Every family makes excuses for bad behavior and mine is no exception. My paternal grandfather, whom I’ve met twice in my life, was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and my initial reaction was one of indifference. As I wrote in the post Demanding Reparations From Our Deadbeat Fathers, I have struggled with how I feel about this man whose last name I carry but have never had a relationship with and once I became a wife, parent and then divorcee, I had even more contempt for this man who willingly ended his relationship with his eight year old son, my father, because he was starting fresh with his new wife.
This is where the family excuses began. I was always told that after my grandfather got married, he visited my father for a while and then his wife started to have issues and in order to keep his home life calm, he wrote off my father. Now…let me breath before I continue…as a kid, I fell for this story and I blamed his wife for his actions but as I said, once I became an adult who had to make adult decisions, I began to realize how stupid this sounded and what really amazed me was how willing EVERYONE was to accept his actions. To me, this man was a sorry excuse for a human being!
When my divorce was finalized, my priorities were that my child was o.k. and that she continued to have a relationship with her father. When he started dating, he made sure that his serious girlfriends had a relationship with his child and that they understood they were a package deal. When he remarried, his new wife treated her like her own and for that, I was grateful, so when I heard family members try to invoke the “Excuse clause” for my grandfather, I reminded them that my child’s father managed to remarry and still remain in her life so why are we acting like it wasn’t possible for my father to have had a relationship with his father?
When my grandfather made the decision to discontinue his relationship with his son, it was made by him. No one else had any power. My grandfather had an opportunity to man up and take care of his responsibilities and he didn’t. What he did was go on and create a faux family that didn’t include my father, his child that everyone knew existed and chose to ignore. As I sit here, I wonder how his two sons by his wife view him? Do they think he was a real man or deep down do they think, like I do, that he fell short?
The sins of my grandfather didn’t just effect my father. His sin, I’m sure, has gone on to effect all of his children and I’m inclined to believe the person most greatly affected was him. For 58 years, he has had to live the fact that he was a failure as a parent and there is nothing that can be done to change that. So while I grapple with how I feel about the revelation that he isn’t doing well, I have decided to release some of my anger (Notice I said some…I am a work in progress!) so that I can move on and support whatever decision my father makes with regards to contacting him.
For 58 years, my family has excused and accepted his neglect and it is time to stop. My grandfather has cemented his legacy and he has had to live with the fact that he failed at the most important job in the world. So when his story is told, he will forever have an asterisk next to his name and “Deadbeat” will most surely precede the title “Father“.