I mentioned that I took a trip home this previous August. I was home for nearly three weeks, and the main reason I was home was because there was a big family reunion for my father’s side of the family.
My father’s side of the family rarely gets together, especially like this. We’re not a huge family, unless you go out to third and fourth cousins, then there’s close to a thousand of us, but for my late grandfather and his brother, if you include their children and grandchildren, there’s approximately 30 of us.
We’re a strange bunch, to say the least. While my father and I have a very strange relationship where we have a lot of unspoken agreements on how we talk to one another, I can say that I’m definitely much closer to my father’s side of the family.
My grandfather had a PhD, as well as tons of other degrees. He went to college for thirty years straight, and he stopped college when he retired. He had an IQ that was easily around 180, and absolutely no common sense. However, as my uncle explained, he had the family’s Golden Heart.
I’m twenty four now, and I always knew that my grandfather had a golden heart. Heck, it was the reason that I was so crushed when he passed nine years ago. My grandfather was a person who had very strange ideas about everything around him. He was a college professor, an engineer, and a member of the NRA. He never wore socks, he would have my grandmother make his pants with deep pockets in case someone tried to pick pocket him. He would bathe in laundry detergent. For as long as I knew him, I never knew him to comb his thick, white hair.
He was a very, very strange man. But my memories of him are never malicious.
When I was young, I mentioned that I really wanted to learn piano, but my parents couldn’t afford it. My father filled vending machines and when he was home, he would scrap metal in the garage, my brother and I helping him. He easily worked 80 hours a week. My mother was a type setter and typed textbooks in the living room while raising my brother and I. I give my father a lot of crap about how we were raised, especially after the divorce, but one thing I can never neglect is that my parents worked hard for the little they got, and they never let on just how hard it was to take care of us with the little they had.
My grandfather, a week later, found an old organ at a flea market and bought it for me. He told me to just play around on it and maybe I could teach myself someday.
When I was an older, around 13, I had decided that I wanted to be a writer. I would spend hours writing fan fictions and short stories. By the time I was sixteen, I had written two novels, both of which I have in an old notebook in my closet. I read all of the harry potter books several times. I read every Janet Evanovich book that had been released at that time. In school, I wouldn’t do my homework or really participate in class because I was always reading. My head was always in the clouds, thinking about how I was going to be a famous writer someday.
My mother was supportive in a strange way, telling me that I’ll never make a living being a writer, and that I should shoot for something else. My father laughed at me, many of my other relatives (I have 15 cousins and it’s rapidly growing, as well as several aunts and uncles), and they all rolled their eyes at me. I felt, at the time, that nobody quite understood me.
But my grandfather always did.
When my grandma was in California for a week vising my uncle, I spent the week with my grandpa in Eastern Minnesota. I mentioned to him shyly that I wanted to be a writer, and instead of giving me grief, he spent the entire weekend we had together talking about the different types of writing there is. He was pushing for technical writer or grant writer, which makes a lot of money. He told me I can do romance writing, and if that’s what I wanted to do, he would support me, but he said that he knew I was intelligent, and if I took after him, technical writing would be the route I would be best suited for.
Every time I saw him after that, he would ask about my writing. He would then try to persuade me to pursue technical writing, but he understood me in a way that nobody else ever did.
Probably my fondest memory of my grandfather is when he and I were at the flea market. When he retired he became a blacksmith, because he found it fun. He would sell bronze knives and plant stands that he made himself, as well as other blacksmith goods. He was quite good at it, considering. I would go with him to the flea market and we would sit on the back end of his truck, persuading people to buy the plant stands or the makeshift grill he made, but this afternoon it was slow. We shared lemonade, and we talked about everything. Old family stories, his childhood in Pennington, MN, his time in the Air Force, everything you could imagine.
We both fell asleep sitting in the sun, enjoying the suns warmth. On the drive back to his house, he held my hand and told me that he was proud of me no matter what I did.
My grandmother is like that even now. She is quirky, like my grandfather was, but she has the golden heart. If I ever needed anything, she would be there to help me. If I’m having a rough day, I call her and she makes me feel better. There was one day, where I just needed comfort, and I called her almost in tears. It was shortly after I got married, and when she asked me what I was doing, I told her I was making a cup of tea.
The best words of wisdom expelled from her mouth.
“If you can enjoy a cup of tea, it’s really not that bad. As long as you can enjoy the taste of the tea, everything will get better.”
When I’m having a bad day, where I feel like I want to give up, I make myself a cup of tea, and my grandmother’s words echo in my ears. No matter how bad things get, I can always enjoy a cup of tea. And I realize that bad things are only relative, and things can always be worse, but they’ll always get better.
As I get older, I feel myself feeling less bitter to those who have wronged me. Sometimes I kind of had it coming, other times it was misplaced affection (which sounds really strange as I type it). I remind myself that every person in my family, my father included, has a golden heart.
If I were in trouble, no matter how estranged I was to anyone in my family, they would do anything to help me. If I needed clothing, they would give me the shirt off their back. If I was alone and scared, even if we were fighting, they would wrap their arms around me and give me comforting words. There is one thing I know about my parents: my father loves me, and my mother loves me, and no matter what happens, if I need them, they’ll be here.
Sure, my family is strange and quirky and all together weird, but they have one thing that I’ve found a lot of families don’t have.
We have the golden heart, that no matter what happens, we strive to help those around us in any way humanly possible. We don’t discriminate against each other, we don’t hold grudges, and we most definitely ensure that nobody is treated with animosity.
And I’m happy to say that I’m part of a family that treats each other like that.
What is your fondest memory of your childhood? I believe each family has it’s own uniqueness as to why their family has a golden heart, what is your family’s “golden heart?” Tell me in the comments, I would love to know.