Wednesday, June 24, 2009


This is a picture of a man I never met, my grandfather, during his time in the Air Force. He died a little less than two years before I was born. My father's father. I know next to nothing about him other than he was a raging alcoholic and that after my father's mother abandoned my dad he did the best he could until he ended up basically abandoning my father too. We never really talked about my dad's family while I was growing up and in fact I didn't find out my father's mother had abandoned him when he was just weeks old until I was 32 (or that his parents were never married). That explained a whole heck of a lot about him for me.

Now, I'm in touch with my father's cousin through Facebook. She's only 5 years (EXACTLY 5 years) older than me and doesn't really remember my grandfather either. She says he was a good, kind, quiet and smart man and I want more than anything to believe her. But how do I reconcile that with knowing that this man also abandoned my father leaving him to grow up with his aunt and his uncle who were the definition of poor and had children of their own to feed and raise?

I do of course realize that the alcohol was most likely the problem and that things might have been very different for my dad if his father didn't have a problem with the drink. But that's a lifetime that exists only in the what ifs and it's best not to dwell on those too much.

Anyway, my dad's cousin scanned and e-mailed me some photos of my dad when he was young and his dad. This one is the most striking to me. I keep trying to see my dad in him, and myself of course. And I can't tell if I want to see us or if I don't. I just cannot reconcile my emotions about this whole thing. I'm really glad I have the pictures, but at the same time maybe the past should stay buried. I haven't sent the pictures on to my parents yet. I don't even know if I should. As you can imagine he has rather a lot of bitterness about his parents.

I don't really have the perfect song for this post so I'll settle for one that I've always loved, Nightswimming by R.E.M.

The photograph on the dashboard, taken years ago,
turned around backward so the windshield shows
every streetlight reveals the picture in reverse
still it's so much clearer

No comments: