Conversations with my grandfather

Hey! It’s the last day of classes! And you know what that means…it means I was up until the wee hours grading papers! And do you know what that means? It means that when I did finally get a few hours of sleep, I had terrible dreams. In this case, I dreamt about spending a day with my grandfather.

My grandfather never touched me or hurt me, so it wasn’t that kind of dream. It was…well, if I dreamed of a day when I was eight or nine, it would go like this:

“Let’s go make something in the shop!”
“This is how you use a lathe.”
“We can look at the old drawings I did in high school.”
“See, I wanted to be an architect!”
“You can be anything you want to be.”
<Falls asleep watching the Jackie Gleason show.>

That wouldn’t be so bad. But no, I had dreams about days with my grandfather when I was 12-15. Those were not so nice. Those days were more like this:

I’d get there in the morning. He’d already have a stack of six-packs by his chair.
<increasingly slobbery slurps>
Let’sh go for a ride.
You wait here in the car for a minute.
An hour later…One more shtop.
Another hour later, we’d creep home at 5mph, the car weaving from side to side.
Bitch! Bitches!
Goddamn J*ps!
<Falls asleep before the sun is down.>

As I got older, I would spend less and less time with Grandpa, and when he suggested a ride down to the tavern, I’d just leave. He got worse and worse as he got older — and I wasn’t around at all — and my younger sisters have stories of his verbal abuse they are not happy to discuss.

So, yeah, when I have bad dreams (I usually don’t), the old man sometimes makes an appearance. These aren’t fearful dreams at all, though — more like soul-crushing dreams of bitter failure wallowing in spite and cheap beer. It just makes me sad.

At least when I wake up I realize that I’m now the age he was then, roughly, and get to bounce cheerfully off to a good job and hang out with smart people, and then come home to a happy family…or I would, if my wife weren’t off grandmothering in Watertown, NY for a few more weeks. I guess I’ll have to settle for a very needy cat.

“Hey, cat, this is how you use a word processor…”


  1. Ogvorbis: Swimming without a parachute. says

    I think that, sometimes, the best revenge against those who have hurt us, belittled us, scared us, abused us, is to find a way to contribute to the world in a positive way. Maybe be happy. Maybe be a better parent, or role model. You’re doing good.


    Cats already know how to use a word processor. Of course, what the put on the screen is:

    q65a T49888888888888888888888888888888888888888y{rg;IU IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIYG’;;;;;;;;;;yt

  2. Owlmirror says

    I guess I’ll have to settle for a very needy cat.

    I thought the cat was evil, not just needy.

    You’re not . . . going soft, are you?

  3. says

    She’s evil and needy. Since my wife has left, she’s gotten desperate and insecure — maybe she’s realizing that she’s trapped in a dependency on me, until she learns how to open cans.

  4. mikehuben says

    Oh, so you had a grandfather then? (Hat tip to the Four Yorkshiremen sketch.)

    Both my grandfathers died long before I was born: one executed in a concentration camp, the other from heat stroke. My maternal grandmother tried to live up to standards by being a violent drunk with my mother. But I was her gem, and she would take me proudly to her bar to show me off to her buddies. She was hobbled with rheumatoid arthritis and emphysema, and not violent any more.

    I was lucky to be spared from much during my childhood, except for bullying. It’s funny: growing up in a lily-white redlined suburb, I never heard the racism so prevalent elsewhere. I have no idea what I might have heard from my grandfathers. I wasn’t exposed to other drunks until college.

  5. cherbear says

    I can feel your pain, PZed. I had a rather unhappy relative that would drink, but luckily, she rarely spouted racist epithets. She just wanted me to drive her around while she had been drinking after my dad died. I only had a learner’s permit of course.

  6. gijoel says

    My father was an alcoholic. Though he was never abusive I still have awful memories of being dragged to the pub with my younger brother. Pubs in the 70s and early 80s aren’t the child friendly places they are today. Back then they were the domain of drinking men, and hence were soul-crushingly boring. To this day I still find pubs sad and pitiful places that I’d rather not be at.

  7. DanDare says

    My mother was a highly intelligent and well educated progressive as well as a nasty alchoholic. As the eldest I copped a lot of the emotional abuse which has been pretty harmful for me but fading. However when I dream of mum I don’t dream any of that. I dream about the long and sober walks we used to take together. The happy christmasses when she was sober and made it a big family thing. The political discussions. Her fantastic cooling even when drunk.
    Miss you sober mum.

  8. Arnaud says

    “Cat, you can be anything you want to be.”
    “I am a cat. Why would I want to be anything else?”