Everything Changes

Posted on October 13, 2011

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When I was growing up, my grandparents’ house was my second home.  Nearly every day, my mom was visiting her parents.  My uncles and aunts constantly dropped by with their kids and I had best friends in my cousins.  My grandparents’ house was central headquarters; where everything happened. And something different was always going on.  Board games.  Grandpa deciding we should all go to a restaurant; he’d telephone whoever wasn’t already at the house.  Blanket forts.  Spreading shaving cream or baby oil on the floor and spinning out RC cars on it.  Guitar playing.  Home movies.  Quarter pipe BMXing.  8-bit computer video games.  Welding.  Fireworks.

When grandma made dinner, she made generous amounts of everything because she knew, inevitably, family would show up.  The table was replete with serving dishes.  A phone call beforehand was neither required nor expected.  And when we would pop in, we helped ourselves to the spread.

The entire family took vacations together.  Every year we went camping.  We were tight.  I knew what a real family was.  But I didn’t think about it; it was just how things were.  You truly don’t know a good thing until you lose it… my family never gets together anymore.  Oh sure, there’s the one aunt that tries to rally everyone to the same place at the same time, every few months.  But usually, only the same select few show up.

I sometimes wonder what happened.  But ultimately, I know that it was no one specific thing.  Life came in and took over.  Divorces, marriages, relocations.  Everyone became occupied with their individual lives.  I’m as guilty as anyone.  Once I got married, I moved and my stops to my grandparents’ house became increasingly sporadic.  However, by that time, frequent visits from the rest of the family had already diminished.

Four years ago, I got a call from my mom.  Her voice was small, weak and a little raspy.  It cracked when the words escaped her: grandpa died.  My mouth dropped.  My heart stopped.  I had no words.  I didn’t even have feelings yet.  Our conversation is a blur, but I determined to travel with her into town.  We arrived at the old house and found the rest of the family preceded us.  This time, although it was the entire family reunited, it was nothing like old times.  There was sitting.  Staring.  Quiet.  Weeping.  Funeral arrangements.  We watched the news story about his death.  And still, I had not cried.  What was I?  An emotionless monster?  People stopped by.  Friends of the family.  They offered their condolences.  They brought us food.  I caught up with cousins and everyone shared fond memories of grandpa.  It was a healing few days.  And within the week, grandma decided she was going to start clearing out his room so she could use it as her bedroom.  The rest of the family followed her and proceeded to divvy up his belongings.  His room was like a going-out-of-business souvenir shop, people calling dibs on a coat rack or TV.  He didn’t have very rich things.  I sat in the room quietly, as I watched the flea market before me.  And I felt a sting in my eyes.  How could they just come in here, the man hasn’t even been dead a week, and they’re pilfering through his things?  Greed was starting to take over, with negotiations and compromises.  And I looked to my left; hanging from the blinds was a pair of glasses.  His trademark style.  With these, he saw life and the people he loved.  I carefully slipped them off of their hanging spot and piped up through the noise, asking if I could have them.  I got no objections.  I continued to sit there, glasses folded in my hand, and I watched.  Again, I felt the sting and just as soon as I noticed it, the tears followed.  I couldn’t bear to be in that room anymore, watching his life break apart and become things owned by people.  I stepped out and immediately lost all composure.  A flood of emotion and tears.  It hit me.  I finally realised he was gone.  And everyone’s fussing over his effects.  My heart was broken.

We got together once since then for a reunion.  Yes, it was pretty cool.  It’s good to joke and catch up.  But it’s not the same family, the same connection we once had.  And I have to accept that it never will be.  Things change.  People change.  Life will sweep you away.  You just have to roll with those changes and make the best of it.  Take what you can from each experience, learn and grow.

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Posted in: Life