Monday, October 04, 2010

What Does One Deserve?

I'd like to believe that everyone gets what they deserve, good or bad. That those who work hard are rewarded, that those who are lazy only miss out. That opportunity and fortune is only bestowed on those who plan, prepare, and put out enormous effort. That those who are respected have earned it, that those who have authority have shown the capacity to handle it.

I'd like to believe in karma. I'd like to think that a man who tried to always do the right thing, who worked hard to provide for his wife and children, who made every effort to be a good and loving husband and father, would find that his effort was returned to him. I would like to believe that loving your children, encouraging and supporting them, would lead to those children becoming adults who would honor you and your memory with the lives they've built and the people they endeavored to become. But, I know that not to be true. Shame of it is, kids likely do whatever they want and you have to just hope for the best.

My grandfather passed away a few weeks ago. It was not much of a surprise, frankly. He had heart issues for a number of years, his kidneys had failed, and it just seemed like borrowed time. But, you are never prepared for the moment when someone you've known for your entire life is gone. I am fortunate in that I had 35 years with my grandfather, which is a lot more than my wife or many of my friends can say. I am particularly fortunate that I had this time because it gave me the chance to understand who he was and to learn a great deal about being a man, a father, and a husband from him. He gave me a great deal of his time and his love and I've worked hard to pass on those gifts to my own children. My grandfather taught me how to ride my bike - I've done the same for my son. My grandfather ignited my love for the Steelers and I've passed it on to both my children (you know it is working when both kids look for their Terrible Towels during a game). There is an endless list of things he gave me, some material and many not. But, he never asked for much from me. He just wanted love and I did my best to call him regularly and express it. And, he wanted me to be the best person I could be, a challenge that I struggle with every day. I continue to work at it, to try to bear witness to his memory, because I love him.

At his memorial service, instead of thinking about how much I miss him, I realized how ungrateful his own children are for what he represented and tried to do for them. It became painfully obvious, particularly in their words about their own father, that they never understood who he was. Their speeches, or whatever they were, did little to honor him. Instead, all three children spoke of themselves, of how he made them feel, of some recent encounter with him that gave them the opportunity to describe themselves in the terms that they prefer at this moment. My own mother talked about how my grandfather pushed her to start her PhD, which allowed her to talk as if she is currently a doctor of some sort. What she failed to mention was that despite my grandfather's support and encouragement, she has been working on her PhD for a decade and is not all that motivated or committed to ever finishing. My aunt used a similar story, a recent one that allowed her to show how supportive my grandfather was of her, but also allowed her to talk of herself as a published children's author. She provided a great amount of detail about the difficulties of illustrating her own book and how hard it was for her to accomplish, but she did not bother to mention that she is basically using a self-publishing company to push her material and that her real income is generated through part-time teaching at various schools near where she lives. And, to cap it all off, my uncle...the actor...

I don't want to be petty or childish here. That would not be doing my grandfather any favors and I don't think he'd really want to discuss it. It hurts me to think of his disappointment in his children. And, it would have been far more fitting for them to have told us all how much they loved him and how they felt about him instead of telling half-truths and building themselves up as they stood a few feet from his casket. I was insulted and since I could not do anything about it then, I am writing about it now. Shameful.

Just goes to show that it does not often matter what you do or how much you give, sometimes the people who are closest to you will still disappoint.


m said...

Shaking my head with you, Dave. My new mantra - low expectations. Particularly for family members.

I'm sorry for the loss of your grandpa. just because something's expected doesn't mean it doesn't suck.

Dave said...

Funny, I always marvel at the fact that I keep hoping for more despite what so many of my relatives have shown me over the years. In some sense, I think that love is about accepting your family members who undoubtedly suck.