Sunday, March 4, 2012

To know my grandpa

{Grandpa and me}
Last week I told you a story about my grandpa and how he always gave us candy and a quarter at the end of every visit. I painted him in a dark way - telling that he was mostly grumpy but was happy when handing out candy. When I hit the "Publish Post" button and sent it out into the world wide web I felt a twinge of guilt for portraying him in that way.

I sat down at the beginning of the week and started writing a list of things about my grandfather. I wanted to tell a different story about him that would portray him in a kinder manner. I came up with quite a list of things about him, and then I emailed that list off to my mom for clarification and filling-in-the-blanks here and there. When I received her reply I was surprised at my reaction. I cried when I read about his hardships growing up, and I was overcome with a sense of empathy and love for my grandpa - this man who loved his grandchildren so much but was at a loss to know how to show it at times.

I tried to incorporate what my mom had written about her father into my list of things I knew about him. I couldn't make it work. Call it writer's block - or maybe it was because I was at a loss for how to say it better than my mom had.

So, instead of the long list of random facts about my grandfather, I'm pasting my mom's paragraph here for you to read for yourself. {Thanks, Mom, I hope you don't mind!}

"His name was actually spelled "Johnie" - looks like whoever filled out the birth record couldn't read or write either. Grandpa was one of 6 so when the oldest 2 left [after the death of his mother], he was left at home with 3 others. I think he was around 10 or 11 when he got polio and spent several years in and out of the hospital in Oklahoma City - part of that time in an iron lung, an old method of treating the disease. After 21 surgeries on his foot and a steel plate in his ankle, he still walked with a limp his whole life. He left Oklahoma when he was about 30.

The most remarkable thing about his talents, besides being able to figure "sums" with the best of them, was the fact that he was an ace mechanic. He could repair and rebuild any engine - whether it was a car or farm equipment. And Grandpa's excuse for never reading in front of anyone? "I don't have my glasses." He was a hard man, the result of a very hard life, but he loved his grandkids way more than his own kids. You don't need to tell that - this is for your benefit only!"

I left that last sentence in because I loved it, and when I look at old photos I can see it. I'm sure he didn't love his grandchildren more than his own kids, but possibly was at an age where he could appreciate the love for a child in a different way.

I'm so grateful that I asked my mom to tell me the story of my grandpa.
Who do you know that would be different in your eyes if you knew their real story?

{I'm linking to Sian's Storytelling Sunday today.}

28 comments:

Becky said...

Thanks for sharing this about your Grandpa - I'm only just finding things out about my own Grandad, which as you say, sheds a completely different light on things they did and the way the acted. I know that Grandad loved me, but like you, I have memories of him being very grumpy and shouting at my Nana a lot. From things my Dad has been telling me, now I know why. Sorry I seem to have rambled on a bit here!

MIM Creations said...

It's great that you are asking people to pause and think about this! It is so true that everyone we meet is so much more that what their exterior shows. Everyone has so many complex layers and chapters to their lives that has made them who they are...and all those layers get condensed into a few seconds here and there of interaction....no wonder so many are misunderstood! Lovely post, Deb! (and Mom)

Rhona said...

I agree that it's probably not that he loved his grandchildren more but, recently becoming a grandma myself - as you know, it's a whole new love you feel for these precious children. I think you get a chance to enjoy the time you spend with them so much but it doesn't mean you didn't love your own children just as much/or more. Children are such a precious gift - full stop!
I would have loved to know my grandparents more and maybe it's time I found out more from my parents too. Thanks for getting me to stop and think about this some more.

Maria Ontiveros said...

Deb,
This is so touching. It left a lump in my throat - especially your grandpa's expression in the last photograph. One of my sorrows in having children so late in life is that they didn't have that many years to get to know my parents before they passed. I try to remind them on occasion about them. Because I want them to remember them.
Rinda

Missus Wookie said...

What a lovely set of memories - not that they are lovely but that your Mum could share. There are so many people I wish I could know more about. Glad that you asked her and then shared with us.

scrappyjacky said...

This is so touching,Deb....and shows how we all view people in such different ways....and knowing a little more about them helps us empathise far more.

