Never go to bed angry or hurt. That’s one of my grandfather fondest sayings. He was a man who colored the world with an easy smile and quiet fortitude. But I never saw a point to giving up my anger – my parents divorced when I was young, and I grew up adrift in a deep flowing river of resentment shared by my parents for each other. I think my mom was angry at my father for the way he treated her, and my dad detested my mother for giving up on him. In the thirty years since their divorce, I can count the number of times they’ve spoken on two hands.
So a few years ago when my grandfather passed away, my dad called my mom with his condolences. He had been close to her father – during the first years of my parent’s marriage they owned an auto body shop together. My dad asked if he could come to the service. My mom said yes, and the next week, my family found themselves once again united around the kitchen table. We recalled favorite stories; like the pride Grandpa had for his strawberry patch and apple trees, his fondness for telling WWII stories over and over again. And my parents talked about the memories I hadn’t known; his business savvy and his treatment of them in their marriage. He was a gentle man, and our memories of him brought us together that day. Thirty years of negativity erased in casual reminiscing. And I finally realized how important my grandfather’s saying had been, because I was witnessing my family as a whole – not splintered and broken as it had been, but seeing the lives we had built together, the intertwined memories that formed the backbones of who we are. With anger I had been unable to see the good. And I believe we all deserve to enjoy the happiness we create in life, and not stifle it by hanging on to anger. So now, no matter what kind of person I interact with, I never go to bed angry or hurt. And as for my grandpa, a man who always let me eat as much bubblegum as I could fit in my mouth, he left me this priceless gift.