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Family History

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A while back, while playing poker with friends, I was trying, and failing, to explain how I don’t think my grandfather has ever liked me all that much. It came out wrong, and sideways, and prickly, and sounded petulant and whiny, but the gist of it was there: for a large chunk of my life, my maternal grandfather has never spoken all that much to me or shown all that much interest in me, even though he dotes on some of the other grandchildren to no end.

We had one of our big Christmas family gatherings the other day.  My grandfather spoke one sentence to me: “And you all are still in Utah?” and then went to talk to someone else.  This sounds petulant, and really I don’t care about it all that much.  I mean, it’s a little weird and rude, I think, but I don’t really have a horse in this race: I only come home once or twice a year and I don’t really see them all that often.  

It’s just weird.

Well, I take that back.  It’s not only weird.  It’s frustrating when I’m expected to go and spend time with people who are clearly not particularly interested in talking to me.  

On the drive home from that family lunch the other day, I mentioned  to my mother that I guessed I was just the black sheep of the family, and she said that I get it honest.  I didn’t really understand what she meant, so she explained that it was only recently that my grandfather decided that she had good sense and started taking an interest in her.  I asked her why, and she said “Well, who do I look like?”

She looks just like her mother, who my grandfather divorced sometime in the mid 1960s.  It was apparently a pretty rocky marriage.  So I am my mother’s son.  I am also my father’s son; my grandfather doesn’t care for my father all that much, either.  And I look like my father, so that doesn’t help.  Add to this the fact that I was very close with my (gay) uncle Sam, who died of AIDS in the late 1980s and who was also a black sheep.  I was also very close to my maternal grandmother, and it all sort of begins to make sense in a fucked up, generational kind of way.  This is a dislike that was written in my DNA long before I was born.

After we talked a little about it, I felt a good bit better.

My grandfather came over for breakfast this morning.  He told Shelley that Ph.D. just stands for “piled higher and deeper.”  Then he asked me what it meant when I said that I had tenure.  I explained to him that tenure is a kind of job protection that keeps me from being fired for working on contentious or unpopular subjects.  I explained that it protects me from, for instance, a busybody state congressman who gets a bug up his butt about what I’m doing.  

He asked how long it took to get tenure.  I said, “Seven years.”

He said, “That doesn’t seem like long enough.”

I had to stop myself from saying, “Considering you didn’t even know what it was until about 15 seconds ago, what the fuck do you know?” because, you know, it is Christmas morning, and my grandfather is being a passive-aggressive dick at the breakfast table.


Written by srogers

December 25, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. It seems entirely possible that your grandfather is simply a dickhead and should be avoided. I cannot imagine that I would have held me peace as you seem to have. I don’t come from a family that bites its tongue.


    December 29, 2010 at 11:51 pm

  2. Well Son, I’m kinda bummed out


    January 3, 2011 at 8:16 pm

  3. Yeah, but we had a good time with you! Now go buy an iPad!


    January 3, 2011 at 8:52 pm

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