Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Goodbyes

My grandfather wasn't your typical grandfather. When my dad was about two he divorced my grandmother and joined the army. Dad doesn't really talk about spending any time with his dad. I don't know that he actually did. I never really got to know my grandfather. I knew he was alive. I'd see him from time to time, but not regularly enough know him. I had no desire to visit him in the nursing home he's lived in for the last two years. I did go with my parents last summer. I sat there and looked at a stranger. Actually, I know most strangers better then I knew my own grandfather. I remember one time when I started getting interested in family history we went and visited him. I asked him a lot of questions. Most of them he ignored or would respond without answering my questions. Others he would answer and contradict himself. My grandfather was a habitual liar. I don't know that he even knew what was truth.
I wanted a grandfather when I was little. I remember being SO jealous of my daughter because she had TWO grandfathers that thought she hung the moon as well as FIVE grandmothers (two greatgrandmothers). Growing up I had one grandmother that loved me very very much and one absent grandfather. I was so mad at him for this! Reaching out to him was like trying to hug a barbed wire fence. But I know there were times when he showed his love. My mother has a picture him holding me when I was a tiny baby. On occasion we'd get a Christmas card from him with $40 bucks in it. Most of the time my parents would give my brother and I each a $20 sometimes, when times were especially rough we'd only get $10 a piece. I took the money, probably spent it on myself too, but I still resented the fact that he didn't know me well enough to buy me a present and give it to me himself. But for these rare moments of .... love? I wanted to show my respect to him and honor his passing.

Monday came and I hadn't shed a single tear. Not until I pulled into the cemetery. He had arranged to be buried at the National cemetery in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. From the road we could see the rows and rows of white headstones marking all the brave soldiers who had at one time or another served this nation. Pulling up to the pavilion I could see 7 men in their uniforms standing at attention. They were there to honor my grandfather as well. This made me cry. They were all total stranger, none I'm sure knew my grandfather. And my grandfather probably was never as respected as he was on that day the whole time he was alive. Then, I watched as these young men as they removed him from the hearse and carried him to the stand. The service was short and sweet (which was a blessing because it was 30 degrees and the wind was blowing violently from the north-this was an outside service afterall). Grandfather didn't like music (so I'm told but I wouldn't have known that otherwise) so the only song played was taps after the gun solute. There were no memories shared, no one really had any. The seven men came back to fold up the flag, which in itself was a much longer ordeal then I expected.

I cried for my grandfather yesterday. A man that I didn't really know, and never really will. I hope he has a peaceful rest. I'd like to say he'll be missed, but truthfully, I don't know that he will.

8 comments:

Pilot Mom said...

That is sad. Did he die an unbeliever? Sounds like he certainly might have. That alone would bring tears to my eyes. What a waste. {{{hugs}}}Leslee

Girl said...

I'm sorry, Leslee.

Hugs to you.

--girl

madcapmum said...

It's hard to imagine being that cut off from everyone around you. I'm glad he at least had a decent burial.

~Jennifer said...

So many men from that generation were/are completely unable to show any kind of love or affection. It's very sad, and makes me wonder how they grew up, what heartaches they might be hiding. Now you can mourn his passing and mourn the relationship that might have been, but never was. {{{{}}}}

Anonymous said...

One of the most profound statements I have taken to heart -

Just because someone doesn't love you the way you wish they would, doesn't mean they don't love you with all they have.

That statement has brought me to terms with many of my family relationships. Perhaps it will help comfort you also.

Faith

Leslee said...

Thank you Faith for showing me what I could not see. That is quite a statement and it makes more sense then I could ever retell.

Mike Kear said...

I once preached a funeral for a man at Fort Gibson National Cemetery. He had no real family left, and his step-children pretty much hated him. The step children and one cousin were the only people at the service. Prior to the service I had asked them about his life and if they had any good memories. They had no good memories.

So I stood next to the grave and wondered what to say. I looked over at his flag draped casket, and I suddenly knew. I told them that no matter what their experience was with this man, that we could be grateful for his devotion and service to his country, which was represented by the flag that now adorned his casket. I read the 23rd Psalm and said a prayer. Then the unexpected happened. His cousin, a lady of about 70, stood up and began to share a memory about the man. She sat down and one of the step-sons got up and said something to the effect that although the man had mistreated his mother, he was grateful for the support and companionship he had given her through her later life. In spite of the fact that they disliked this man, they had found reasons for gratefulness.

May Our Lord comfort you and your family during this time and cause the good to be magnified while the bad grows dim.

Peace,

Mike

HeyJules said...

Oh Leslee, this really was sad. I'm so sorry for your loss and I'm so sorry he couldn't be the man you always needed him to be. My Grandfather was very stoic and proper also...until after my grandmother died. I remember buying him a teddy bear one year for Christmas because I had heard him say he'd never had one and that was the last time I remember him ever being stoic with me again.