My grandfather died this week. Alone.
In a nursing home bed. Surrounded by caretakers whose name he probably didn’t know.
He is the perfect example of what was a very good life gone wrong.
First off, I should say this. He and I were never that close. In fact, he was always very, very tough on me.
I never understood why. But even when I was seven years old, he’d chastise me for a weak handshake. He’d try to make me more than a man.
I was, and am, the only grandson on that side of the family. He wanted to…well, make sure I grew up a man.
Except I wasn’t a man. I was a sissy. But you guys already know that and there’s no need to rehash those stories.
He made me cry on numerous occasions. Again, I never understood why he was so tough on me. It’s not fair, I’d whine to my mom.
It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I began to realize it was for my own good. And while I never became close to him (he was too old, drank too much, and lived too far away for that to ever happen), I can say with certainty that he leaves his life with my respect for what he tried to do.
The execution was poor at times, but the intent was there. He wanted me to be a real man. I can hardly fault him for that.
But, this post is about something else.
He did not die surrounded by his children or grandchildren. Or a wife.
Because he divorced my grandmother right around the time I was born. Ran off with the high school sweetheart.
It was pretty nasty, from what I’ve been told. He’d been cheating on her for a couple years, when he would go home to visit his own sick parents.
Eventually my grandmother found out.
He remarried the high school sweetheart.
And then said sweetheart had a heart attack around…2007. She never woke up from it.
From there, it was a lot of drinking (think a bottle of gin a night), and…well, a life that ended on a much lower note than it began.
For you see, he had always been successful. Owned a very successful business. Raised three good children. Owned a beautiful house in a prestigious neighborhood in Southern California.
It should’ve ended a lot better than it did.
And don’t get me wrong. My mom, aunt, and uncle were at his side most of his final days.
But he could have been in his own home, with his former wife at his bedside. He died without a house nor a penny to his name.
I’m writing this from Eastern Europe, not California. Because while I would like to pay my respects, it’s just not feasible at the moment from a visa and travel perspective.
My other grandparents–I’d just deal with it. But one way or another, I’d be going back to California. Likely writing this from the plane.
Instead, I’m still in my apartment.
My point is, sometimes it’s easy to just say that you only live once.
That my grandpa had a right to his happiness, and he took it. I can’t fault him for that.
But sometimes, when you hurt dozens of people with your actions, it will affect you down the road, too.
Sure, short term happiness is a given.
However, my grandpa drove a knife in the heart of the entire family. It was a wound that never fully healed.
I’d like to leave you guys with a lesson. And maybe it’s one my grandfather would have liked to pass on to me, given the benefit of hindsight.
As men, in today’s world–sometimes we have it really bad. Especially those of us who grow up nice guys. We’re kicked, fucked over, and then kicked again while we’re on the ground.
A lot of the times, we swing to the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
Rather than give a single damn about a girl and her feelings, we cheat, lie, and manipulate our way through a lot of things.
We leave a trail of destruction in our wake without a care in the world.
I’ve done it. Most of you probably have, too.
And while it’s easy to say that it’s just evening the score, sometimes it doesn’t work out all that well.
Grandpa is a good example of this.
Just keep it in mind.
Sometimes it’s not worth the miles on your soul.
Well, it’s Friday night. I think I’ll knock back a few beers for you tonight, Grandpa.