A friend of mine just shared this very personal piece of writing. She has given me permission to post it here.
My dad’s father is dying - my grandfather, my step grandfather, the guy who fathered and raised the guy who did not father me, but raised me. It’s not so complicated these days as it once seemed. I’m not sure what to say. I’m not so sure how to feel.
I was “not a real granddaughter” as this man’s wife explained to me on a few occasions. Real grandchildren did not have gapped teeth and short bodies with big bones. I was not Norwegian and Dutch. I did not like lefsa. I was odd, bookish, loud, pious. I could not even force myself to fit. I was an imposter, a piece from a strange puzzle. I was a fan of the Bears when they cheered for the Vikings, because they cheered for the Vikings.
On Christmas Eve I sat in the corner opening plain envelopes addressed to “A.” (even my name was too strange for them) and inside I found unsigned cards and gift certificates to stores at which I never shopped. My cousins, to whom I was not actually related, tore into shimmering gift wrap and opened boxes which contained actual things, while their parents lamented, “We never know what to buy her.”
There’s a bitter and angry part of me that still finds it difficult to be gracious when confronted with the gift of money or called by an abbreviation of my given name. It’s hard to grieve a face of cruelty.
Yet, people are complicated and I will mourn with those who mourn. Not because I have to, but because the same man, who has never managed to see me as a “real” child in need of love and acceptance, has managed to lavish my children with trinkets and holiday cards, and worn five dollar bills. Somehow he has passed on an expanded form of his limited loyalty and grace along with his corny sense of humor and enlarged heart to my dad. And while he has certainly failed to see it, he has fulfilled the wish of every parent: my dad (the man who did not father me but raised me) is a better man than his dad (the man who fathered and raised him). Perhaps grief is not as complicated as it once seemed.