My grandfather was a strong man. He wasn’t perfect.
He loved his family in his own quiet and sometimes not so quiet way. He never told me often that he loved me. Yet, I didn’t need him to tell me. I knew that he did.
My grandfather married my grandmother even though she had five children from a previous marriage. My mother was one of those five children. I was never told growing up that my grandfather wasn’t really my grandfather. I had no reason to think otherwise. He treated me as if I were his granddaughter. I was his granddaughter.
I am his granddaughter.
One day while we were visiting my aunt I found out that my grandfather was not my grandfather by blood. Some of my cousins told my brother and I the truth. We refused to believe it. We really thought our cousins were lying or losing their minds. It was just plain wrong to tell someone that their grandfather was not in fact their grandfather. We could not understand why. Why would they say such a thing?
We went to our mother to tell her how mean our cousins were. She had to tell us the truth. What choice did she have now that the truth was out? Up until the moment she started explaining that she wanted to wait until we were older I thought my cousins were lying. When I heard her words my heart caught in my throat. The realization hit me with no mercy. All my childhood innocence was shattered. I couldn’t breathe and the world, my world, had stopped still for an ugly moment.
My heart broke. It broke because I loved Grandpa so much. I couldn’t understand it at all.
Afterwards, I was so angry. Not at my parents. Not at my grandparents. I was angry at my cousins. They had tried to take away something precious to me and for no good reason. I felt like they had tried to rob me of something that was untouchable. It took me a long time to forgive them.
I was around seven when I found out. I was secretly angry for many years until I was mature enough to understand it all. Later, I forgave my cousins because they were kids being kids. They felt they had to tell us the truth because they had in fact recently met our real grandfather in person.
My mother explained that she had a father but she never saw him. After he and my grandmother were divorced he never came to see his children. There was a nasty history between my grandmother and him. It was best at the time that he did stay away.
I understood that my grandfather was the same man that I had always known to be Grandpa. Even if the other cousins had met their real grandfather I would not be meeting this man. My mother didn’t want anything to do with her father. She told me that her stepfather was my REAL grandfather and no one could take that from me. No one.
She was right. My brother and I didn’t let anyone take that from us. We never had the need to meet our mother’s father. We already had a grandfather.
Grandpa died the night before last. I love him in every way that a granddaughter loves their grandfather. I know he knew that.
I never stopped calling him Grandpa even after I knew the truth. I could never call him something else than what I knew him to be. He was Grandpa.
We played basketball together, watched wrestling and talked…he loved to talk. I will always remember how he would sing at five in the morning to Hank Williams while he fixed breakfast. He got up that early every morning. I would lay in the bed listening. I loved to listen to him sing in the morning when I spent the night with my grandparents.
I miss how my grandparents would lovingly bicker together. My grandfather loved to tease everyone especially my grandmother.
My grandpa taught me to wash a car. He taught me about people. I can hear him telling me about how he grew up in Hazard, Kentucky and walked to school every day. He was the youngest out of fifteen children.
My grandfather was a strong man. He wasn’t the kind of man to show much physical affection. It didn’t matter. He cooked for us, he talked to us, he took care of us and he was always there for us. It was all the little things that he did to tell me that he loved me.
Those little things meant more to me than any words. After all…love can not be found in words.
Love is a bond.
What I remember are all those little memories of my grandfather and everything he did for me.
What I remember is his strength and his love.