Friday, June 6, 2008


A week ago today, my mom's dad died. Yes, technically that would be my grandfather, but he does not deserve that name. He was not a grandfather, especially not mine. I don't say that in a spirit of malice, but rather truth.

I have held this in for a week, trying to find some understanding of this situation, but I can not make sense of it, so I blog. This post may not make sense, but I feel like I have to get it out of me.

This man lived within a 1/2 mile of me my entire childhood, and I have only 2 memories of him during my 30 years of life on this planet. He only spoke to 3 of his 6 children, and inflicted more pain on all of them than anyone person should be allowed to do. Both physically, through ridiculously hard labor, and mentally or emotionally.

He told my mom that when he divorced her mother, that he divorced her as well and didn't care if he ever saw her again. How can you say that to your child? But even more, how can you hold onto that hate for the next 30+years? He did.

My mom called me when she found out and was hysterical, not because she was upset, but rather because she wasn't upset. She didn't feel the loss of her father, because she lost him so many years ago. The guilt of not feeling bad sent her to a place she wasn't prepared for. But, she will finally have the closure that she has needed for a long time. It was a total shock, but there were no tears to shed for this man.

I went into his house with my aunt the night he died for the first time in my life to be with her while she got clothes for his funeral. I had the chills the minute I stepped on the property, and I have rarely felt so uncomfortable anywhere. I looked around his home, trying to figure out what his life had been, and I saw nothing that could help me understand how he had spent the years. No pictures of vacations, special occasions, family pictures, or something to mark the important events in his life. There were very few pictures of the children (and grandchildren) that he did speak to, but they were old.

The funeral was earlier this week, and was the first time I had seen him since I was about 10-12. The last time I had seen him he had shot at my dad and I with a shotgun. It was a warning shot, thank god.

A day before the funeral all of my aunts and my uncle and a few of my cousins met at the farm he had lived on, that they had grown up on, to walk around. For some of them it had been 15-20 years, if not longer, since they had been there. To see them walk around, freely with no worry about the consequenses, was something I will never forget. They found evidence of their childhood scatter around the farm, and the memories came pouring out-good and bad.

Both my brother and I showed up with our cameras, unplanned. When I saw that he had his, I asked why he had brought it, and to my amazement his reason was exactly the same as mine. This place had caused so much pain for our mom, and so many bad memories were housed there, that we just wanted to find some beautiful shots that would give her new memories. Reminders of things that were special to her when she was young, reminders of how much her children love her, even if her father didn't. So, we each went our own ways and wandered around the farm, photographing what we were struck by. After it was all done, we compared pictures and had taken at least 10-15 of the exact same photographs, each done with just a slight adjusments from our perspectives. Weird, but cathartic for both of us. There is also an old house, where my mom's grandparents lived on the property, that we walked through. I will share some of my favorite shots at the end of the post(edit--I uploaded a few, but the storm keeps knocking my internet out, so I will get more up later).

I am struggling to reconsile the events of the past week. I am angry at this person for all the pain he has caused within my family over the past 30+ years, yet I am relieved that his presence will no longer be felt in our lives. I feel sorry for him, because he was a sick man. But, at the same time I detest the purposeful hatred that filled his life. But, mostly I am sad. He was never my grandfather, but I miss the one that I did have more than I can express. The pain of missing him has not diminished over the 4 years that he has been gone. I miss him more than I can speak to. He was MY grandfather, not just biologically, but on every level. He loved my mom(who was his daughter in law), he loved me and I know he would have loved my girls. Who could ask for more?

And, this also reinforced for me that biology means nothing. This man was biologically related to me obviously, but that meant nothing. He didn't know who I was, my name, or anything else about me. Yet, I am priviledged enough to get to parent two children who are in no way biologically related to me, and I would die for them. Blood may be thicker than water, but it is not thicker than love.

So, any ideas? Where do I go from here? How do you make sense of something that doesn't? Or, do you just let it go, knowing it's not worth the energy I've already put into it?


Nancy said...

If only we could have access to the hearts of people who inflict their pain on others in such a profound way. Perhaps then we could see what was done to them that hurt them so badly.

How lucky your mother is to have children who love her so deeply that they would reach inside to feel her pain; and that they were willing to go into her past to frame out a new perspective!

Kari you are such a special lady. I am most amazed at the people who endure suffering and choose an alternate path to live out their lives.

May you and your mom find healing and forgiveness (not that you will ever agree with what he did) to set yourselves free.

JYS said...

You said it so brilliantly, blood is not thicker than love!

We may wish we could change things in our pasts, but those are the difining parts of who we are, and why we are.

You are a wonderful MOM! and the love you have for your own Mom is beautiful!

Take the time to be sad, for you, for your mom, for the relationship you lost, even if it's something you never really had. It is something you desereved to have, so mourn the loss of it...

I hope you and your family find peace!


Heather said...

Peace be with you and your wonderful, mom my friend!


Shonna said...

I am so sorry for your family which is so amazing! I have nt learned the secret to letting go of a hurtful past. Just have faith that there will be a day that the bad things in this world will be healed and that you are part of a family that is bigger than blood!

Mama Papaya said...

May you and your mom find peace Kari.

rebekah said...


I am just now reading this and I'm so sorry I missed it at the time of your post. Your strength and frankness about your mom's father are amazing - I think you are doing what you need to do. I hope both you and your mom feel enough at peace about it all to live without him continuing to be an emotional burden on your heart.