Family History


Joey, age one and a half…maybe.

I sometimes sit and wonder about my grandparents, even the grandfather I never met. It’s said that I was my paternal grandfather’s favorite, but I wasn’t the one who said it. But he let me hang around him and do silly little jobs for him. My brothers and cousins didn’t get that treatment. Or those nickels.

I knew my grandmothers, who I can’t recall smiling too much. But that’s how my memory works. Mom’s mom died of cancer in the nursing home, where the only time she cried was that one time I visited. Or so Mom said. Dad’s mom died a few years before she actually went to Jesus. A stroke took that stern old lady and turned her into a limping, one-armed child whose little vocabulary mainly consisted of, and was punctuated by, “Oh-gosh-sakes” and “Oh-dammit.”

Mom’s dad died very young, barely 40, I think. I’ve seen photos of him, though. A dapper guy with round tortoise-shell framed glasses and white snap-brim hat right off a 1930s movie screen. But I know more about his dad and mom than I do him. Memory and history are strange that way.

And that’s about all I can remember about them without straining something. I’ve a deep well of a memory, but when I dip my bucket in its darkness to pull up something of them, the rope’s usually too short. I’m sure they’d have lots they could tell me now, especially since I’ve become a sweet someone’s grandfather.

Sometimes I think it’d be better that we don’t know the whole tales—beginning to end—of those old folks. Just let them remain the semi-smiling, squinting, faded faces in the family albums, the aromas that will surprise me and shake a memory that has no story, no context, the stories a cousin will tell me that I can only nod to and say, “Uh, yeah, sure do!”.

There are parts of my life I wouldn’t want my granddaughter to know. You know, about all my failures. About the mountains of mistakes I’ve built, climbed, fallen from and built some more. About all the disappointments in my own mind. About the guy who spent so much of his life in lonely battle inside his own head or dueling with himself over a keyboard and lost almost every time. I want her to remember the warm and happy grandpa and all his funny stories. Even if so many aren’t “true.” But she won’t care anyway.  That’s what even I could call a victory.

I mean history is written by us winners, right?

One thought on “Family History

  1. This is really nice, Joseph. It is my story with different characters in a little different order but same plot with the same ending. Thanks for giving me a smile.

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