Saturday, June 15, 2024

Discoveries and Development


It is always the week before the 3rd Sunday in June when my heart feels heavy. It has been just over thirteen years since my grandpa's passing. Although time lessens the impact, the void is expansive.

To me, my grandpa wasn't just my grandpa. He was the only dad I knew.

We are at the age where children look back critically at what generations before them did.

Some of their gripes are justified.

Yet, there weren't many guidebooks to assist people with parenting back then. You winged it and did the best you could. You hoped your kids would understand when you fell short and be open to providing grace and understanding.

Grandpa was a simple man. He loved doing things with his hands. He enjoyed being outside. When he felt like being social, he would hop in his car and take a ride. He would do the same if he felt disgruntled.

Grandpa was not an excessive talker ... at least not around Grandma or me. He never was on the phone long — very direct and to the point.

He did not say "I love you" often, but when he did, it was sweet and awkward. He showed his love through actions ... what he was willing to do for people.

Grandpa was far from perfect.

It was a challenge for him to cope with difficult emotions, especially when he and Grandma did not see eye-to-eye.

Grandma had a penchant for going over a topic repeatedly until she was heard, and quite often, acquiesced to. Think of using a hammer to drive a nail into a board. Then, think of hitting the nail well after it's secured in the board. 

Grandpa wasn't the type to go back and forth with a person. He didn't like someone repeating a point continuously. His go-to response was to go to his room, go outside, or get in his car and drive away. 

On the rare occasion when Grandma followed him before he made it to his room or the door to leave the house, he would fire off a line or two. This only gave Grandma more ammunition. 

After the whole debacle, things would reset.

There were no exchanges of apology or speaking on what could have been done better. There were no conversations about anger management, conflict resolution, marriage counseling, or individual counseling. They dealt with their angst with each other (as well as other people) privately or confided with the one other person in the house. 

I was too young to offer any counsel. I dared not take a side. I would listen quietly and just let them vent. Who knows? Maybe that was enough to make them feel better.

Yes, it would have been healthier for them to have other adults to talk to about deeper topics. But, as I got older, I realized they were uncomfortable discussing any troubles in-house outside the house, even to people they called their closest friends or confidants.

I did not know Grandpa's reasoning, but I did know that Grandma got burned in her past by someone she trusted spilling secrets. Once Grandma was wronged, she never forgot and never forgave.

This way of being was passed down to other members of the family.

The art of not causing any upset, even if that caused the essence of your being pain. Making the decision not to speak on troubles for fear of judgment if word ever spread in our small town. Believing that praying, reading the Bible, and attending church would heal everything; no medical or professional intervention required.

My mom was the first to attempt to break the cycle, albeit not in the healthiest way. She would express any and everything to whoever would listen. (This has a high level of irony, but I won't get into that in this post. That is a separate post altogether.)

With expressing everything to everyone, you must have a high level of discernment. If you do not, you leave the door open for others to take advantage of you and even poison your original way of thinking into theirs. 

My mom's ability to discern, to put it lightly, is askew. Of course it would be if you became emotionally and mentally stunted at sixteen. That was when I came into the picture.

I am the amalgamation of my mom, Grandma, and Grandpa. 

I am a highly private person, but I am a creative person who shares with the world.

I am easily a lone wolf yet attract people who want to have roles in my life.

I do not speak much but when I do, it's never from a shallow place. I am a confidant to many, yet I only share with a select few.

I move with a high level of awareness, empathy, and discernment, which permits me the ability to look at situations from different angles.

I am slow to anger but when I am angered, it's not out of anything small or frivolous. My anger has many levels — from explosive with passion to cold with disappointment and all the nuances in between.

It was later in my adult years when it dawned on me that the coping mechanisms that were passed down were not altogether healthy. If anything, they stunted not only my emotional growth but my spiritual growth.

Being out in the world became my education outside of what I received in college. 

Yes, I knew there would be conflict with others, but I initially lacked the tools to navigate. To detect which were "hills to stand on", which were "agree to disagree", and which were "let them go".

I also had to figure out how to have conversations to convey my thoughts ("I want", "I think", "I feel", etc.) without placing blame or giving the other person the power to control my emotions.

I had to develop discernment of situations and people and look through a logical, objective lens.

These life skills take time and practice, along with years of unlearning other techniques.

I will not say my grandparents passed down toxicity. They just did what they knew and weren't aware of doing things differently. Their method impacted my openness to social situations, which caused an imbalance of emotional intimacy in friendships and romantic relationships. It impeded my ability to reach full vulnerability when I experienced my darkest times.

Even now, I rarely say I love you first. It has nothing to do with lacking this emotion but more from a place of reassurance plus my disdain for rejection. Also, I don't say "love" unless I mean it.

It is disappointing that the emotional support from my biological family during the biggest losses of my life is lacking. It sucks that it isn't surprising, but I can't expect these things when they were not taught them. I would rather they be genuine than performative.

I am fortunate to have people who have been there for me and recognize I have better days than others. I lost the two people who served as Ma and Pa. Even lone wolves need support and community sometimes.

With Grandma's passing, I realized I never went through my grieving process for Grandpa. It was the reality of not having them both.

When Grandpa passed away, I was going through my own life events that I had to tend to once I returned to New Jersey. Plus, I had Grandma to talk to, and we would often talk about the memories we had with him.

With her gone, it made everything painfully real. I'm grieving present sorrow and delayed sorrow ... quite a double whammy.

As Father's Day approaches, I think of Grandpa. Sending him a Father's Day card. Giving him a call just to talk to him for a few minutes. Gifting him his favorite things. The two of us listening to music in his car. His secret stash of candy underneath his car seat he thought no one knew about. There are many more ... these are just the one-liners.

He may not be the modern definition of a dad, but as Grandma would say, "He brought me a mighty long way."

Honestly, I turned out all right.


Discoveries and Development

  It is always the week before the 3rd Sunday in June when my heart feels heavy. It has been just over thirteen years since my grandpa's...