Writing Prompt: Before I Was Born

My grandfather – my dad’s father – died three months before I was born. I’ve seen a few pictures of him, and I remember watching some old 8mm home movies that he was in, but I don’t have a clear image of him. I know he was tall – at least 6’2″ – and bald, and I’ve been told stories about his volatile temper.

He and my grandmother spent their working days at the mill, which was a hard life. Love was shown more by providing for the family than by hugs or words, but that was all they knew. My mom also told me that my grandfather was different after my aunt had children, nine years before I was born. She said he was always buying things for my cousins, and he probably would have done the same for me and my brother had things been different.

I’ve always felt the loss somehow. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s as strong as if I had never known my mother or father, but sometimes I wonder about the lack of his presence. Not long after my other grandfather died – when I was 15 – my mother took me to my dad’s father’s gravesite. I don’t remember if my tears were triggered by something she said or whether the grief from her father’s passing was still so fresh in my heart, but I do remember crying for a man I’d never met.

Sometimes I wonder what things would have been like if he had lived longer. Would he have made amends? Would his presence have been a reminder to my father about how detrimental having such a temper could be? Or would he have ended up like one of his brothers – so full of paranoia and anger that his own family would conspire to get his wife out of the house?

But wondering only leads to more questions, and I believe that as long as we have the desire to steer our lives to avoid a self-destructive path, remembering the good times and the positive characteristics is the best way to finding the direction we need to take.

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