Friday, September 28, 2012

My Grandpa

I was born on June 16 1988 around 10:30am to 17 year-olds David Peer and Cherie Jones. I don't often think what that day must have been like but if i ever do, i usually imagine that it was a bright sunny morning full of smiles and wonder. I supposed you could attribute this childish view of this day to the fact that I have no memories of my mom and dad ever being together. It makes me feel better to picture them holding hands, smiling and looking down into my face with pride and admiration much the same as I had seen in movies and on TV over the years.

It's foolish to picture this scenario for several reasons. Firstly, I have to remind myself that as a Portland, OR native, in the middle of June, it was most definitely raining. I probably wouldn't even see enough sun to get my first sunburn for at least another 2 months. It's also foolish because my parents were children and were likely disappointed at my arrival, both currently in peak of their teenagerdom. Although my eldest sibling, Michael was born just 18 short months earlier, I'm certain this wasn't planned and I was most definitely an inconvenience.

I've never asked either of my parents what the reality of this day looked like. I doubt that I ever will. Though my mother wad obviously present, who says my father was even present? After all, it wouldn't be the last major milestone in my life that he would be absent from.

I can't know the answer to this question. As weird as it seems, I'd kind of like to keep the details of this day a mystery to me, at least for now.

My hair was short, thin, and white-blonde. In fact, it was so thin and light in color that it usually looked like I had no hair at all. This would eventually drive my young mother crazy. Who, despite dressing me in the most ridiculously frilly and feminine of outfits, spent much time helping people correctly identify my gender. She also took to plastering what small amount of hair I did have into a tight pony tail that stuck straight up to the sky from the top of my head, not dissimilar to Alfalfa.

My face was round and my cheeks were large, reminiscent of a baby chipmunk storing acorns in his cheeks storing up for witter hibernation. My eyes were greenish-blue with the distinctive Chaney golden ring around my pupils causing them to pop and quickly become my most distinctive feature. (Note: Chaney is the maiden name of my grandmother on my Mom's side of the family. To date, this is still the first trait anyone in my family looks for in new babies.)

One thing I have no doubt about however is that my Grandma was there and she most definitely would have been smiling at me. I would imagine my grandpa was also there though there is a distinct possibility that his stubbornness would not have allowed him to attend the second birth of his teenage daughters child. I can relate to this because i attribute most of my stubborn, hard headed ways on my grandpa, though secretly I couldn't be prouder to resemble him in this way.

If he was angry or hesitant at first, it didn't take long for me to win him over. Some of my earliest memories, some as early as 3 years old, are of me and Grandpa. We were inseparable from the start.

My Grandpa was born in 1942 in Idaho. He was raised on and worked on a farm as the oldest of five children. I presume it was this rough manual labor in his youngluge that shaped him into the hardest and most honest working, fix everything, tough loving, callused handed, Boy Scout Grandpa that I knew.
I was a "Tom Boy" at a young age. I hated those silly frilly dresses and make it clear by age 4 that this type of clothing would not be acceptable to me. Grandpa always seemed to get that and as young as I was, I appreciated it. There always seemed to be work that needed to be done when i visited Grandma's house and I was always invited to help. Though Grandpa may have given me the hammer from a tinker toys set but I never felt excluded. Every role I was given was crucial to the completion of the project and the balance was in my hands.

I remember being about 8 years old when grandpa handed me a pry bar and said "We need to reuse all I'd thus lumber. Use this to pull out every single nail you find." He cut me a 6 inch piece of a 2x4 and showed me how to position it below my pry bar to remove nails mores quickly.

I heard Michael, age 10, always given more important and labor intensive positions, arguing about the most effective method for attaching corrugated roofing to the beams, I vivaciously removed every single nail from the boards. (I would later discover that these boards were useless but Grandpa needed to keep me busy.)

I do believe that it would be a dishonor to my Grandpa to pretend that he was an easy person to get along with. He was opinionated, hard-headed, and outspoken, three qualities I seem to ironically possess as well. Much of my youth was spent in an argument on all kinds of subject matter. He was also a disciplinarian. As stern as he may have been, he didn't seem to find traditional punishment like grounding or revoking privileges as valuable as a "learning opportunity." Regardless of how he felt about my opinion or how deaf his ears were to it, he let me state my case, uninterrupted. for as long as a liked. My punishment for doing so however was his opportunity to follow my defense with his stance on my situation and explanation to me on how these types of situations related to real-world experiences and that if I listened to what he was telling me, it would help me when I look for a job, go to college, or resolve communication issues in my relationships. As soon as I was ready to hear what he had to say, it was usually resolved by listening to his lecture, apologies to one another, and a promise not to repeat the same mistake again.

When we weren't beating our heads together, my grandpa was my best friend.  I wanted to be exactly like my grandpa for as long as I can remember. I would wear overalls complete with a hammer sticking through the loop on my right pant leg when we did chores around the house the way he did. I couldn't be a boy scout but I loved camping, hiking, fishing, and bar-b-q'ing and did everything in my power to prove my worth as an honorary scout. Most importantly we both enjoyed a good movie accompanied by the most candy, ice cream, and popcorn as possible. 

My grandpa loved movies. I usually spent the weekend at my grandparents and we would spend each night together watching a movie we picked up on the way to the house from the Hollywood Video Store in Sandy. If the movie didn't feature the Duke or Clint Eastwood, it was most likely a thriller that would only keep my attention as long as the candy held out. My grandpa loved movies so much in fact, he started buying 2 or 3 movies on each visit to the video store creating a small rental store collection of VHS and eventually DVD's to be displayed in the living room theater he created at the house.

