Don't Make Me Feel
My grandfather is dying of lung cancer.
He's a tough old fella, but with more than 70 years under his belt, he's not winning.
Two weekends ago I saw him for the first time in over two years. There is tension with me and that side of the family for reasons that are still confusing to me. My father and grandmother have never thought much of me, so for that reason, I stay away. I like to call my grandfather every now and then and tell him a corny joke or just chit chat. He's never treated me with the chill and disdain that everybody else on that side of the family has shown.
I remember how he taught me to ride a horse when I was little. I remember him giving me his hat and taking me into the chicken coop to gather eggs. I remember him laughing.
I know my grandfather to be a no-nonsense and painfully honest man. I respect him an awful lot for those qualities. He's said some things to me over the years that angered me because, you know, sometimes the truth isn't all that pretty. He's not an affectionate person and he's more likely to call you a pain in the ass than to compliment you on anything. It's just the way he is.
On this visit, my oldest son was showing my grandparents the spots where he recently lost two teeth. My grandmother gave my son money for his lost teeth.
"Go ahead and give it to her," my grandfather said to her. She silently handed me a $100 bill.
Confused, I looked up and asked, "What's this for?"
"Because you're such a good granddaughter," my grandfather said, tears welling in his eyes and emotion choking his voice.
"Oh," I said weakly. "I didn't realize I was."
I hope my reaction didn't seem to him as cold as I'm afraid it was. With my grandmother standing right there and the sudden onslaught of emotion pouring from that hard man, I was stunned.
My grandfather loves me. I know it now with absolute certainty while also knowing that his time is terrifyingly short. That's something, at least, right?