So I'm kind of bummed out by the fact that one of my uncles is not going to be going to my wedding cuz he had already planned a vacation w/his future wife.
Before you think that I am assuming my wedding is as important to everyone else as it is to me--let me explain that I realize people have lives outside of the wedding. ;-) That is understandable. But let me explain why I'm so down. (sorry, long post of memories to follow)
I am not close with my father's side of the family. This started a little bit before my father passed away. My grandmother (Dad's mom) died when I was thirteen and since then my father and his siblings (two sisters and two brothers) took care of my grandfather, Pop-Pop. My Pop-Pop had never really cooked for himself or wrote the checks out for bills or grocery shopped or any of that...my grandmother did it all. So to suddenly not have her in his life was extremely difficult...it was more than just the emotional blow of losing his wife (which was hard enough). So the kids had to take care of Pop-Pop. The oldest sibling of my Dad's, my Aunt Karen, and my father were both in charge of Pop-Pop's finances. But they didn't always see eye-to-eye. My father never liked to "rock the boat" though so he would often times not tell her what he felt about my grandfather's finances and care. So my mom became more involved in that aspect. My mother had always been closer to my Dad's parents than her own. They treated her like one of their own daughters and not a daughter-in-law. When we'd go over for a visit, without fail Pop-Pop would jump up and put the tea kettle on and make my mom a cup of tea. It was his ritual. And my mom would often call him at home to check up on him and chat, or she would go with my Dad to visit Pop-Pop. But then about a year before my father died, things started to go bad. Long story short, some of Pop-Pop's children (my Dad included) felt it was time to move my grandfather into an apartment closer to one of his children becuz the neighborhood he lived in (that his children grew up in) was no longer a nice place to live. And the families that were renting out the other half of the second family house were getting worse and worse. Pop-Pop agreed that it was for the best to move.
Then came the dream. He had a dream that my grandmother, my Nana, came to him and cried that he could not leave the house they'd lived their whole marriage in, the house they'd raised their children in. After that, he was adamant he did not want to move. Problem was, the process was already in motion. Stress built, words were exchanged and taken out of context, and next thing you know, my aunt Karen is putting all the blame on my mother--that they never would have tried to move him if she hadn't pushed it. This is NOT how it all went down but regardless, my grandfather started to resent his most favorite daughter-in-law.
Then my father died in 2001. I did not like the way the rest of his family was treating my mother, so I didn't go out of my way to see them...EXCEPT for my Pop-Pop. He was not a healthy man, I knew he didn't have long to live. And besides, he was my only link to my Dad. He looked like him, hugging him felt a lot like hugging my father, it just felt right. ANd being an adult, I had come to appreciate my grandparents more than I did as a child. I regretted not having more time to spend with my two deceased grandparents and I vowed to make the time I had left with Pop-Pop, memorable. I showed up evenings or Saturday mornings and brought him coffee and cookies. I listend to his tales (that I'd heard so many times before but never really listened)of his time spent in the army, his fishing trips, his poetry. I bonded in a way with Pop-Pop, in his last year of life, that I will always appreciated. As he progressively got worst health-wise, my aunts moved a hospital bed into the living room and propped up in that bed, he watched his favorite Jeapardy and Wheel of Fortune, listened to his classical music, all while hooked up to his oxygen tank. I came over one night to "babysit" so that my other aunt who lived there could get out for a bit. Pop-Pop was a smoker. And as his health worsened he would puff on his cigs and then quickly put them out and hide the half-smoked butts unders the living room couch. My aunt was always quick to yell at him. But she finally relented and said, "He's dying anyway. WHy should I take away one of his only pleasures?" So when the oxygen tanks came in, she would wheel him out to the back door where he would take a couple, wheezy puffs on his cig before being put back to bed. SO the night I took care of him, it came time for his cigarette. As I lifted Pop-Pop's frail, skin-and-bones body (much taller than my own but so much lighter) from the bed and into the wheelchair, he swore not in anger but sorrow.
"God damn it, I never thought my grandchild would have to take care of me this way. I feel like an invalid."
"Don't worry about it, Pop-Pop. I do it because I love you." I told him. And then the night before he died, I was there...at this point he was no longer able to speak, he was no longer able to sit up in bed, or pretty much do anything but fade in and out. Thankfully while I was there, he was awake at one point. I remember holding his hand, squeezing it to show that even though he couldn't squeeze back, I knew that he knew I was there. I gazed so deep into his brown eyes, and I told him, "I love you, Pop-Pop." Have you ever had anyone tell you, with their eyes alone, that they loved you back? He blinked and just stared back at me, in that moment I knew he was aware and I knew he heard me and that he loved me too. I cried for him, for his life ending, for the similairty of first watching my father die and then my grandfather wihtin a yera later. But on a deeper level, I cried becuase I knew that when my grandfather died, it was as if my father's whole family died along with him. I felt like that flame was forever extinguished.
Pop-Pop passed away the next day.
When a family member dies, often times the worst seems to come out of the remaining family members. Like a vulture, my Aunt Karen swooped in and immediately started to take, take, take. And when the house was sold and the money was being divided up, the portion that would have been my fathers's had he been alive---the portion that my grandfather had stated long ago that if something happened to his child, then his grandchildren would receive---well that portion of money never came to me or my brother. It's not about the money. It wasn't even a lot of money. IT was the fact that, to me, it felt like my father's family excluded us, as if my Dad had not existed, had not married the woman he so deeply loved, had not fathered two children he held dear--had not created an addition to their family! MY family was cut out and cast aside like yesterday's dirty laundry. I had nothing physcial (other than my own pictures) to remember my father's parents by. No mementos, no fishing trophies, no coffee mugs, no photos of his time spent in the army, NOTHING. I felt like it was all gone forever. The Smith family flame puffed out in one final breathe.
Years have passed. My anger and bitterness have definitely faded away a bit. I talk to my Aunt Kathy (not the vulture) about once every 3-4 months. I don't see her much becuz she is an alcoholic and when she is drunk and talking to me, she immediatley starts in on the past and mistakes she feels my mother (and father) have made. I love her, but I will not tolerate anyone speaking ill of my parents. I think unconciously she has become aware of that and her rants have died off. Now we're planning a wedding and she asked me about a year ago, "I hope you are going to invite us all."
I have to admit, at first, I was not going to. I still felt betrayed. But it dawned on me that this family, they were a link to a part of my father's life that I could learn from.
Cut to the present...teh day before yesterday, when I find out my Dad's youngest brother, my Uncle Kenny, will not be coming to the wedding cuz of his vacation. I acted like it was no big deal but yesterday it festered. I was hurt. Why? I haven't seen or spoken to this man in years? Why does it hurt so badly that he won't be there? I know one reason, one super silly reason...I had once before told Daryl that my Uncle Kenny's voice sounded a lot like my father's. I think I wanted Daryl to hear that voice, and kind of take away a little piece of my father. And my father's family. I would have loved for Daryl to meet my Dad. I would have loved for my Daddy to meet Daryl. I know they would have gotten along so perfectly; they are like two peas in a pod, in so many ways. I guess I need to not let this bother me so much. I can still let my father live on through me...I can still let Daryl learn about him, through me.