"I like to feel it!" he would chuckle as he stood up to turn the volume down. Grandma would usually complain that though the neighbors were several hundred feet in any direction, they could hear it in every room of their homes if she allowed Grandpa to keep the volume at the level that he preferred. 


My teenage years were a tough time for me and Grandpa. By the time I was near graduation, we exchanged little more than pleasantries. I was often frustrated with him for trying to push me to do something more with my life. I had a lot of anger during high school from my inner struggles with my sexuality. Hiding from and lying to my family about my developing relationship with Carley made me tense, edgy, and quick to anger. It had also distanced me from my friends and I hated that. I felt alone and isolated and my relationships with both of my grandparents were distant and strained. It seemed like we disagreed on everything and argued much of the time. I spent very little time and home and even less time home while my grandparents were home or awake. 

Unfortunately when I moved out of grandparents after graduation, I did so in the heat of an argument to prove my point to my grandpa. While both of my grandparents were at work (and my grandma completely unaware of my disagreement with Grandpa), I packed up everything I owned in the back of Carley's truck and moved into a small room at my Dad's house. 

When my grandma came home later that evening and saw that my room had been emptied, she called me to see what had happened.

"Grandpa told me to leave so I'm giving him what he wants. I hope you're happy with him because eventually he will chase away everyone else in your famliy from wanted to come over and have to deal with him. I love you and I'm sorry this is how things had to be. I'm happy to keep seeing you and doing things together but I am not at a place in my life where I can have a relationship with Grandpa."

As horrible as everything I said to my grandma sounded, the last thing I said to her has haunted me since. I was 18 at the time, stubborn, independent  and foolish. The final argument that pushed me from my grandparents' home was because I had lied to my grandpa about quitting school. I was bored and felt patronized at the community college I was attending. I dropped my classes without telling anyone to avoid this exact conversation. 

During the years following high school, my relationship slowly improved with Grandpa and visits to the house were more and more frequent. Even though we were "out" to the rest of our friends and family, I had never officially announced to my grandparents that not only was I gay, but in a relationship with a girl who I'd been living with. I think people fear coming out to the older generation because they often lack acceptance of that lifestyle. I feared coming out to my grandparents because they were both very faithful to their Mormon beliefs. I had been raised Mormon, practiced it, and for a period was very engrossed with it as well. I knew that revealing this to my grandparents would confuse and betray every sense of their religious beliefs and I didn't know how to approach the situation. So I didn't. Though both of my grandparents knew and loved Carley, the nature of our relationship was never discussed. 

Grandpa's birthday, September 28, 2009 only 3 months after I turned 21, he was admitted to the hospital for some digestive abnormalities. Although he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer some 5 years prior, he had been in remission ever since. He was in good health and, at this time, there were no real health concerns that I was aware of. After a few releases and readmissions to the hospital, he was finally diagnosed, again, with a form of pancreatic cancer. We lost my grandpa less than 1 month after his 67th birthday on October 25. 

A few days before my grandpa passed away, I was able to have a few moments alone with him in his hospital bed to say goodbye. Everything was happening so quickly that I was confused and ill-prepared for this moment. I stepped into the dimly lit room and stepped toward my grandpa and he reached for my hand. I held it tight and we looked at each other in silence. I told him how I loved him and how much I would miss him. I thanked him quickly for everything he had taught me. I affirmed his request to look after grandma and make sure she has everything she needed. Within just a few short minutes, I hugged my grandpa and walked from the room. 

I hardly believed that this would be the last time I talked to my Grandpa and I couldn't find the words to tell him how I felt. I don't regret our last moments together or feel that he may have not known how I felt about him. My relationship with my grandpa was a tender, loving and special one that he undoubtedly was well aware of. But I see my grandpa in myself every day and I am so proud to say that I resemble him in so many ways. I didn't realize how much I appreciated that until I lost him. 

When we lose someone close to us, I think it is natural to wonder if you could just have one more chance to talk to your loved one, what would you say? What events would you want to update them? In honor of my grandpa's memory, which always does tend to be a little stronger on this day each year, I want to answer that question. I know exactly what I would say to him.


I miss you so much. I'm sorry we fought so much and by the way, you were right. About everything. Also, thanks for the camping gear. I now have a great running start at being the exact type of pack rat that you were. But, and you would be proud of this, I think I could last a solid 72 hours in the wilderness if it ever came down to it. 

I've got a great job now and I travel all the time, just like I've always wanted to, which is awesome. I'm no millionaire but it pays the bills and I'm very happy. On that same note, I want you to know that there is another large contributing factor to my happiness. I have finally accepted that I am in love with my best friend, Carley. I wish I could have properly introduced you two from the start and I apologize for acting like I couldn't trust you. Being open and honest with the people in my life has made me happier than I have ever been in my whole life. 

I don't want to keep you long. I know that wherever you are, you're busy working hard on something but I want to tell you that I love you. I see you in myself every day and I do my best to make decisions that I think would make you proud of me.  I try to follow the flies and honey thing when I can though it is still particularly difficult for me. I hope that as I continue to grow and build my own family that I will be able to support and lead them as powerfully as you've did. You loved me like a daughter when I needed a father the most, bought me my first car, taught me the value of working hard and playing hard,  spoiled me relentlessly. and would sacrifice anything for your family. Thank you for leading by example and always pressing me to do more and be more. I stand up for what I believe and do what I can to help anyone that I can. You are missed.

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