The Best Man I Ever Knew

Grandfather, 50, fabulous & finally free

My grandfather was a tiny man, not even 5 feet tall, but in my mind he is a giant. Always kind to strangers, animals and small children. He often made me think of Santa Claus with his wispy gray hair and round belly, generally with a smile on his ruddy cheeked face, he was my hero. My grandmother used to call us “two peas in a pod” because throughout my childhood, we were the best of friends. His nickname for me, “Buddy” came from the fact that we used to describe ourselves as Best Buddies. Whether it was hiking, fishing or just exploring the outdoors, the summers of my youth were never long enough. As much as I loved school, it always came too soon. When I graduated and no longer had summer as a vacation, I never stopped spending every spare vacation day visiting my best buddy, still hiking and exploring albeit a little less as he aged.

Being as close as we were, when my relationship became “serious” my buddy was the first person I wanted to tell. I had spent several months telling my grandfather about this amazing guy and how nicely he treated me and how crazy I was about him. When my boyfriend finally found the time to make the trip to meet my family (red flag that I didn’t notice at all – it took him over 4 months to agree to meet them!) I was in love and wanted my family to love him too. My partner said all of the right things and complimented me in every way. My buddy begrudgingly gave his approval. My boyfriend had been arrogant about how “parents always love me” and took for granted that he would receive my grandfather’s approval, therefore it wasn’t something he valued very much. During my weekly calls with my grandpa, he would usually make an excuse not to talk or simply leave to run errands rather than be “bored” by my grandpa’s conversations. The one exception was whenever there had been a birthday or holiday, as the years went on, he would always take credit for gifts that I had given to my grandfather, either in person or on the phone. “How did you like that saw I sent you?” he would ask as he answered the phone and then quickly passed it to me after having his ego sufficiently stroked by my grandfather’s gratitude. I remember thinking it was petty of me to feel slighted, after all, we were a team and any gifts were from both of us. It wasn’t until later that I started to see the darker side of my husband and realized that it would shock and upset my grandfather if he learned the truth. His favorite “son” whom he saw as a worthy man for his only granddaughter, was perfect in his eyes.

Towards the end of his life, my buddy fell victim to alzheimers and dementia which made it unlikely that if I told him about my situation, he would even understand or be able to help. His last two years were spent with months of darkness in his mind, interspersed with days of sunny clarity. It is no coincidence that it was during this same period that my husband’s verbal and physical abuse reached new heights. I still talked to my grandfather every week, like always, but I wasn’t going to destroy one of those rare days of clarity by telling him I was scared and being hurt. I vividly remember the last phone conversation I had with him telling me to make sure and thank my husband for our early Christmas gift, the gift I had spent months picking out and saving for. It was the last time I spoke to my grandfather.

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