Alison said...

I think that generation of men DID find it a lot harder to show emotion, than men do now. I'm so glad you realise now just how much he DID love his grandchildren!
Alison xx

Sian said...

Lots and lots of people I think! One of the comments I have made a couple of times today is how exciting it is to read something completely new about someone - we all have back stories, don't we? and it behoves us all (as you have so lovingly said) to remember that we don't always know the whole story. A perfect post - I have read lots of wonderful stories today, but I know I'll be thinking about this one for a long time to come

Mom said...

Oh, Deb~~you did a great job on this one. I don't mind you used my note. The pictures you used brought back a surge of memories! You can definitely see the pride in your grandpa's eyes! You did him proud, my dear! Love you! xo

Mom said...

And aren't you just the cutest thing!!! xoxo

jennifer said...

Hello, this resontates with me as it sounds a bit like my grampa's story. He also had polio when young and spent years bedridden, and he could definitely be called grumpy by people who don't know him well. He wouldn't ever play games when we were young, no matter how much we pleaded.

Luckily he is still around today, and scrapbooking prompted me to ask him his story. He burst into tears when he told me about meeting my nan and how her love 'saved' him. We definitely need to remember that everyone has a story :-)

Jimjams said...

How wonderful that you've talked to your Mum about your Grandpa and been able to find out more about him. Men of his generation really lost out with the whole macho/cave man role where they weren't shown or showed affection in a way that seems much more natural nowadays.

favouriteworkofart said...

wonderful

Louise said...

a very touching story - i had to go back and read your previous post too. I love how your mum helped you to understand your Grandpa.

Jo said...

Such a lovely story and description of your grandpa

Karen said...

What a beautiful story, Deb. You're so lucky your mom could fill in the blanks for you. I wish I had asked more questions when I had a chance.

Sabrina S. said...

Thanks for sharing this story. I'm struggling with the same issue these days: how to perceive some of my family members in all their dimensions? and not just what I want to remember… You did the right thing. you asked for perspective because you sensed you had a limited/selective vision of him. That's a great tribute.
Cheers from France

furrypig said...

that was a really beautiful follow up to the last tale of your grandfather, really touching Deb xxx

Ginger said...

Hello Deb:) Thank you for sharing this story of your grandfather. I have similar experiences within my own family and I agree we don't always know what others have gone thru, but if we can keep that in mind when we interact as a society, perhaps there would be less frustrations. I'm so happy you were able to tell your story :)

Carrie Rosalind said...

Love the story and very cool to hear about my Great-Grandpa. So funny to see Grandma R that young but I LOVE both of the pictures you posted! You were such a cute baby! :)

Amy said...

It is lovely to read another perspective of your Grandpa's story - we all have so many layers to our lives, it sounds as though he did as well!

Margaret said...

I' m glad you told us that story. I think everyone has so much inside them that we never know, for good and for bad.

Karen said...

What a beautiful post. You and your mom obviously love your grandpa very much and what a difficult life he had.

Lizzie said...

I'm so glad you're finding out these things about your Grandpa. It's good to understand people and be able to walk in their shoes for a while. I'm sure you're right about how he felt - about his own children and his grandchildren. I bet he was mighty proud of his children, but perhaps he didn't know how to tell them so; giving sweeties to his grandchildren would have been a gesture of love for his children too.
So glad you shared this. Have a lovely week!

heart.hearth.home. said...

We never truly know anyone or their reasons for being who they are. Parents often seem to react differently to their children than their grandchildren. I come from a generation that was seen and not heard and love the fact that my grandchildren are so independent and able to speak out. What is wonderful is that your grandpa loved you and that is what you will always remember.

Ruth said...

I cried as I read this, but I'm so glad you posted it. x

Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita said...

This was terrific Deb - so glad you shared it with us. There is always something we don't know that explains a lot about other people, even in our own families. and seriously - what a cute cute baby you were!

Chipper said...

Sometimes it takes more information to shed full light on a story or feeling. My mom scrapbooks but never anything from her childhood. I am trying to talk her into it as she has so much more to every story stored in her head and I never want to loose it.

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