Passing Indifference

1 10 2008

Sorry about going M.I.A. again for a few days there. I was back at – you guessed it- the little house in the big woods for a somewhat sad occasion. My grandfather, Papa, died. I say somewhat sad because, well, he was 91 years old. For years, he’d been living in a home, unable to walk or talk much thanks to multiple strokes. Late last week, he slipped peacefully into death after a good, long kick at the can on planet Earth. Just the way it should be. So, it’s tough to get too bent out of shape about the peaceful and expected passing of a 91 year-old grandparent. Especially since, in the heart of that grandparent, I was a distant, distant, second place grandchild. If I was even that.

It’s not that Papa didn’t like me.  It was just that he so very blatantly adored my younger brother. The only male grandchild. His namesake. And that only male grandchild namesake was also a supremely gifted brown noser. Especially to old people. So, when Papa walked into our house, he’d smile and nod hello to me, then ask where my brother was, how my brother was, and what wonderful things had my brother done lately. He’d make a fuss over how handsome and smart my brother was. How proud he was of him. Most of the time, I laughed it off. Yes, yes, the sun shines out of my brothers arse, and I skulk in the stinky shadow. But it still stung to spend most of my life largely overlooked by my only living grandparent. This inequality was never, ever malicious or ill-intentioned, but it was always there. Which is why the faintest whiff of favouritism or preferential treatment raises my hackles when it comes to my own kids. I don’t want them to experience that kind of indifference. An indifference that cuts both ways.

Now, my mother will be quick to point out that while my paternal grandfather did indeed favour my brother, my maternal grandmother made no bones about the fact that I was her favourite. Which is true. Unfortunately, she didn’t live to see my fifth birthday, so there was no long-term balance of the grandparental favoritism, which made it sting even more. My brother got to spend years developing a special bond with his grandfather while I watched from the periphery, holding on to a few faint memories and oft-repeated stories of how my grandmother had treated me like the crown princess for the few years we shared. It just wasn’t the same, and I always felt a little jealous, and a little cheated in the grandparent department.

Still, at Papa’s funeral, I bawled like the big sentimental sookie baby that I am. I cried, remembering how my brother and I used to hide from him when he’d show up at our house at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning, how we’d sit in the closet, trying to stifle our laughter as he hollered up the stairs, “Hellooooooooo? Helloooooooo? Anybody hoooooome?” Until finally, finally, we’d go downstairs, pretending we’d been asleep the whole time. I cried because, despite his presence in my life for over 30 years, I barely knew anything about him. I cried because I never made the effort to make sure that he saw his newest great grandchild before he died. I cried because, like I said, I’m a big sentimental sookie baby. Seeing him one last time made me realize that I don’t hold any grudges or resentment toward my grandfather for so clearly favouring my brother. My brother, that all-important only male grandchild, his Papa’s namesake, the golden child with the sunshiny arse, deserved all the grandparental love and adoration in the world. And so did I.


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9 responses

1 10 2008
Jody

RIP Papa…however he believed that we were asleep all that time is beyond me. With psycho Auggie gnashin’ and spittin on the door and dumdum Maggie following his every lead no one could sleep through a visitor to the little house in the big woods!!! Those are some Saturday mornings I will never forget…then again there are a lot of things about the little house in the big woods I will never forget. xo

2 10 2008
Lisa

Sorry to hear about your Papa, Amy. As usual, your poetic writings made this tale all the more real. Rest in peace, Master Blister.

2 10 2008
nanny

This blog begs a response! We do not pick whom in this life we are going to “click” with. Yes it is not correct to have favourites, yes it is wrong to show favouritism and yes is is not nice when one child feels left out. Suck it up. That is the way life goes. Sometimes you are the princess and sometimes you are the maid. Sometimes a child will appreciate one parent over another, for whatever reason. None of us is perfect no matter how hard we try. We ,as human beings ,are a deeply flawed race. So we take life as it comes, sometimes good, sometimes not so much! Regardless, we are only people and are not perfect. Nobody wants a child to be hurt by such bigotry,but it happens, sad as that is. You love all persons in you life differently, even your own children! One may not be more than the other, JUST DIFFERENT!
My grand children are all different and I love the difference in each of them, in very different ways .I would hate to think that they thought I loved one better than the others. But I appreciate each one for the very fact that they are different. I really don’t like things that are the same so I celebrate their differences. Maybe Papa felt that the only way he could attain imortality was with a boy child named after him. Maybe mamma saw the talent in my girl child before I did. That’s OK. I’m just really glad that each of my kids felt the very special love a grandparent can feel for a grandchild. I was never that lucky!

3 10 2008
Mr. Blister

This response begs a response! Dearest Nanny, you have the most marvelous way of agreeing with everything Amy says in a way that sounds like you don’t. Everyone would agree that life is sometimes rough and of course there are always going to be people that have it worse. But I also think that Amy speaks some difficult truths for all of us. She talks about ideas and feelings things many of us have felt ourselves. She gives them a voice, reflects upon them, and then puts them into perspective. Life is a contradiction and we need people to remind us that it’s okay to be absolutely thrilled with your life and at the same time, feel pretty shitty about something. Like you said, that’s life! So I say let Amy take her shots at Life. Life can handle it, and we’ll cheer her on as she lands some blows for the rest of us that have hard days too, but can’t find the words like she can.

3 10 2008
trish

bravo to all of you, this kind of awareness and admiration among family members is awesome, you guys need to have your own t.v. show, wait, no that would ruin it. I am sorry about Papa, I had almost no grandparents, and sadly my kids have suffered the same fate, but a grandparent who visits, who spent time with any of his grandchildren, albeit uneven or confusing, is better than our only living one, who can’t remember my kids names, oh yeah, and she aint’ old yet. Love to everyone who is sad, 91 is an amazing life, imagine what he saw over his lifetime.

5 10 2008
Anika

My grandfather died in the Spring, finally, at the age of 103. I think I cried for about two minutes… like you said, you can’t expect to squeeze much more out of the orange of life at that point… our grandfathers lived a full lifetime; I can only wish the same for our parents, our children and ourselves. Z-boy has been asking me a lot about dying recently. Have your kids had any reaction to you grandfather dying?

5 10 2008
domesticblister

Wow, 103. We should all be so lucky.
The girls asked a few questions, and we figured it was a pretty safe introduction to death – someone old, someone they didn’t know, a situation in which people were not freaking out. I didn’t take them to the funeral though.
But the topic of dying comes up very frequently with Neener.

9 10 2008
LisaMac

Why is it that grandparents tend to pick favorites? This happened to me and my sister as well…and I agree, it is hurtful. All the same, I am sory to hear about your grandfather’s passing.

9 10 2008
LisaMac

P.S. I love Mr.Blister’s response

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