Thursday, January 20, 2011

Grandpa and Dad and I

Lately, my dad has been very much on my mind. He died over a year ago in a nursing home and, somehow, no matter how much I visited, I always felt like I failed him on some level.

I miss him now. He loved me and I loved him. I believe we had a mutual respect for each other but we always butted heads somehow. Of the four of us kids, I was the one who stood up to him when his words or actions defied my sense of fairness and logic. That frustrated a man who was accustomed to being unquestioningly obeyed.

I just heard a song on Pandora about a guy who sang that he'd be ridin' in car #9 and it reminded me of Dad.

Back in his day, he did a lot of traveling by train but not the kind of train that we'd travel on. He hopped rides on boxcars and traveled from Indiana to Washington state, through North Dakota and Minnesota and back again. Dad feared nothing and no one and he did what he had to do to get where he needed to be.

But I muse often about this sad story:

My grandpa and grandma were estranged when Dad was young. I think Grandpa was a bit of a drinker and Grandma was intolerant of his antics. He left and no one heard from him for many years. So Dad grew up without his father. He did, however, have three older brothers who taught him the ways of the world - good AND bad.

Anyway, when Dad was probably in his early twenties he somehow connected with his Dad again. They talked on the phone and Grandpa said that Dad should come up to Idaho and see him.

Dad, who was living in Indiana at the time, said, "Okay, I'll grab a handful of boxcar and be there in a few days". Grandpa said, "well if that's the only way you can come, you better stay where you are". My stubborn Dad said okay and never went and they didn't speak again until Grandpa was a very old and confused man. What a shame. I think Grandpa was trying in his late and misguided way to finally be a caring father and Dad was too stubborn to hear that. All he heard was, "don't come".

They were both stubborn and they both believed in their rightness.

I suspect Dad and Grandpa were as alike as Dad and I were.


  1. Oh dear. This is sad and troubling and totally regretful. And he was definitely a stubborn, stubborn man. I wish that weren't that case.

    Especially now.

    (I do love "handful of boxcar," though.)

  2. *sigh* Totally a sad story. It's sad to think what people miss out on in life because they are stubborn, and this is one of those cases. Grandpa definitely would have reacted that way, it's a shame. and although I do think you and Grandpa butted heads a lot because you weren't afraid to stand up to him, I never have thought of you has stubborn like he was. Even though it's a sad story, I do enjoy hearing stories about our family. I also agree with Beth about loving the "handful of boxcar"...too cool


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