**I wrote this on June 13, 2013. I had published on a previous blog…but have decided it’s appropriate here.**IMG_0002_NEW99

Sitting on my desk is a gold plaque. It’s the same generic metal name plaque you would see on any desk in any corner of the world. The name on it is my grandfather’s. Seven months ago he passed away and this plaque was the one thing I saw at his home that I felt a connection with—that I felt I needed to have.

I find myself staring at this plaque and realizing how little I knew the man. How few memories past a certain age I have of him. From pictures I have and stories I have been told I know that as a baby, toddler and young child he was a constant presence in my life.  I remember weeks in the summer as a child spent at his home. The most vivid memory I have of the man is teaching me how to shuffle a deck of cards. And smiling patiently at the frustrated (and crying) me as I continuously played 52 card pick up because my hands were too small. I remember always going into his home and the first thing I did was envelope my skinny clumsy self into his warm arms. I remember him clicking his false teeth as he played solitaire in his usual spot at the kitchen table.

My next batch of memories I can see how my own life got in the way of getting to know my grandfather. I remember that my mother and he did not get along, that he did not particularly care for my father. I remember as I got older we went over less and less and when we did it was for the holidays. There were presents each year but as I got older the presents became less and less something I would want. And on one memorable occasion I received the same pair of gold earrings as the year before—and I didn’t even have pierced ears. I remember becoming frustrated that my grandfather didn’t know me—that he didn’t pick out presents for me himself, having his wife (not my biological grandmother) do it. I was so confused because when we talked it was always about what I was reading, what Grandpa was reading, so in my mind I thought that made it easy for him to choose a gift. But as I grew into a teenage and pulled away from my grandfather I felt he did the same with me.

I grew up, I moved away, I got married. Now the visits with my grandfather were even rarer and more filled with “why don’t you come visit me”? I no longer received phone calls or even cards for my birthday. My grandfather lived just minutes away from my parents and yet I never went out of my way to visit him—the few times I did it was an hour of “you never visit me” and never once asking about what I was doing with my life. I felt this was all my grandfather’s  fault, his fault for not taking the time to get to know me as I grew up. He understood me as a child but as a teenager and adult he could no longer figure me out.

But truly…did I ever take the time to get to know him? When he died we went through his pictures, old videos and the boxes of memorabilia one collects throughout their life. Especially in these pictures I saw a man I never knew. This business man who traveled the country and the world. I knew of the bad relationship he had with my mother and my grandmother but I saw pictures of my mother as a child, playing with him as I once had. I saw him young and handsome, married to my grandmother.  I saw him with a beard, as a teenager, as a baby. I could see in him traces of myself and I began to wonder. Did all the fault lie with him for us not getting to know each other?

I allowed my mother’s relationship with him to taint and ultimately control what relationship I had with him.  What stories could he have told me that I would have related to? What thoughts and ideas did he have when he was younger that had changed as he got older? His first wife, my grandmother, talks to me about what happened when her parents passed away, what it was like growing up in the South, what it was like to have siblings, children and what it was like being married to my grandfather. Some of her stories were skewed by her pain but she did still paint a picture of a man I know I never took to the time to know.

So I look at the plaque and use it as a reminder. It doesn’t matter how one person gets along with another that you know, what matters is what time you take to build a relationship with that person. I’m not saying that my grandfather and I would have been fast friends had I taken the time to get to know him. But things would have been different. He was family, he was blood and it wasn’t just him that failed in building the relationship. I miss my grandfather, how could I not? But I miss more the memory of him when I was a child—that smiling man with the slow southern speech who would always great me with a hug and kiss.