Last night I spied a ladybug in our house, which my husband said was good luck. I scrambled to get my camera together before I lost her, and when I rushed back to the endtable where she’d been with what I thought was my macro lens attached to my Canon, I realized after trying without success to focus it that I’d put my telephoto on it instead. Needless to say, by the time I got the lens switched to the proper one and rushed back to the appropriate piece of furniture, the ladybug had vanished. But Simon was hanging around, so I took pictures of him instead.
I don’t know how I feel about that ladybug, and if it was good luck or not. The next day was a weird one – we buried my 91-year-old grandfather Thursday morning, and it was an odd experience for me. I have not felt particularly close to my family in many years, and I’m not entirely sure why, but I think it has more to do with me and my emotional detachment in general than anything in particular they may or may not have done. Plus, alcoholism. It is not rampant in my family, but it is definitely present, and the ones with that particular disease have it pretty bad (my grandfather was not one of them, by the way). And lately – they are really going downhill. One was so bad at Christmas Eve it was shocking to me; makeup slid all over the face and slurring words by 8 PM, that kind of bad. There was a time when these people could at least hold it together long enough to get home from the family gatherings, but those times are in the past. Several of them were drunk upon arrival at the funeral this morning, which began at 11 AM.
My grandfather holding my mother
Then my husband and I fought in the car on the way to the wake – he feeling cranky over the reminder, I am sure, of his father and his failing health, and me feeling out of sorts about being surrounded by so many family members from whom I feel oddly disconnected – so when we arrived there we were not speaking, which is always so easy to hide from others, isn’t it? I was already feeling strangely awkward and out of place among my own family, and then had to try and pretend (and fail) not to be pissed at my significant other, which made me all the more sullen and distant. We got tired of trying to ignore each other eventually, but it soured what little sweetness there might have otherwise been in the day (there are some family members I usually enjoy seeing and talking to, but not this time; I just couldn’t muster up a fake smile and some casual chatter until the meal was done and we both got over our anger).
My grandfather with his sister, Betty, who died long before I was born
The truth is I am not sure how to describe my grandfather. He was, I suppose, a simple man, as most people in my family are. He fought in WWII, came home, got a job in the shipyard where he worked until retirement, married my grandmother and had two kids. After he retired, he took up residence in a brown reclining chair in a corner of his den, and that’s pretty much where he stayed until my grandmother died. He was always sitting, and watching television, and occasionally cooking chili or taking trips with Granny to visit my aunt, who lived out of town. He was surly and a little scary, especially when I was a kid, and he had a sarcastic sense of humor with more than a touch of a mean streak to it. I am sure there is more to him than this, but as I moved into young adulthood I pulled farther away from my family in general, and never really reconnected to either him or my grandmother. After my granny died two years ago, what was left of his old mind finally snapped entirely, and he spent his last remaining days in a home, confused and frustrated by his fate.
I don’t know what to say about this one. Probably an odd choice to include it here. But as a photo, it’s kind of cool.
I felt it more deeply when my grandmother died, because even though we were no longer close, she had been a major figure in my childhood. But my grandfather’s death felt more like an inevitable conclusion than the end of an era, like Granny’s did. And I feel pretty bad about that. I was always a fairly detached person, even as a kid, and I guess because he was big and occasionally mean and sometimes scary, I shut him out early on and stayed disconnected. He’s not the only person to whom I have done this. I know we can’t possibly feel close to all of our relatives, and we all have our favorites as well as the ones with whom we never really bond, but the experience of sitting in front of his coffin surrounded by family members whom I rarely speak to or see, listening to them sniffle while inside I still felt distant and removed from it to a degree, was disconcerting and disorienting, nonetheless. I’d like to believe I possess that depth of love we are always told we will automatically feel for the people to whom we are related by blood, that bond my parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles repeatedly told me exists, but the truth is I always questioned it. It seemed to me more was required to feel love for another person than just accidentally being related to them. It was as if to them love was a magical thing that just happened when you were born – sort of like how my mother described sex to me when I was a child (you meet someone and feel something special, then you get married, then SOMETHING HAPPENS and you have a baby – OK, later she did give me a book that explained it better, but still). I guess it’s thoughts like this which explain why I was such a detached child; questioning things like why I should love this or that relative is probably not the typical ten-year-old’s inner dialogue, but it sure was mine. It’s not that I didn’t love my grandfather, it’s more likely I just decided at some point that he wasn’t as lovable as Granny and we weren’t as close and never would be, and left it at that without ever trying harder, not even when I was an adult and he was dying. I’m a bit disappointed in myself, that I never reevaluated impressions I made while still in grade school about a man whose role could have been a bigger one in my life, but there it is. That’s how it was, and that’s what I did.
