This past week I said good-bye to my grandpa and as I drove home a lot of different thoughts went through my head about how our family members and our genes make up so much of who we are. As I drove home I was really upset over something I felt was missing and those where the memories I had of my grandpa when I was a younger kid. My grandpa had a stroke when I was really young and from there on he always seemed to be ailing. Not a constant sickness but just always something not quite right. It is really sad to realize that you can’t pull a memory of swimming in their pool or playing in the yard or in their awesome basement with a fully healthy grandpa. I can tell you the stories of him working at a golf course or delivering flowers that he did for years and years but I can’t bring up a memory of me doing something with him the way my sons will be able to with their grandfather, my dad.
Image: Of great grandfather and great grandmother with my father as the youngest and my aunt.
The more I think about the more upset I got until tears welled up in my eyes remembering everything I could about my grandpa and then it struck me. I get highly emotional over memories and family or when I remember something I enjoyed in my past that I no longer do. That emotional side of my being isn’t unique to me it is how my grandpa was. I’ve had the privilege to watch my grandfathers both grow into old age and get to see them as an adult grandchild not just a child. This means I’e been able to see in them the traits that i can see in myself. Good or bad we do do carry traits from our parents and grandparents, our experiences and abilities may affect how those traits develop or exist but they are still there.
OK so to get this post straight I will clarify my use of the term grandpa and grandfather, I would prefer not to use names so my Grandpa will be my mother’s father while grandfather will refer to my father’s father.
I look at my father who I’ve always admired for his way of avoiding the grumpy aspect that my grandfather had though he does not show it there are times it is there. I know I carry that same trait as did my uncle and so does my cousin. Unfortunately all of us males in that family can see and feel that trait how we let it come out is where we differ. I am not like my father and my ability to suppress that grumpiness is not as refined and my friends and family do see that trait far more often then I wished. While I acknowledge these traits exist it doesn’t mean we can’t learn to control and manipulate them through experience and time. Now don’t get me wrong here I may show you an example of one of the not so nicer traits but my grandfather was a skilled carpenter and when you look at the males in that family you can see a bit of those traits in us as well. They’re just not as easy to talk about.
I use to considered myself extremely weak when it came to emotions. I watched my father bury his brother and father without seeing tears. I’m sure they were there but he just seems to have a tighter emotional control over them. For me it is a different story. I have a strong emotional connections to people in my family, not that we always show that(reference the teenage years). While at my grandfather’s funeral I was capable of keeping my feeling of loss tucked neatly away inside of me until I looked at my two sisters. Seeing their tears I couldn’t help but feel our loss even more and I broke down into tears. This goes the same when I saw them joyful at their weddings or as I watch my sons both do things they feel are accomplishments. I well up with tears of joy thinking how much I love to see them content and happy. It took me a while to realize that the reason I have this emotional side isn’t due to a weakness but more to a trait I carry from my grandpa. How many times did I see him cry when remembering his times playing saxophone, as he watched his grand and great-grand children play various instruments or as we all gathered around him during the holidays. I’m not like my father in this realm, not because I’m weaker but because I have something he doesn’t and that is the traits handed to me from my grandpa. My grandpa was also a bit of a comedian and was known to be funny and mischievous so I guess I can give him a bit of credit every time I’m called a brat for my mischievous behavior.
Sure I have a high level of intelligence that I could give both of my parents credit for. I also have an ongoing struggle with ADD that unfortunately I have probably passed down to my oldest son and not in a good way. Understanding that our experiences and situations all differ throughout life and will lead us to different outcomes on how these traits affect our lives. We pass traits and genetics from generation to generation hoping that the children learn to cope to with them the best way possible for their lives. Though they don’t always work together. I will say that my heightened sense of emotions along with my ADD does mean that I can sometimes struggle with emotional control. Already a common struggle in people with ADD. My brain will wrap itself around a situation the best it can to rationalize my feelings versus the best way to deal with the situation but if the outside pressures on the situation are such then an emotional(verbal) conflict may happen. A majority of the time, emotionally my brain keeps most of them wrapped up neatly and tucked away as to prevent them from controlling my actions. All that shows is that there is a ongoing struggle within us between our traits and our brain’s ability to work with them. In my case I have two traits that in turn feed into one another sometimes putting my brain in a situation it sometimes loses, sometimes. My goal is constantly work at getting my brain to work harder at controlling both elements. I also will have to try to pass what I’ve learned down to my son who I see struggle with both traits as well. If he’s lucky someday his children will maybe skip that one.
Our decisions are still our own and I can’t blame decisions I’ve made to traits given to me by my family. As I stated above our life experiences lead us all down different paths and in turn shape how our traits become part of our lives. Though when I sit back and look at who I am as a person I can see the patchwork laid before me. Parts from my grandfather, parts from my father, parts from my mother, parts from my grandpa and then there are parts only me, a patchwork of genetics, traits and a life of experiences creating something unique that is me. (I can hear people thankful for that) That is also what makes it uniquely you.
So while my memory fails to accumulate the images of my grandpa
now lying in a hospital actually passed away as of 8:00pm on Feb. 14, as a younger more vibrant grandpa there is a part of him that is there. As a tear fills my eye while I look at the pride my son takes in accomplishing a perfect score on a spelling test, scoring a goal in soccer or just as I feel the pride I take in watching him grow, I’ll remember my grandpa for giving me that inherent trait. For good, bad or indifferent these are things passed to us that are really a part of us not just a memento tucked away in a closets. So I may not have an image of my grandpa teaching me baseball or throwing me in the pool but I feel his presence every time I think how amazing it is to share the traits we had in common. Thanks Grandpa, I love you dearly and will miss seeing you in your chair at every holiday I spend with our family.
** I wrote this prior to my grandpa’s death on the 14th. I’ve decided to release it pretty raw and unedited as a memory of my feelings at the time. Not some reconstruction based around me mentally trying to compartmentalize my feelings to put on a shelf.**