Friday, April 20, 2007

Ode to My Grandpa

I wasn't going to post this. For some reason, I feel compelled to, though. I wrote this within 30 minutes of my Grandpa dieing. I haven't read it since I wrote it. It's stream of conscious and I haven't corrected any typos... the punctuation is all off... it was everything I felt and thought at the exact moment I typed it... well, as quickly as my hands could keep up to my brain (and I do boast myself to be a quick typer). To anyone who becomes offended by the contents... sorry. I guess everyone "loved Mr.D" he was so thoughtful and friendly and always blah blah blah... yes, he did help me on a few occasions, but it always came with some backhanded remark or some strings attached. This was the Phil Damiano that I knew...

So, it happened. My grandpa died. All these years I thought that he was a vampire who would live forever. Apparently I was wrong. The man has escaped death more times than I can remember. I guess I knew it would happen one day... I just didn't realize that it would happen now. Last weekend was my weekend to call him. I got busy with mowing Nana & Papa's lawn... doing this and that... and I thought I would just call him the next weekend. Then on Tuesday I received a call from my Uncle saying that he took Grandpa to the emergency room due to kidney failure. This wasn't a surprise since he has been on a diaphoretic for almost 2 years to drain his body of obsessive water retention. I called him that day. He sounded horrible. I was only able to talk to him for 2 minutes before he asked if we could hang up. My Dad left today to drive to Milwaukee to see him and help his brother. He got the call around 9pm as he was pulling into a hotel for the night. He told Mom. Mom told me. I sat quiet once I hung up the phone with thoughts and emotions swirling inside of me. I always thought that the day he died I would feel happy... however that wasn't the feeling I had.... it was confusing... it wasn't sadness or happiness... it was pity. Pity for the man. He had a really rough start to life. He lived through the depression. His brother died in the war. He lost his eye quite young. He was considered a cripple. Maybe it was because he was considered a cripple that he drew up such a cold exterior.... maybe it was the person he always was... I don't know... I wasn't there. Great Grandma D sure as heck didn't raise him that way! He held the Italian Community Center on such a pedestal... he donated thousands of dollars to them because they were so important to him... not on plane tickets to fly to California to see his grandkids. He boasted about the church people and how they all loved him so much more than his own son and grandkids... As he became older, he became much more cantankerous. Much more bitter. Much more insulting. And yet, I called him at least once a month.... not because I was obligated to... not because I was guilted into it... because I wanted to. There were times in our conversations that I really enjoyed our talks. He seemed to really want to know and understand my kids and the Autism that would be with them for the rest of their lives. He wanted to learn as much as he could about Autism... that meant a lot to me. There are some in my family that still have it ass-backwards because they believe all the crap that they see on TV. When he talked about my Grandma... when they were newlyweds... when they were young... he wasn't the same man I had grown to know. He was... nice. And now he's gone. And I feel pitty for the man he had become and the life that he had made for himself. It was all along, his choice not to visit us when we were kids. It was his choice not to call me... and always wait for me to call him. It was his choice to always be angry and talk negatively about my parents, myself, my brothers. It was his choice to always tell me that my cousin was more a grandddaughter than I was because she was so wonderful and so smart and so perfect... Whether or not he knew it, it was his choice to have me distance myself from him. And now he's gone. He lived the last of his life as a lonely old man with nobody to talk to except my uncle who lives with him, his sister who recently lost her husband... and wait for my phonecalls. The Italian Community Center forgot all about Phil. A few of the church people still called upon him... but it was just token visits and conversations. I feel pity that a man who could have been my grandpa ended up dieing today. I wonder if on his deathbed he actually realized what he missed out on.


Jennee said...

I can understand all the feelings that you have. But as you grow older, and your children have children, perhaps you will see grandpa in a different light. This man was different when we were little. They took us camping, drove across country with us, stopped at lame places along the road to give us the experience. They bought us toys to play with in their house, took us to feed the raccoons. Things were seriously different before we moved. I think his heart really couldn't handle it. He is a man from a time we know nothing about, and I truly believe he couldn't express how much hurt he felt when his only grandkids moved across the country. I am not defending his actions, or his sometimes hurtful words. You must remember I got them, too. If I was so "perfect," then why in the end was I not really his grandchild? When I was a kid, I really believed they were my grandparents... my real grandparents. I didn't know... I only knew that they would takes us for the weekend and they would do such fun things with us. They must have been devestated when you moved. I believe that church and the Italian community Center were good places for him, especially when grandma died and he had nothing but Uncle David and sporatic phone calls from his grandchildren and the one pretend grandchild.

I hope you can find it in your heart to empathize with this man. To wonder how different your relationship may have been if a move to California never happened. To wonder all the things that grandpa wished he could say, but never knew how to say them. The fact is, he loved you, your kids, and Andy and Tim more than I think anyone will ever know.

Anonymous said...

after reading this, i'm in tears and i can barely read the screen as i type. my grandmother's funeral was this afternoon. i wanted to share some words and a memory or two at the podium, but i was glued to my seat. i remembered tons of happy moments from my childhood: all of the road trips out to her house in the desert, the cheesy presents that she sewed for the grandkids, and the yearly birthday card with cash. despite these fond memories i couldn't bring my-self to stand and share them. we were never really close and i couldn't see her view on many decisions that kept her away from the family that she fought so hard to have (she adopted all three of her children including my father). i was bitter most of my teenage years and only came to feelings of forgiveness (and pity) as i watched her slowly deteriorate over the last 6 weeks from the cancer. she constantly spoke of the low points in her life: her abusive father and her first husband who comitted infidelity and divorced her. i realized that this had been weighing her down for YEARS! it made me pity her for never resolving these issues and dwelling on them for over thirty years. it also taught me a valuable lesson that i hope to remember from here on out. these were my thoughts today as i slumped in my chair with mascara running down my cheeks and a handful of soggy kleenex on my lap. i loved my grandma and still love her memory even though i didn't always agree with her decisions and disposition. i do understand where you're coming from. i guess (sometimes) we understand a person better and learn to appreciate them more once they are gone.

*BTW- i know you didn't change spelling errors, mistakes, grammers, etc. but you are aware that the present form of die is spelled d-y-i-n-g right? the word you used means something completely different. i'm just checking, cause you know i'm weird and that shit drives me crazy.