My Grandpa is in his 80's. He's the only male parental figure I've ever known and he taught me to ride a bike and fly a kite and build stuff and he took me for walks down the old train tracks where the wildflowers grew. I'm trying hard to remember all that right now.
He's also the one who slapped me across the face once when I was four or five, right in front of all my little friends as we played in the back yard. He yelled that I'd left the garage door unlocked. I wasn't tall enough to reach the latch on that door.
I once read a book by Diana Gabaldon in which an old man is described as "a mule" Not precisely mean, and not precisely stupid, but incredibly stubborn and once he gets an idea in his head it's impossible to shift him off of it without a stout stick between the eyes. She put it better than that of course, but I'm too pissed off to look up the actual quote right now. Anyway, that's my Grandpa.
He's gotten old and belligerent. He can't handle a single element of change. Nothing is ever to be out of it's place and no one is to do anything without his will and consent.
I have kids. Kids equal change and noise and mess and they have a tendency to do unpredictable things at random moments.
Ever since we got here Skylar has been fascinated by the old camping trailer in the backyard. We never took it camping. It has been in the same place since we moved in 20 years ago. When we were little it was the perfect playhouse, complete with child sized appliances, dishes, bunk beds etc. We were in there all the time. Stupidly, I told Skylar as much. She's been desperate to get in there since we arrived last fall. Now the snowbanks are gone and I gave in to the pleading and let her in this morning. She had just met the neighbour boys and wanted something really cool to show them. She nearly burst with excitement as I shoved some plywood out of the way and wrenched open the swollen and distended door. The trailer has been rotting for two decades and it would surely fall to pieces if anyone tried to pull it anywhere now. It's dirty and mouldy and full of old junk we couldn't think of anyplace else to store. Mice have eaten through a seat cushion and the window in the door is broken, but it's still a pretty kick ass place to be if you're 5.
I watched as Skylar and her friends played happily for 15 minutes or so, then I took Eden inside to put her down for her nap. As I got back downstairs I could hear Grandpa bellowing at Skylar.
"YOU GET OUT OF THERE! GET OUT OF THERE, NOW!"
The little boys ran off so fast it's lucky there were no cars coming as they flew home across the street. Skylar looked stupefied and could only ask "Why?"
"BECAUSE IT'S MINE! I DON'T WANT YOU IN THERE MAKING A MESS, PULLING RUBBISH OUT ALL OVER THE YARD. KEEP OUT OF IT!"
Pretty much the same words he said to me when I was her age, right before clouting me across the head. I was outside and between them faster than I would have thought possible.
"It's just old toys in there..." I began.
"IT'S MINE, AND YOU KEEP THOSE KIDS OUT!"
It's not his, neither is the stuff inside. The kids hadn't gone in unsupervised and they weren't making a mess or bringing anything out. The whole point of the trailer when I was small was as a place to play. But there's no point telling him any of that. He just yells and thunders and turns red. He goes back to the same old arguments about how he owns this house and pays the bills (both of which are NOT true) So we can never argue with him. All we do is try to placate him, no matter how unreasonable he's being. We're always afraid he'll give himself a heart attack or a stroke, or punch someone. He's old, but he's fit and strong. Usually it bugs me, but I behave myself. I can take him yelling at Adam for some ridiculous perceived error in the sorting of the recycling, or yelling at me for somehow clogging up his toilet by supposedly flushing diapers down my toilet (um, what? Even if I did use disposable diapers, which I don't, I wouldn't flush them down a toilet, wtf?) But it took every scrap of my self control to keep my temper after that old grump made my little girl cry.
I'm not good at repressing. It makes my head ache. That's why I'm here writing this utterly boring story. So please excuse me while I vent some things that I honestly don't mean and would never actually say:
Shut the fuck up old man! You don't own this place and we do pay rent. We're the ones who just finished raking all the leaves and fixing the eaves troughs so don't give me this shit about how we're making the place look like crap because there are a few kids toys around. How dare you make my little girl cry for no damn reason at all? Do you know what she said to me when I found her sobbing on the front steps after she ran away from you? "I miss Grammy, I wish she was here. She would know how to make Grandpa be nice." It's true. My Grandma would do anything in the world for a child and she kept you from being a total bastard all the time. Keep up the crazy talk so we can put you in a home and have some peace around here!*
*I don't mean that, well not all of it anyway. I still love him, after all, he's the one who taught me to ride a bike, and fly a kite, and build stuff, and he took me for walks down the old train tracks where the wildflowers grew.