Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My Grandfather's Things

A few weeks ago, my mother dropped some boxes on my front porch step. She said that they were boxes of food cleaned out of my grandfather's house. 

You see, he has Alzheimer's disease and is now being cared for by my uncle in another state. They took him on a trip there. He had been living alone and it had become unsafe. Now, without his knowledge (it had to be that way), she and my aunt were clearing out his house to put it up for rent. Thus, the boxes on my porch.

To be honest, I wasn't delighted to see them.  I had just finished cleaning out my attic and didn't have much gumption to sort through one more thing. But, with a large family, we can always use food. So, I sat on my porch and started to go through them. 
But, as I looked through each item, I began to realize that I knew so little about this man. I was going through the things of a life, a life I had not been a part of. I grew up a few blocks from this man and had only seen him a handful of times since I was seven. As a child, I was hurt that he had no desire to and made no effort to see me. As an adult, I had just let go.

But then his wife passed away, my mother worked to forgive him  so she could help him and he was suddenly at my house for Easter. He was a stranger to me. 

I thought I had disconnected myself. But, as I looked through these boxes and my son found  

 a chess set that he started to play with, I began to wonder about him and I was tearful as I realized that I was pilfering through the tiny details of his life. I wondered where this set had come from, how many times he had played it and what friends he might have had join him.

I realized that I knew facts about him, like you would a character in a book- he was German, he fought in France in WWII, he was an accountant, he spoke 5 or 6 languages, he had seven children (two lost at young ages), a wife who died young and married another shortly after. I knew he was not always kind to his children. 

But, I didn't know him. I didn't know what tea he drank or if he drank it at all. I didn't know if this drink I found below to make you "bright and alert" actually worked for him.

I didn't know who carved these or where they were purchased or if he even knew how to play chess. I am guessing he did.

Did he like spicy food? I have no idea.

And these? Was he an artist? Did he dabble in painting in his spare time? 
These are things you know by spending time with someone and building a relationship with them and we never had that. 

Sad, not to know him. 

His mind is nearly gone now and I don't really know how to feel about it. 

These were pieces of his life and my hands had touched them. 

It would have to be enough.


Lemonade Makin' Mama said...

This post especially touched me, because my grandmother who I am not very close to, is the last grandparent I have living, and is now suffering from demensia. It's so sad, and I wish I could know something about her life growing up. She's the only one who could really tell me any of it, and her mind is long gone....

I always find myself puzzling over the here today and gone tomorrow idea. How quickly our life is over and everyone who knows anything about us gone with it. I suppose Ecclesiastes has it nailed on the head. I also suppose it's a good encouragement to pour your gifts and heart into those around you while here, and let that be enough.

Blessings to you as you sort through this. (both physically and mentally.)


Ann On and On... said...

The story has so much emotion to it. Appreciation, disappointment, love and anger are present with each paragraph. Perhaps this was hard to write, but I appreciate you taking the time to express your feelings.

I learned more about my grandpa at his funeral than I ever knew when he was alive. It made me sad to hear it from them instead of him.

Glad to have you as a part of the SITSerhood.

Come on over to my blog for a "you pick" photo giveaway from Little Bits of Heaven Print Shop.

Sandy said...

Touching post. I'm sorry for the sadness you're feeling about your grandfather. I can imagine how I would feel especially not having stories to pass on to your own children. Maybe it's not too late; maybe there are other family members who could fill in some of the details? And looking at the photos of your family makes me think he missed out on a whole lot.

denise said...

Thanks for sharing from your heart. I'm sorry for your loss of never really knowing your grandfather.

This post brought tears to my eyes and reminded me to treasure the family that I have been blessed with.

Papermoonies said...

wow, I know what you mean. Trying to get to know someone through there things it strange but also interesting.
Stopping over from Sits
and blessings

Casey said...

wow, what a beautifully written post. I am so sorry for what you are going through and I wish that you didn't have to. I wish you better days and that you are able to learn new things about your dad. Take care and have a wonderful week. Stopping by from sits.


Farmgirl Paints said...

That was a great post. We are faced with memories too this week. My husband's dad passed a little over a year ago and going home stirs up stuff. All the little things they had in their lives, stuff that doesn't matter any more. You can't take it with you. It's too bad you didn't have the chance to know your Grandpa. I never knew mine either.

Jessica and Michael said...

What a wonderful post. I know it's sad and a really tough thing to have to deal with. It's never easy, no matter how well you knew them.

Stopping by from SITS and hope your day goes well :)

Jen R. said...

What a great post. IT's so sad, but what a wonderful window.

Scrappy Girl said...

This was a great post...very thoughtful. I am popping by from SITS!

campbell6 said...

Alright, please know before I post this that I am NOT being disrespectful to anyone's family. However, since we are all a bunch of mamas I will throw in this quote from my 8 year old son. First, the context. We were sharing dinner with my 94 year old Grandma and he was telling her about his Great - Papa who had recently passed away from Alzheimer's disease. He told her, "Yep. He died from Old - Timer's disease. It was to bad." I thought my 94 year old Grandma was going to lose her teeth. It was a great, light-hearted moment in the middle of some serious stuff. Hope it helps you laugh! I know if his Grandpa Jimmy had heard him he would have gotten a real kick out of it, too!

Love&Marriage said...

Those are some really neat items! Visiting from SITS

Mel Heth said...

It's always astounding to me how we really don't KNOW our elder relatives. We look at them as being parents and grandparents - but not really PEOPLE. I always wanted to write a book about all the stories out there that never get told to children and grandchildren. I think we might all be a little different if we knew our families better.

The Redhead Riter said...

Your sadness at not knowing him is the emotion I dont want my grandchildren to feel and that is part of the reason why I started my blog. When I have enough posts, I will make it into a book, maybe one a year? Then I will have enough copies made for prosterity. I want them to KNOW me. So I am writing my blog filled with me and things that interest me and things that happen to me and, and, and....

Thanks for sharing. Record your life so that the "not knowing" ends with your generation.

Sheryl said...


my children are going to grow up and one day say that they never knew their dad if i don't keep working hard to change that! this post is a great motivator for me to keep praying for that healing.

also...to ask questions of the relatives that i have around me. there are so many unanswered questions after they are gone.

Gina said...

Being your sister and feeling exactly the same way... i just cried. i love you girl!