A little over a year ago I had a pretty big fight with my Grandpa. The fight was, to sum it up, one of those fights where 195 year old person doesn’t realize how inconsiderate they are being. If you have an older person in your life, you know what I’m talking about.
It was a pretty big fight, but it was resolved right away. It ended in hugs and “I love yous” and “it’s over, don’t worry” and “I’m sorry too” and everything it’s supposed to have, but what I apparently didn’t realize was that it’s been weighing on my Grandpa for over a year that I never wanted to see him again.
Now this was never said, and I’m not the type to do that with family, but I don’t blame him. Most of my family doesn’t talk, and it’s about absurd things. One story involves a package of MnMs from the early 70s. Another story involved a folding table not being put away in a timely fashion. You just never know with whom and over what is going to result in a family dividing brawl. It’s like a tradition for us. It’s our own version of secret Santa.
I’ve had discussions with many different family members about people needing to see the big picture, or be the bigger person, and if there is one thing they all agree upon, it’s that they are happy and proud about their fierce contention for the title of world’s smallest and pettiest person. I can’t emphasize that enough. I’ve used those exact words and had an arms crossed, defiant “YES” given back to me. This, they declare, is actually how they want things to play out. The funerals are going to make the news.
Like I said, I’m not this way. Not at all. I have people who have written me out of the family, but it’s not for anything I’ve done, but the fact that I happen to be related to the person that they are mad at they are also related to. We suck. But I’m honest in saying that not seeing him in the past year had absolutely nothing to do with the fight, however I still felt guilt for letting it go on long enough that it could seem that way.
This past weekend was an emotional one. A brutal one. One that needed a positive ending for me. So I decided to take advantage of being close enough to see my Grandpa that I could visit for a little while.
I walked into his living room. He saw me, the look on his face couldn’t have been more shocked. He slowly, much slower than the last time I saw him, stood up and said, “Well I’ll be….gone…to Hell.”
This can’t be a compliment. I mean the words seem to indicate that my Grandpa thinks that seeing me means he must be in a place where he is eternally damned, I mean, where else would I be?
But it was a compliment. He was touched. Emotional. My grandma told me how much he had cried thinking he’d never see me again. Try that guilt on for size.
I talked with them for a while, I even gave them a Christmas present, before my Grandpa told me had something for me too. Something he’d been keeping for 15 years and wouldn’t ever give it to someone else.
This was a big deal.
And he went into his shop, and within a minute came out with his gift for me:
It was a stuffed raccoon.
I don’t mean like a real raccoon that was stuffed and mounted, I mean like a child’s play toy. And he was giving it to me, his grandson, who is as close to turning 70 as he is being a toddler.
I have no idea what my expression was to be getting a 15 year old raccoon stuffed animal. I mean, he was 70 when he got it. What could be the meaning behind this raccoon? Why was it so important to him?
Well the story goes that 15 years ago he went to buy a Lazy Boy chair. And he picked one out. And he went to buy it. And at that point in time he found out that this Lazy Boy chair came with a FREE STUFFED RACCOON!
I continue to be at a loss for why this would mean so much to my Grandpa, but my family is, well, you’ve read the above. My family steals from you. They steal from each other. They swindle and gripe and complain and do whatever they can to get a discount. If there is something available for free, they CRAVE it. And this was a free stuffed raccoon.
Until it came to checkout that is, when my Grandpa was given a much smaller version of the thing he didn’t want in the first place. It turns out the larger one he didn’t qualify for. My guess would be that it came with a certain price limit, and that my Grandpa had probably picked out the cheapest chair in the entire store, possibly the one they use in the employee break room.
My Grandpa was still getting a free raccoon, but this free gift that he didn’t want, need, or know about, wasn’t as good as the other free gift he didn’t want, need, or know about. So he demanded the bigger raccoon.
“Oh, no sir, I’m sorry, we couldn’t do that.”
Then my Grandpa, who presumably actually needed and wanted a chair, told the man, “then you can keep your chair.”
My Grandpa got the larger raccoon.
Now this raccoon wasn’t a raccoon anymore, it was a point of pride. It was a trophy. Look what my Grandpa got just because he went head to head with a sales person and decided to screw him over! Look at what an ornery old man accomplished by making a scene over a child’s toy! So for 15 years my Grandpa kept this raccoon in his shop, wearing a fishing hat, watching over him while he worked.
As it was time for me to leave, my Grandpa’s last words for me were to “take care of Foxy.”
I don’t know if he doesn’t realize it’s not a fox, or is he somehow sort of sexualized a stuffed raccoon, but he meant those words because that stupid (and messy, and weird smelling) raccoon actually meant a lot to him. And now this raccoon means the world to me. And you can bet when I give it to some future grandson, I hope he’s just as appreciative. And freaked out.