This I Believe

Amy - greenville, North Carolina
Entered on July 19, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe in forgiveness.

My grandfather was a quiet and complex man. These are the words that I have grown to describe him with. Others, including his own children, may use more colorful words. I remember growing up that there was never a family gathering where all nine children and my grandfather were together. While it is hard to get nine busy, grown children together, there seem to be more to it than “Aunt Tina had to work a double” or “Cousin Danny is sick.” I knew from a very young age that my grandfather was not the typical grandfather or father that most people had in their families.

As I grew older I stopped seeing my grandfather, not because he was sick or we moved away because as my father put it “he was a bastard”. After my father and grandfather stopped speaking for what turned into years I started to question why. The responses and stories I received from relatives and family friends proved to me that he was a bastard.

My grandfather turned out to not be a great role model. He had lied, stolen, cheated, abused wives, was an alcoholic, and walked away from his children. Because of all this he had very few if any friends and even family members that would claim him to be in their family. When I learned of the background of my grandfather and heard the comments from my own father and other family members I started to believe what they said about him and I started to resent him when had not even done anything to me personally.

Years went by and I never once saw or talked to my grandfather. Yes he did live five miles away and I would see him drive by my house, but he never called or stopped so I never called or went to see him. The one time I remember him stopping to see me was on my 12th birthday. And of course by that time the resentment and hatred that my father had for my grandfather had taken over me. I remember not caring that he came to see me and not even acknowledging he was there. He did not stay long and before he left he and my father talked I do not know what was said but another two years went by before I saw him again.

When I saw him at age 14, there was something different about him. He seemed softer and caring. I remember my parents communicating that my grandfather had been going to church and speaking with the pastor, but yet again I didn’t care. I still saw him in the same picture that my father and others had painted him, never once considering our own relationship.

About three months after seeing my grandfather, my parents got the call that he had died. Since I had not been close to him in years I brushed his death off. The weekend that followed I went to a haunted house instead of his viewing. But then what I never thought would happen did. I woke up the morning before his funeral and realized that my grandfather was gone, he no longer lived five miles away and I wouldn’t see him driving his van anymore. That was when I realize that I had become the person who I had hated. All those years of hating and resenting him made me just like him. I was no better than my grandfather had been at his worst.

The day of the funeral my father refused to go. At that moment I realize that my father was also just like my grandfather; but he had not yet realized that. That my father did not attend the funeral made me very upset but instead of being resentful of him I forgave him. Until the day of my grandfather’s death I realized I did not know how to do so.

To this day I do not know if my father still blames my grandfather or if maybe he now blames himself. I do not know if he has forgiven my grandfather or even forgiven himself. I do know that I am a better person since the death of my grandfather. My grandfather did give me one of the best qualities in life, something that I personally do not think he ever even had himself. He gave me the ability to forgive.