Sunday, August 19, 2012

Shocked: Airing some dirty laundry

I saw a picture of someone today that once a large part of my life.  They no longer are and we have not been in contact for years (not that I haven't tried).  I wasn't even sure if this person was even still alive.  I was shocked when I saw the photo.  I'm not sure if I was shocked to see them still alive, with what was their new family, or shocked at the hurt and pain seeing this person caused all over again.  This person just up and abandoned our family never to be heard from again, leaving tons of answered questions in their wake (as well as pain).  This person, was my Grandpa.

This man was my late father's dad.  However, he was not his father.  My dad's biological father abandoned his family when my dad and his siblings were still very young.  At one point, my Grandma could not care for them and put my dad and uncle in an orphanage for a bit.  Eventually, my dad and uncle found their way home again.  I do not know the story of how.  My dad died when I was 11.  His brother wasn't too many years behind him, and neither was my Grandma.  It's a story I don't guess I'll ever fully know.

I do know that my Grandma met the man I always knew as Grandpa while he was stationed in Germany (where they lived).  Not sure of this story either.  Just know that they married and eventually moved here when my father was in high school (where he met my mom and later married her.  High School Sweethearts).

We lived right down the road from my grandparents and uncle for most of my childhood before my father died (we moved to another state after his death).  I can remember many summer walks to their house with my dad.  I can remember spending the night with them many times.  We loved visiting them.  We saw them a lot, a WHOLE lot.  After my dad's death, and our move, we made still made time to visit my grandparents and they made time to visit us.   

My Grandma's health declined after several strokes and being diagnosed with diabetes.  They never made it my wedding.  But I understood.  Shortly after my first daughter was born, my Grandma passed away. 

My Grandpa would still come visit us and we always looked forward to his visits.   Eventually my Grandpa met a lovely woman and remarried.  We all liked her very much.  She was quiet but very sweet.  She was family now.  And we loved her as such.

He eventually moved out west.  We could never afford to go out and visit him.  My husband and I were struggling financially with our growing family.  But it was always nice to talk to him.  And we still loved his visits (although they were few and far between at this point.  Maybe that should have been our first clue....).

About a year after our 2nd child was born, we got a surprise call around 8/8:30 one summer's night.  My kids were in the bath and about to head to bed.  It was him.  It was Grandpa!!  He was in town!  I couldn't believe it!  I don't remember how long it had been since we had seen him, but it had been a long while.  It was so good to hear his voice.

So what did we do?  My husband and I pulled our 4 and 1 yr old out of the bath, put them in their jammies, and took off to see them instead of putting my kids down to sleep.  We dropped everything and went to them.  My kids can still remember the dog and the RV they were driving.  They apparently had been driving around the country in that RV and stopped in town to see us.  We were very excited.  Tired, but excited.

We called my sister and her family and told them he was in town.  He got on the phone with them and we all made plans for dinner the next night.  My Grandpa offered to cook his stir fry for us.  It was always a treat.  And since they had an RV, my sister would come pick them up, take them shopping, and back to her house.  We had just found out my sister was expecting again, and her eldest was super excited to tell Grandpa.  We left that night with hugs and the expectation of seeing them the next day.

Around 2 or 3 the next day, while our youngest napped, I got a call.  It was my mom and sister wondering if I had talked to my grandpa at all since the night before.  My answer was no.  I was expecting to see them after our youngest's nap, at their house.   Something was wrong. 

They had gone out to pick up my Grandpa and his wife, but they were no longer there.  And the RV was missing.  They had tried to call his cell phone, but to no avail.  My husband and I woke up the youngest, put our kids in the car and headed out to where we had seen them the night before.  After all, maybe my family was just looking in the wrong spot.  Right? 

We arrived to see them gone.  No RV.  No call.  No note.  We drove through every parking lot of every business in the area looking for them.  We thought maybe they had gone off shopping to kill some time.  We did not find them.  Neither did my mom and sister.  We all tried calling and got his voice mail every time.  

I then remember my husband's area code to his phone was different from the local one that most of us had, and my Grandpa knew.  So he called.  Guess what?  He got through!  My husband told him we worried and asked where they were.  He got hung up on.  My Grandpa never again answered his phone.  Not for any of us.

This happened 6 years ago.  We tried calling, writing, emailing.  Nothing.  We never got an answer as to why they just up and left.  We never got a goodbye.  We never got a reason as to why he offered to cook us dinner and then took off with out letting anyone know.  We still don't know why he up and abandoned us.  None of us have heard from him since the night my husband and I dropped everything to go see them at their RV. 

We were all so excited he was in town.  My niece most of all since she couldn't wait to tell him she was going to be a big sister.  In less than 24 hours we all went from excitement, to worry, to confused, to hurt.  The pain grew more over the years of failed attempts to contact him.  Eventually, I think I finally went numb.  That is, until today. 

I saw a picture of him and his wife surrounded by her family, holding a child around year old, if I had to guess.  I was surprised by the tears that filled my eyes.  He was alive!  But that meant he really had abandoned us.  There was no medical emergency.  He just up and left us, with no explanation.  It meant he intentionally ignored our every attempt to contact him through the years.  The pain came rushing back.

How could he just abandon us?  My father died, my grandma died, and then he did this?  What did we do to deserve this?  I guess we'll never know.  (perhaps you that have followed this for a whiile can understand why my mom's dad who recently passed came to mean so very much to me.  He became the ONLY father figure in my life after my father's death.  His passing still hurts like hell.)  You don't know how much I have re-lived that night over the years, wondering what we had done wrong or said wrong, or didn't do.  When someone you have loved and trusted treats you like this, it damages you on some level. 

A part of me feels bad for him.  He is missing out on some amazing great grandkids.  My three girls and my sister's two.  He has some pretty great grandson-inlaws too.  We never asked him for a thing.  Ever.  We just loved him.  I guess that wasn't enough for him. 

Seeing his picture today brought all the past hurt and pain flooding back.  I guess I wasn't as numb as I thought I was.  As I hoped I was.