Friday, August 19, 2011

Photo Memories

Ah yes, another one from the day of my baptism. I apparently had changed into some more comfortable clothes for the party, I was a fashionista even then. Of course you'll notice, I'm once again sleeping. Being the life of the party is no easy task let me tell you.

The man holding me is my uncle Denny, my dad's brother. Yes, I used the term uncle, which is strange as this was probably the last time we were really close. I never really talked to my uncle Denny all that much but I had no bad feelings towards him either. He and my aunt Betty were not able to have children and I just don't think he ever got used to being around small children much, especially as we were growing up, but he did think of us. When he and my aunt Betty built their house they built a house slightly bigger than they needed for themselves because they knew if anything ever happened to my parents it was in the will that they were to raise us. They considered that as they built their house and aunt Betty even told us that.

Uncle Denny is just a quiet guy. I respected him because he always did what was right, wouldn't hurt a fly and always took a distant interest in us. It's just who he was and who he still is and I can relate. He and my dad are very similar in a lot of ways so I guess I always understood uncle Denny a little better than some. He was the kind of guy growing up that would stand in the doorway at christmas sipping his beer watching everything and randomly pull out a squirt gun and shoot one of us kids and just smile when we would try to figure out what had just happened. He is the type of guy that didn't smile much but when he did/ does you know he's up to something or was up to some kind of mischief. I talk to him if I see him, but neither of us go out of our way to make that happen, it's just how that side of the family is.

I felt bad for him when grandma died. They lived across the street from my grandparents and every day after work he would stop at grandmas house, have a seat in the garage and my grandma would come out, they would share a beer and chat. 5 days a week, it was a routine. That day he showed up and grandma didn't come out, he went in to check on her and was the one to find her on the bathroom floor. He was very close with grandma, she was a part of his daily life and I can't imagine how he felt at that moment. He got stuck in the middle during the aftermath, trying to not take sides between his brother and his sister, trying to stay as far away from the situation as possible.

This was particularly easy because the day of the viewing he had a minor heart attack and spent the next week in the hospital and was not able to attend the funeral service for his mother. I can't imagine the pain he was going through. He's better now and back to his old self, but it could not have been easy for him.

Aunt Betty was the peace maker in the family. She tried so hard to keep the family from falling apart at the seams. She was the one that broke up the screaming match between my dad's sister and my mom when things got heated one thanksgiving, yes, my quiet mother, in a screaming match. I still think I have never been more proud of her than that day she stood up to her. Betty was also the one that sent out birthday cards to us every year, the one that would make sure each time she saw each of us she would have a conversation with us individually, she was the one that wanted so badly to continue our family gatherings on the holidays, but she just wasn't strong enough to mend the holes in our family that had started so many years before.

Most of us tried, my brother and sister who were rarely talked to or even noticed by my dad's sister gave up the day grandma died. In their eyes, when grandma died, so did dad's side of the family, they were never treated very well in the last 10 years, when Linda divorced she seemed to have gotten bitter towards my father who's marriage was still together and strong. The first Easter after grandma died Linda decided to host the gathering and I was the only one of my siblings to say they would go. I didn't want to but I felt grandma asking me to so I did. It was weird and awkward, the dirty things my aunt did after grandma died were still very near the surface to my family, we had not yet reached forgiveness so it was tough to begin with but we pushed through, and then at dinner, things fell apart.

We sat down to eat at the table, we didn't notice at first because it was covered in cloth and we might not have noticed had it not been brought up, but my aunt asked us to all notice we were once again seated at the same table that we sat at in grandmas house. It was like a knife straight to our hearts. This, the table that started it all. I guess in order to understand I need to tell the story, hope this isn't too long for you guys.....

The year my grandparents were to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary, or was it 25th? I don't remember the exact year, but it was a parents were in a tough spot financially. They had three kids at home and my father had just gotten laid off after many years at the factory. Money was tight so they didn't know what they would do for a gift. Well several years before my grandma was at an auction and fell in love with this old beat up dining room table that reminded her of when she was growing up, she got it cheap and put it in the barn to store until grandpa could refinish it for her. Well grandpa was never one to actually fix much from the barn, once it was in there, it was just decoration. lol. My father went and got the table from the barn and brought to our house where he spent the next 6 months working on it. He stripped it down to the bare wood, fixed all that needed fixed and put his heart and soul into that table. He said he had never seen grandma so happy as when he brought it back to the house and showed it to her. It was her pride and joy, and it really was beautiful, she sat at that table for hours everyday, if she wasn't in her recliner, she was in her chair at the table. My grandmother being who she was always told my father that when she was gone she wanted him to have it back.

