Whatever Is Easier
My grandfather died right before Christmas. He wasnt my real grandfather--he was my step grandfather--my sister's grandfather. I wasnt related by blood or adoption, he came into my life when I was just about a teenager, but when it comes to that figure in my life--he was the closest one I had. Mr B.--Bobby--wasnt the easiest man to get along with; he was simple and obsessive about the things he loved. Photography, van tours of Nantucket, his million of machines in his basement, his ham radio. He often tried to me and my brother into these things but he was also much older than even my real grandparents and it was often hard to connect to him.
He never understood my passion for teen books, or what it meant when I was wearing my walkman--I couldnt hear him--he didnt care for clothes or games of scrabble. We didnt meet on much common ground and I still to this day wince when I think of the number of times I rolled my eyes at his routine, his insistance that would I would want to know how to use a jigsaw or talk to trucker on CB radio. I wasnt always the nicest kid but he always reached out in his way.
I was--and wasnt--surprised when he passed. But what surprised me was how shook up I was--how I was going to miss his flashlights in restaraunts when he could read the menu, his stories about the great Noreasters on the island or the simple pleasure he took from his growing flowers or his solar pannels he installed by hand himself--well before most people did. He loved science and working with his hands, he tried to capture everything on film and loved to hear stories from people. He was honest and worked hard, proud of what he built and always the first to reach out hand in his own way.
And when he passed I tried to figure out how to get home for the funeral. There were things that they had to do due to the way he passed--he had been in the hospital and treated for a mild issue, released and passed away days later. No one--not even he--knew how sick he was and on his first day out of the hospital he went to the store, did his exercises, ate his daily oatmeal. Routine to then the end. And they werent sure what had happened and they had to do an autopsy to make sure--which made picking a date for the funeral hard to guess.
So my mother said what she always says--you dont have to come home, whatever is easier.
She has said this to me many times; when she had surgey on her knee, for the first Christmas that my sister would remember, when she was dealing with my brother and rehab, when it came to other deaths in the family. And the conversation would always turn to the longistics of me coming home--the cost of a flight, how they would have to come out to the city to get me, what they would do with the dog, the house, the baby if they had to get me. It was always made to feel so complicated for them.
So I never went home.
But this latest time, this passing of Mr B, the mess of feelings and desire to support at least my sister, ran over me like a mack truck. I knew the only cheap flights were Christmas Day, that the weather out there was to be dreadful the whole trip back, I could get stuck somewhere, I would be leaving Johnno alone on the holiday. I called my mother and once again she explains how hard the trip would be, how they didnt know how long I would stay, to do whatever was easier.
So I stopped looking into going home.
I felt awful about the decision but also felt from all my conversations with my mother that this would be inconvient for them, another person in the way around the house, another risky car ride... I was eating myself up--it didnt help that Johnno was talking with his family, having the type of relationship that I was in awe of, and I was becoming more snappish and edgy. And Johnno finally forced me to do the one thing I have never done.
I called my mother out on "whatever is easier"
He made me realize that the phrase obviously had an effect on me, obviously was doing something to me--if not in so many words. It forced me to call my mother and explain to her how much she hurt me when she used that phrase, that it made me feel like a bother, an inconvience when those issues came up and like I wasnt wanted there. That I felt I was being judge at the same time for not being there, that people out there thought I didnt care or couldnt be bothered. I explained that my decisions on these things were dictated by her imply how much of a burden it would be.
She was taken aback.
She finally explained that she had spent so much time saying those things because it would make things easier for me not to come. That I had spent so many years out here missing things--a process that had began simply because I couldnt afford the money or time off--which is not the case anymore. She finally heard me when I said that her dismissiveness, her instant excuses just made me feel like a burdern instead of a blessing and that i was tired of feeling that way.
It was a good talk.
By the end I think we came to a new understanding--that we saw where the other was coming from, that we would be less about protecting the other person and more about saying what we need. That maybe it was possible for both of us to drop the martyr act and say what we wanted from each other. It was a huge step forward for both of us.
And I think Mr B would have loved that--for all the quirkness and miscommunication he was all about family, spending time together, making memories and taking pictures. He would like the honesty in the communication, the directness, the focus on the words and not innuendo. Maybe that is the most fitting tribute of all?