proud of our little bundle of joy. When my parents told my Grandpa that we'd had a baby girl and that he was a Great-grandfather, his reply was, "If they aren't married then that baby isn't my Great-grand child."

This was probably the single most hurtful thing anyone in my family has ever said (that I'm aware of). What made it worse was the fact that it was spoken by my childhood hero. This happened over 8 years ago and it still makes me angry/sad when I think about it. In fact I haven't spoken to him since.

Last November my sister got married. She does not correspond with my Grandpa at all. No cards. No pictures. Nothing. She's angry because he's got a lady friend. Not just any lady friend, but the lady friend with whom he'd had an affair while married to my Grandma. She doesn't want anything to do with the man. My Mom convinced (forced) her to send a token wedding invitation to him, knowing that there is no way on Earth that he would attend. When he got his invitation do you think he was happy to be invited? Nope. He was mad at my sister because the invitation was addressed to him only, not him and his lady friend. That is his version of an RSVP I guess. This didn't bother my sister one bit because she didn't want him to be there anyway. It was no mistake that his lady friend was not included.

Every year I send him a special hand picked Christmas card (not the bulk ones everyone else gets) with pictures of the kids. I have never received one back from him and don't really expect to. I will go on sending cards and pictures. I will continue to acknowledge his lady friend in all my cards. I will continue to love him. But it seems that it is better to do it all from a distance. This way I can keep the bitter Grandpa of today from corrupting the much more likeable version that I have stored in my childhood memory banks.

I don't know what made him so bitter. Maybe he's gotten grouchier with age. Maybe he thinks we've all abandoned him. Maybe he thinks we don't care. Maybe he was always like this and I only started to realized it with maturity.

Regardless of the cause it still stinks. I would like to see him again but am afraid that doing so could just give him the opportunity to make things worse.

No comments: