Well, technically, the main piece of this lesson was acquired during the two days I was at home, and to be honest, over my entire lifetime. However, my summertime travels have resumed and I am writing this from my “little” brother’s beautifully peaceful, scenic, organic Vermont farm, where he lives with his dog “Chester” and twenty-one very reclusive chickens. After years of growing salad greens on a large scale, he is now growing hemp.
Family – we all have them. Consequently, we all know the extreme joy, and, let’s admit, soul-wrenching pain that comes with the unconditional love, tangled relationships, unrealistic expectations, contrasting personalities, infuriating miscommunication, and to top it all off, the complications created by people who become part of that family as a result of partnerships and marriages.
My biological family has been extremely fortunate; my three siblings and I, for the most part, get along. We, obviously, have had our moments, but we are all dedicated to being a cohesive group, behaving with dignity and respect, and taking care of each other, and our Mom, despite the many, physical, miles that separate us. We realized at a very early age that jealousy, greed, and dysfunction if cultivated, can and will destroy familial relationships. Without going into detail, I will simply say, we had several examples of all of the above in both, our paternal and maternal lineage. I remember distinctly making a vow with my sister, at a very young age, that we would always take care of each other without bearing grudges.
This week, we had the opportunity to uphold that commitment. My grandfather, the man, who along with my grandmother, raised my mother, an only child, died on Tuesday, the day that just happened to be his 96th birthday. He passed peacefully with dignity, with my mom, his companion of 8 years, me, and the hospice nurse, gently and lovingly, assisting and releasing him into the next plane of being.
To say, my mother, my siblings, and I had a complicated relationship with him would be under-representing the deeply held emotional baggage we all carry. He was a complex man to understand, with multiple layers of divergent beliefs and logic. He was distant, strict, and often times disapproving with his wife, our beloved Gram, and us, his blood relatives; yet, over the years had many close and loving relationships with those who were unrelated. The dichotomy confounds us. If you entered a room filled with both kin and non-consanguineous folks, you would hear tales about two vastly different versions of this man, which in my mind, having known him for 54 years, is extremely hard to reconcile.
We all know that this man had deeply held regrets in the days leading up to his death. We also understand that he loved us all in his own profound way. He taught us to be resilient, determined, downright stubborn, and just a bit cheeky. We are resigned that we will never fully comprehend his motivations or reasons for why he behaved as he did. However, we will extract the lessons he learned, a bit too late, into our own lives and bravely move forward with a greater commitment to, simply and wholeheartedly, love those around us. Above all, our relationships with each other will flourish, not out of resentment, but as a result of our desire to live our lives with compassion, kindness, and respect, with a ton of humor tossed in to keep us all laughing at the endless twists and turns life tends to throw at us.