Well my grandmother had a list of her favorite things, and beside each item she had a name of either one of her children, their spouse, or us grandkids. She didn't care about anything else in the house except what was on the list. She put a lot of thought into each item and to her, that was her legacy. We all knew of the list, we all knew where she kept the list because it was important to her that we were all aware of it. Well the day my grandmother died we all went to the house as people do to prepare for the coming events. My father being the oldest was put in charge of a lot. He went to get grandmas clothes and things for the funeral home and discovered that her favorite rings were missing. He asked my aunt and she said that grandma must have sold them because she hadn't seen them. Really? she wore each of them at least once a week. Dad was getting suspicious already.

The funeral came and went and it came time to talk about the estate. We all gathered at grandmas and the lawyer asked for the list, my father went to get the list and discovered it was no longer in its place. His sister then says suddenly that grandma hadn't kept the list there in quite some time and that she had the list that grandma had revised over the last year. She presented this list that had grandmas signature on it, but everything else was scratched out erased and had my aunt's handwriting all over it. She said grandma had been changing it. When the lawyer read off the list we discovered the table was suddenly going to my aunt, my sister no longer got the wedding band, she instead was to receive one of the end tables from the attic, my brother was no longer to receive my grandfathers army stuff, but instead the aluminum boat which he had purchased from my grandmother two years before and had at his house, I was no longer to receive the quilt from their wedding, instead I was to receive a writing desk my uncle designed that she had already given me well over a year before.

Somehow my father was to receive grandpas old tools (which were pretty much all gone by this point because grandpa had been gone for nearly 6 years), and my mother was to get the rocking chair in the attic. My aunt to was the get the table, the china and all jewelry, her son was to the get the antique china hutch (which never made it to his house, it too is in her dining room) and his army uniform, her middle daughter was to receive the silver candlesticks and the antique spinning wheel (which is in Lindas living room), her youngest daughter was to have the good silver and the antique dolls from the bedroom upstairs.

Now don't get me wrong, it's just stuff, it's just materialistic stuff, but it hurt, and hurt bad. From that point forward my dad's family changed, the family he thought he knew, just all changed. It has never been the same since. Like my mother says, it's not so much the table, my mother didn't like the table all that much anyway, it's what it meant, it was what happened in that very moment that destroyed my father. The table is just a table, but it's what it represented that created a chasm in the family that can never be crossed again.

That was the last Easter I ever spent with dad's family. My aunt Betty knew why we were quiet the rest of the day, she heard me tell my mother I would never set foot in that house again, and she heard the things my father said under his breath as we made our exit. Nearly ten years later and my father has only been back to her house once. It was my aunt Betty that called my parents and invited them and our family to Thanksgiving at her and Denny's house and it was because of that, that my parents accepted and I accepted as well. My siblings have not seen that side of the family since the auction at grandmas house just shy of nine years ago. I have been to thanksgiving a few times, Betty makes it tolerable. I have not been there in the past three or four years and I feel bad, only for Betty, because I know it hurts her like I'm sure it hurts grandma, but somethings can't be repaired.

I'm not sure when I'll see them again, my sister is still hurt and does not talk about it and will change the subject over and over again if someone brings it up. She has not been to grandmas grave since the burial, she drives out of her way to avoid driving anywhere near their homes. My brother is aloof to the whole situation, he acts as if he never even knew that dad had family. I, well I struggle with it often, but then again my grandma runs deep in my veins. My dad still tries to talk to his brother as often as he can and vise versa, he has even reached out to his sister and all the kids go out about three or four times a year to neutral ground for dinner, and my parents still manage to make it to thanksgiving at least every other year.

Wow, all that from a picture from my baptism. I'm not sure it's so good that those memories are all tied together, but I guess it's all a part of it. Things I treasure most from my grandparents are the pictures I have, the writing desk that my grandma went out of her way to get for me from Texas, that's another story, I treasure the memories I have of them because that's all that really matters. I miss my grandparents so much.

On the lighter side did you see the killer Hi-Fi system my dad had in our rec room? Check out that Pioneer reciever (that can still be found in the garage at my parents still playing polkas every Sunday). I'm not sure what ever happened to that pinball machine, I don't remember it growing up, which can only mean one brother broke it before I was old enough to play with it. lol.

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