I was listening to a song tonight where the artist sings he is hoping he is becoming more like his father as he grows older. It made me think about certain qualities in my sometimes despicable family that I admire and hope I am emulating. Let’s start with those who have passed and then move on to the living.
DISCLAIMER: I obviously didn’t know these people before I was born, so I can only speak of my interactions growing up, and like most people those interactions didn’t seem real to me until I was about 7 or 8.
My Paternal Grandma
Though I rarely saw this woman due to me spending most of my time with my mom, I do remember this grandma’s expectation, or rather, her requirement for respect of one’s elders. I was to address her as Grandma Marion. Meals were not opportunities to tell jokes, good or bad. I saw some of this “respect” passed on to my father.
I can say for certain that while I didn’t bring this strictness of character into my life, I can’t remember a time when I did not have respect for elders, unless of course we’re talking about anyone else in my family.
My Uncle Bruce
When I think of my uncle Bruce, Marion’s son, I think of laughter. He was always laughing, always telling jokes. I could tell he knew when to be serious. He sought out his passion and had a very successful business.
I think I’ve taken his humor into my life. I love to laugh. It’s contagious just like my uncle’s. I don’t always know when to turn it off. And, I’ve never been able to turn my passion into a successful business, but I’m definitely trying. Though I have my moments, I refuse to give up till I’m successful.
My Maternal Great-Grandma
This woman was my best friend and mentor. She was selfless, always putting others before her. I spent days after school afterschool enjoying her company, never realizing her days were numbered. Before she passed in 1996, I had learned to play multiple card games and yahtzee, and to stay up late doing it! She was the first person who stayed up with me to celebrate the new year.
I realize she wasn’t perfect, but her selflessness in almost everything is the quality I most admire about her.
My father was an alcoholic. He was verbally and emotionally abusive. He was very successful at driving friends and acquaintances away in his denial of his alcoholism. But he also denied that people were slowly abandoning him. I probably wasn’t the last, but I gave up on him three years before he passed in 2001.
If you could just clear away the fog of all the things that were bad, you would see the good and the qualities I admired most in him. I suppose I couldn’t do this as he grew sicker and more emotionally abusive.
My father had an appreciation for other cultures. He was incredibly tolerant of everyone. He was a friend to everyone, and he took pride in having friends. He celebrated their talents and frequently held parties for these friends. And, I don’t remember him ever holding a grudge against anyone. He loved to read and listen to music. He loved multiple genres. I’m not sure if he had a passion for writing, but I would have to imagine that he did.
I know my love for everyone and their culture came from my father. I’m quick to trust (and just as quick to hate when I’m hurt), and I’m incredibly tolerant. I don’t think I’ll ever have as many friends as he did, but I do want to work on appreciating others’ talents. I think I’ve begun to do that with my writing. I have written both poetry, prose, and academic writing; and have been successful in every genre. I don’t remember my mom ever being a writer or an avid reader, so I can only guess that I have that quality because of my dad.
My Maternal Grandpa
I loved my grandpa. I remember him as a disciplinarian when I was young, but as I grew older, I developed a respect for him that I couldn’t give anyone else. To me, he represents honor. He was a badge collector and worked hard to develop and maintain relationships with everyone he met. When he passed, officers from his Kensington police chief job, which he left in 1977 came to his funeral in Reno.
My desire is that I be a respected and honorable person as he was.
My Maternal Grandma
My grandma only recently passed in June of this year. Despite our relationship in the last few years, I still loved her very much.
I was the favorite granddaughter, and I’ll never know why. She had 4 grandchildren, but I was the one she loved the most, and I’m not bragging! Like her own children, she never liked the man I married, but still she was always supportive. She was an animal lover and never neglected to send gifts to our dogs from time to time. And, she always supported me when I needed it. No matter if I hadn’t called in a few months, one call was all it would take to restore our relationship and for me to feel comfortable to ask her for help.
One thing I never liked was people telling me that I should “use” her because she had money and would never spend it all before she died. I never wanted her money. We did need it from time to time, but I never wanted to take advantage of her. I remember on visits, I would be told to ask my grandma to take me shopping because she had the money, or ask her for money before I left because she had the money. That is when I felt the most guilty.
My living family members never understood that I always felt guilty asking my grandma for money. Certainly in later years, I was made to feel guilty by my family members including my grandma. It was as if I was being blackmailed for asking for money when I needed it. I hated being told that I had to frequently call my grandma or she wouldn’t love me anymore.
I would definitely say there was some emotional abuse toward the end of her life, and though, my husband felt the need to break me off from my family in a very harsh manner, I still loved my grandma and thought of her often till her death. I am very grateful to my sister for calling me to let me know that she had passed.
It’s strange to say this, but I admire my mom for her innocence and her ability to change.
My mom and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. I didn’t like who she was before she met her third husband, and I never liked her third (current)husband. So, it made it very difficult to communicate with her or be around her.
