"You can't take a picture of this. It's already gone."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Call Off Your Ghost

That sounds so pretentious. I like to pretend like I know anything at all about the nature of evil but the only thing I can even begin to understand are the stories I hear.

Growing up, I knew I had a grandfather that I'd never met who was described as evil. I didn't know what that meant but he died before I could ever know him so the only way I ever knew him was the way everyone told me he was, and I was told with no uncertain terms, that he was evil. As I grew older, I've come to maybe thing he was a sadist. From the stories I've been told, he seemed to like hurting people, I don't know if he found pleasure in other's pain, or if he was just acting out in the way he'd been taught that love looked like. I never met him. I only knew the stories.

This year, I spoke to a relative though who had other things to say about my grandfather, the one I'd never met. After years and decades of hearing horrible stories about a person, it can be hard to be quiet and listen to other perspectives, especially if they don't fit the narrative that you have been piecing together for your whole life. A thing that I've heavily toyed with all year is the idea that no one is totally a monster. There are so rarely people in life that occupy one role with 100 percent of them. They may occupy this role to you, but you can't see all the perspectives, so you are still only really seeing the side of the story you can see. This should go without saying, but this doesn't make the viewers bad, only limited.

In any case, this relative told me about his dad (who was my grandfather) and even though I wanted to argue, I listened. I tried to widen my perspective. He told me about how his dad rescued him at the last second when they went out fishing together and how he spent time with his dad learning to fish and how his dad valued and treasured him and loved him. He talked about how much he missed his dad and how hurt he was when he died. His dad was funny and snarky and always quick enough to save him. At the time, I thought I was doing him a kindness by listening, but now I think he was doing me a kindness by telling.

I often am guilty of only seeing one or two things about a person. Of course, I can only know what I'm told, but I should be more active in seeking the information. I have no doubt that my grandfather's monstrous behavior was the truth, but now I know other parts too. I know that he was smart and vast and vicious. He was many things.

I'll never know my grandfather or what he could have meant to me. I never got to see any slice of him that wasn't a story being told to a little girl.  I'm not sure if this is a blessing or not.

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