Last week my grandfather died. We had the funeral yesterday, and it was - as these things go - fairly bearable. He was 90, and had "a good innings" as they say. Was rarely ill, and widely loved, and will be missed. After the funeral we went back to what was his and my grandmother's house for a few beers (which he would have approved of!) and made a circle around what was always "his" chair. No-one wanted to sit there, but eventually the size of the crowd and the age of most of those attending, meant that seats were at a premium and one or another of us sat there for the rest of the afternoon. It's weird, but I think a lot of older folk, especially grandads, have "their" chair.
My family is a bit of a divorce/separation/abandonment minefield. Both my stepdad and his brother have been divorced and remarried (the latter four times). There are kids, stepkids and halfsies. Though I considered him my grandfather, and called him Grandpa for almost 35 years, we weren't blood related. He's my stepfather's Dad. My stepfather came to live with us when I was 4/5 and never left, eventually marrying my mum in 1994. To do this, my stepdad left his own two children (a boy and a girl, the same ages as me and my younger brother). My father ended up moving in with my stepdad's ex and there was a few years of "Wife Swap" going on for real...ugh...I feel tacky and 70s-influenced just thinking about it. Anyhow, I raise the topic because it's relevant to what went on yesterday. My stepdad has only seen his son Rob a couple of times in his life, last time being 25-odd years ago, although he has (and the rest of us have too) re-established a fairly nice relationship with his daughter. Rob could not forgive as easily as his sister, I guess, which is reminiscent of my own brother who has never seen our father since his abandonment.
Yesterday, Rob showed up at the funeral, having caught a three hour flight. He recently made contact with my grandparents, closing the gap that had existed for so many years - I think having his own two kids had made him sentimental perhaps and wonder about his grandparents. But he still hadn't seen my stepdad - until yesterday. It was a massive, major shock to see him. I thought my stepdad was going to faint (literally). He said to me it was more shocking and upsetting than his father passing away. But in the end, it turned out brilliantly. We all hung out with Rob and he chatted with everyone. I commend him for turning up like that, coming into a potentially hostile (or at the least uncomfortable) atmosphere. Really great bloke, who I like a lot. I hope we get to stay in touch more now that he's made the effort to heal our family's rift. I wondered if my brother started to get ideas about his own father... though he knows that I've given up on that relationship.
It really got me thinking about how rarely I saw my grandpa, but how easy it was to love him, and how little I see of my nanna (Mum's mother) now she lives in a nursing home. About how guilty I feel regarding that, and how I plan/hope to change it. About how much family creates and affects us, and how much time we spend trying to run away from it. And about that fact that, sometimes, blood means as much as years you've spent together.
Post title from Don McLean's Empty Chairs.