But in this past year, being separated from my family, I’ve come to realize a couple of things. My mom made a drastic change in her life about 10 years ago, for the better. She didn’t do it through any self-help books or support groups. She just did it. Now that she has changed, she has become more innocent, conservative, protective. Though I don’t agree with her religious bent and how she handles her faith, I do admire her ability to change and her innocence.
I am one to hold grudges, and there are times I still feel a sort of hatred toward my mom. But I can’t blame her for marrying a man I never liked — They’ve been married for over 20 years, so obviously she loves him and they’ve worked things out to stay together for as long as they have. I know she doesn’t like my husband, but she has been polite toward him and even tried to develop a relationship with him. I also can’t blame my mom for the tumultuous relationship we had when I was a child. She was addicted to alcohol and promiscuity; and truthfully, she just wasn’t a good mom. But I’m not addicted to alcohol, and though I’m not a mom, my life turned out okay. I have my master’s degree and almost my PhD. I have a solid marriage, and we’ve been together for 9 years. In other words, my life wasn’t as affected by her style of living when I was a child as it could have been, and I believe, she made a change in her life at a point where I could have chosen a different path in my life.
My Aunt Sandy
My aunt has always been a free spirit. In some ways she’s very disciplined; in other ways she is very carefree. She has a beautiful singing voice, and I’ve been able to trust her with areas of my life I could tell no one else. I suppose, then, I could say she is a keeper of confidences.
Before I moved from Reno to Arizona in 2001, she told me that I should move far away and never look back and never give any of my family my phone number. She said she wished she could have that freedom now. I finally took her advice, but it took me 10 years to get there. I’d like to think that even though we haven’t spoken in some time, that she respects my decision and won’t try to contact me until I make a move to contact her.
I also love to sing. I wish I could be as trustworthy as she is, but I know I haven’t always done so. But I can say that I’m an excellent listener and counselor. I have helped friends through multiple issues – some because I’ve experienced them; some because I am empathetic. And, I think my aunt is the same way. She may not understand everything, even though her life has taken many different paths, but still, she is someone who will listen and counsel to the best of her ability. Finally, I’m the only one in my family to have moved away from home. I think that makes me a bit carefree. I love to travel, and in fact, I’m growing restless now as we have lived in the same place for over 5 years!
My Uncle Doug
I have a love/hate relationship with my uncle. While he followed his dad in his badge collection and started a museum of police memorabilia shortly after his dad’s death, I can’t say he has the same qualities as my grandpa.
As a teenager, I often went to his house before or after work, just to hang out. I didn’t see my aunt and uncle as second parents; they were just there for me. When I became suicidal after college, they were the first people I called, and they were there for me. If that same relationship continued to date, I would probably have developed a closer relationship with them, but shortly after my stay in the suicidal ward of the hospital, I realized the second faces they had. Around me, they would say one thing. Away from me, they would say something else. As an example, they told my grandmother that if I became suicidal again, they would just let me kill myself. But when I called them on it, they denied it. Behind my back, they would accuse me of driving a wedge in my family when I did become suicidal, but they wouldn’t admit to it when I spoke to them about it.
Later, they became accusatory to me and my husband whenever we needed money from my grandma. When I got a job in Reno and asked my grandma for help moving. She was dissuaded by the words of my uncle, and I unfortunately had to say no to a very good paying job. My aunt became very concerned when I was first diagnosed with my neurological disorder, but when my husband acted, in my best interest, to separate myself from my family; they sent me nasty emails and left nasty comments on my blog.
Despite the change in relationship between the three of us, there is one important quality that I admired and still admire about them, and that is their faith. They are Catholic and very active Catholics. They observe religious holidays, and unlike some Catholics, they are tolerant of other people’s beliefs. They are not afraid to defend other people’s beliefs even if they are very different from their own. For that, they have set an example for me to follow.
I have always been tolerant of other cultures and beliefs. While I have not always been devout in my faith, those times I have been have been very important in my life. Now that I have returned to Church, I am very grateful and hope to follow its precepts in a way that I think my aunt and uncle do with their Catholic beliefs.
Last but not least is the woman who is 14 months older than I. For being so close in age, it may be remarkable that we are so different in personalities. She is quiet; I’m loud. She’s a mom; I’m not. She’s afraid of change; I love change. And, the list goes on. We are complete opposites, but in some strange way, I know that I can depend on her at the very least to lend an ear. She has modeled her life as a mother in a very different way than my mom did, and I admire my sister for that. And, she has been married for over 15 years.
She was the only one I contacted when I was hospitalized earlier this year, and though the conversation ended abruptly, she still cared enough to call me two months ago to tell me that my grandma had passed.
I suppose I could say I admire my sister for having a successful marriage, more than anything else. Though her relationship as a wife is very different than mine as she is a mother and a wife and still has a close relationship with my mom, I still hope to be married to my husband for the rest of my life, as my sister does with her husband.
I guess as a final note, I would encourage my readers to think about the things they admire about their family. There are often scholarship requirements or essay expectations where you have to choose one person you admire the most. We all have our faults. Why not take a different direction on the topic and list people in your family with qualities you admire most!