My grandfather, Thomas Milny, died today.
When my father was a little boy, Tom left, for a variety of reasons. None of which mattered to a little boy without a father and subjected to a series of abusive step-fathers.
When my brother was born, 20-someodd years later, my grandfather tentatively tried to get in touch with his son. My father, having just had his first child, looked down at his little baby and said to himself... I would never have left.
Tom went off the radar again.
A few years ago, he came back by sending a letter to my father. He tried very hard to become a part of our lives. My father visited him. He sent me lots of books and movies. I've never been one to talk on the phone much, and he would call and talk for ... h.o.u.r.s.
I would say, "Tom, I have to go to work/school/dinner..." and still be on the phone 20 minutes later trying to get off the phone.
It also was a rather one-sided conversation. Maybe all those years of not having us built up inside and he had to say everything, anything, that came to his head. So I stopped picking up the phone. I'll call him once in a blue moon, or answer the phone occasionally. But I ... don't even call my parents or the grandparents that I grew up with and loving often. Talking on the phone to a man I had never met, and who had a claim on my love and my life because he fathered my father, was low on my list, especially when that conversation could very well go into the 3 hour range.
I feel guilty about that.
I got a letter from him the other month, telling me that there is no excuse for not talking or writing. That he understands that he's coming into our life late but that he wants to be there, now.
I wrote him a letter after I got that, and included in it pictures of myself and my husband. I sent it a month ago.
Tom was having a series of small heart attacks that he experienced as a series of intermittent arm pain. He went into the hospital for a quad-bypass. Surgery went well. He was supposed to go home tomorrow.
Something happened, I don't know what because my parents aren't sure what.
He'll be cremated and my dad thinks his half-brother (whom we only just discovered existed) may send him some of the ashes.
I find myself oddly numb. I think there's no real grief because to me, he wasn't ... real. I never met him. Never hugged him or kissed him on the cheek. He was never more to me than a voice on the phone.
Instead, I feel regret for the things that could have been, should have been. He could have been so much more. Like potential joy suddenly gone, with only the faintest of whispers that it could have been there.
I could have done more to get to know him. But I didn't. I feel guilt for that, though everyone I know says that I really shouldn't. He wasn't apart of our lives, by his own choice. And then when he suddenly decides to become part of our lives, we're supposed to open up our hearts and just accept him?
Granted, we do that with our family. No one told me I have to love my grandparents, those I grew up with. I just do. Despite their idiosyncracies and problems, I love them.
The potential to really love Tom was there.
It never truly blossomed.
I feel sad that he is gone. That the potential for me to know my grandfather is gone. That the man, who undoubtedly did have a lot of things to say, stories to tell, wisdom to pass on, now won't have a chance to.
I may yet cry over his death, when it truly hits. But it's like being told a stranger you knew only in passing died. I feel guilty for not feeling more grief, yet... he was only blood, not really family.
Goodbye Tom. It was nice to have known you.