Daily Archives: January 25, 2012
…my grandpa who died last week…
When I was little, Grandpa Beek was the only solid male figure in my life. He was an Army medic and served in Korea and Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star along the way. He was big, blustery, profane and I adored him.
He had one arm much shorter than the other, a curly mop of hair that sat right on top of his head and tattoos up one arm and down the other. His ears were large and Dumbo-ish, and I adored him.
That is until the day I overheard him loudly tell my mother he didn’t want me calling him “Grandpa” anymore, because he wasn’t my grandpa.
I think I was about 8 or so and my world swam in and out of focus as those words rang in my ears.
What on Earth was he talking about?
I walked into the room and all eyes turned to me. I pretended like nothing had happened and I continued to call him Grandpa Beek.
Over the years I finally got the courage to ask my mom what that had been all about, and she said it was because he was my step-grandpa and felt way too young to have a grandchild at the time.
He’d also just gotten back from a tour in Vietnam.
So, there’s that.
Time passed and my Grandma died at a very young age from surgical complications. At first, Grandpa Beek kept in touch with my mom and me.
Then, he re-married and the communication slowed to a trickle. Finally, it stopped altogether.
By that time, I was married and raising kids of my own. Kids I wished could get to know gruff ol’ Grandpa Beek, but every attempt to reach out to him was rebuffed.
Hurt and confused I gave up.
Then, two years ago I joined Facebook at the urging of cousins to keep in touch with family and was friended by my aunt – Beek’s daughter – who is only five years older than me. We’d grown up thick as thieves, but like everything else time and distance came between us.
Still, when we did re-connect it was as if no time had passed. We quickly caught up on one another’s lives – our kids, husbands and grandkids. We exchanged pictures and I finally asked about Grandpa and why he had turned his back on me.
She said she didn’t have a clue.
I asked her to take a picture of me and the kids to show him at the nursing home where he now lived.
She did, and he said we had a lovely family, but he wasn’t interested in talking to or seeing me.
The wounds were refreshed, so I quickly covered them and didn’t mention it again.
When he passed last week I asked my Mom, again, if she knew why he’d shut me out.
….and I swear I am not making this up…
1. He remarried and because his new wife looked, and acted, like my Grandma, my mother kept comparing the two. It grated on new wife’s nerves.
2. When he and new wife moved from Indiana to Arizona they were involved in a near-fatal car wreck. My mother never did a thing to help or contact them when it happened. (I had no clue that it had happened).
3. My mother constantly rode Grandpa about a $100 debt he owed her. Mom says she doesn’t remember this, but my Dad does. (Really? $100? Really?)
So, I guess it all makes sense now, and Grandpa if you’re listening I’m giving Mom $100 on your behalf.
You can pay me back by buying me a beer when I get to Heaven, and in the meantime keep a barstool warm for me.
RIP Grandpa Beek