Love Despite Failure

Colleen - Lakeside Park, Kentucky
Entered on April 21, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe that love cannot be separated from acceptance and forgiveness. My grandfather was an alcoholic, and he did a lot of things that hurt the family.


For a long time, I had no idea what this word meant. When I was a child, my mother, sister, and I lived with my grandparents. I would drink milk next to my Grandpa while he drank whiskey. When he slammed down his glass, I’d slam down mine.

“Grandpa, you’re an alcoholic, and I’m a milkaholic,” I’d say. He would laugh.


The meaning of the word became more clear one day when I overheard my Grandma tell my Mom that he had tried to flush their wedding rings the night before.


The word meant you hurt someone’s feelings, I decided. At the time, it was pretty accurate. One night in a drunken fit, he kicked us out of the house. I don’t remember that night, but I do remember not seeing Grandpa for three years. I remember Grandma moving into an apartment on her own.

When I finally saw my Grandpa again, I was in third grade. We went to see him at a rehabilitation clinic. I had thought I was supposed to be angry with him, to dislike him, but when I saw Grandpa, I just remembered how much I loved him as he gave me a big hug and told me how pretty I was. Mom said we could see him because he was trying.


Sometimes when you try, you fail. This is what happened to Grandpa. Even though he struggled through rehab, he could never fully break his drinking. He was able to control the anger, though, and Grandma moved back in. We were allowed to visit him more. My Grandma and Mom had forgiven him. We accepted Grandpa despite his flaws. Grandpa was forgiven and accepted because his family loved him.

In the end, Grandpa died as a wet alcoholic. There was a mug of iced whiskey on the table in the kitchen where he passed away. Even though Grandpa could not overcome this obstacle, he was still a hero to me. He was someone who cared very deeply about me and had great faith in my abilities. If I had not been able to have him back in my life, I would probably lack the confidence he reinforced as I grew into a young lady. I’m lucky enough to be able to say that the last thing I told Grandpa was “I love you,” as I was leaving my grandparents’ house on the afternoon before he passed away.

Sometimes, people cannot be fixed; they can only be accepted for who they are, forgiven for their mistakes, and loved completely. This I believe.