I’ll sum this ramble up by sharing that in the midst of the wake, surrounded by strangeness and still feeling very disoriented and distant, I went to the ladies’ room and locked myself in a stall, pressed my head against the cold door, and suddenly thought of Simon. I wanted nothing more than to be at home, so I could press my face into his warm fur and hear him purr and feel comfortable again. I’m not sure what this says about me, either. That I can feel more love for my pets than for my own family? Maybe that’s not so unusual after all. Simple relationships and all that. Or maybe I am just more like my grandfather than I know, and I prefer to keep things simple, to stay home and sit in a chair and savor the comfort of doing nothing. He was always the one who stayed silent at family gatherings, watching and listening rather than playing any big part, and with every passing year I do more of that myself whenever I am around them. In fact, I took on that very role today. I sat, and I watched, and I stayed silent, and I felt a little overwhelmed by it all, and I was relieved when it was time to get away. Who knows – maybe I understood my grandfather too much instead of not enough. Maybe we were too similar, rather than too different, to ever connect.
Anyway, for what it is worth, rest in peace, dear grandfather. I am glad the unpleasantness of your last few years are over. I am glad you died in your sleep, and it was peaceful. I’m glad you left your flag to my poor lost soul of a nephew, and I hope it strengthens him in a manner that helps him, at twenty-three, to finally grow up. I hope my grandmother was waiting for you, and I hope you are, and were, happy. The truth is, I could never really tell. But maybe that is just your generation, one that, as the military chaplain pointed out, is rapidly dying out. At ninety-one, I guess it was your time. I’m sorry I never got to know you better, but I hope I got to know as much about you as you wanted me to know.
That was well writin, I never knew my grandfathers they passed before I was born, I just had my grandmothers around one of them my fathers mother we rarely saw she was a drunk and was found in her apartment a week later had slipped and hit her head in the corner of a counter. My mothers mom was my favorite. But passed over ten years ago. It was nice knowing her.
Nether of them knew at the time about me being trans and who knows what there thoughts might of been.
I really enjoyed this post and great photos of Mr Simon. Big hugs to you
Thank you. I do know it’s unusual to have one’s grandparents at my age still be alive, in fact, I still have one grandmother living (my dad’s mom). Sorry to hear about yours, I guess everyone has the drunks in the family, which is sad.
Yup but gues thats life right, ya your really lucky to have obe still living 🙂
I actually think I remember hearing her say that, too, even though overall she is crazy as hell. I would agree with that statement, but my family wouldn’t. They do believe that no matter how awful someone might be, if they are family we have to “stick together.” Thanks for your comments.
Hello there. I’ve been following your blog for awhile and I do enjoy it. I stumbled across you blog when I was trying to find out where to buy some awesome grey maccasins and the Internet brought me you. I believe you were trying a personal shopper who was sending you outfits or had the option to buy. This is my second attempt to comment so it may be a little lack luster. I have a Bfa with a concentration in graphics but that was back in 98′. So……any who I think your kitty pictures are beautiful! My favorite one is where Simon is yawning. His whiskers remind me of a sprinkler on a warm day in summer. You can really see the love in these pictures. I don’t noramally like animal pictures they usually seem a little stale at first glance but I found yours to be intriguing.
I can relate the family outsider comparison. I feel the same way with my family. We have a large family but now we are all spread out so on the rare occasions when we are all together it’s very awkard ex.( My wedding a number of years ago). There are no drinkers in my family but I can only imagine. It makes me sad to think here’s the happiest day of my life and you want to share it with your family but…….why bother. None of them even talked to me. My parents never even told me when they landed.
Then there was my grandmothers funeral before that.
That’s too bad your husband and you got into a disagreement. I find it’s always hard when you need your significant other to be strong and they have there own problems they need to concentrate on. At least you guys know why you were arguing. Some couples argue aimlessly in circles without any resolution. Stressful times seem to make many argue it’s these times when you really need that strong shoulder unfortunatly yours was distracted with his own important issues. Maybe it will help him in the long run when the time comes.
Yes, that is Stitch Fix that sends you clothes and you try them on, keep what you want, and send back the rest.
Families are just tough all the way around – guess there’s a reason so many movies and plays are written about family dysfunction!
Thanks for reading 🙂
What a wonderful description(s). So insightful. So candid. I really admire and enjoy your take
on “life’s things”. They are so universally true and experienced. And they offer personal insight
that helps “explain” lots of things. Never give up these ramblings. AND, just discovered a Lady
Bug indoors on a lemon on my Meyer lemon tree now indoors out of the snow here. Wish I
could send it on. As you noted, some “good luck” maybe coming my way. Take care.
Thank you, and I do hope some good luck is coming your way. You deserve it! 🙂
I’m sorry about your grandfather. I did appreciate hearing more about your family. And loved the Simon photos!!! As a real bonus the photos of your grandfather are such a slice of the times.
Thanks Luanne – not sure how I missed this comment earlier!
I agree with Beth, and Dr. Laura. Being related does not mean you have to love someone. People were always telling me as a kid that I needed to love my violent, sadistic father. Over the years I’ve collected close friends who now are my chosen family. I love them more (and in ways that are less complicated) than the folks I’m actually related to.
Also, I love your cat!!
I have friends that are my family, too. And I am very close to my father-in-law, as you probably know if you’ve read the blog for awhile. And yes, Simon is my “baby!”
Simons yawn also looks like a silent scream. I love the photo of Simon peaking from behind your bag, sometimes it’s good to just lock a door and take a minute for you.
It is, yes! Thanks as always Charlotte.