Meeting My Family With Part 2
Sorry guys, I've been really busy but here's part two of my story. Everyone calls my dad's dad Squeegee, even his kids, so I decided that I would call him that too because he was a stranger to me. I'd met him the day of my dad's funeral when I was 12 but at 19, it just seemed weird to give a stranger such an important title because I had a great relationship with my maternal grandfather.
Squeegee and his wife had planned a trip from Australia back to the States to visit family for a couple weeks and they flew into Atlanta. I picked them up from the airport and drove the rental car that my uncle reserved for them to the Savannah area, where my uncle lived. It's about a five-hour drive so I was excited that I'd have time to talk to him and get to know more about him. I hate driving but I was fine with it for that occasion because I wouldn't have wanted to ride with him driving; I imagine it's hard to adjust to driving in the U.S. if you've been driving in Australia for years. Any who, I had so many questions for him. What was his relationship with my daddy like? Did he know about me? Where were his other children? Other grandchildren? What made him want to live in Australia? How did he meet my grandma? I literally wanted to know it all. Yet, I don't think Squeegee had mentally prepared to meet me. He seemed very distant even though he answered all of my questions. It might have been the jet lag but I didn't get the warm reception from him that I got from my uncle a few months earlier. He did tell me that he loved babies and was excited to get to my uncle's house. He hadn't been to the U.S. in years so he hadn't met my uncle's children, one of which was a toddler. Imagine my reaction being two months away from turning 20. I brushed it off, giving the benefit of the doubt because I know I can be overly sensitive sometimes. Plus, we had an entire week to get to know each other so patience was key. We arrived at my uncle's pretty late so we all settled in and went to bed. Over the next week, I spent a lot of time with Squeegee, his wife and my uncle's family but Squeegee and I didn't have much conversation. I finally got up the nerve to ask him more about his relationship with my dad and he explained to me that it wasn't the best. He and my grandmother never really dated; they were teenagers fooling around and she ended up pregnant. He said he didn't know about my dad until after he'd turned five and that it was difficult to have a relationship with the 'outside children' because he moved around so much with his wife while he was in the Navy. I was so offended that he referred to my dad as an ‘outside child’ because Squeegee has six kids with four women; three with his wife and one with each of the three other women. In hindsight, this probably also offended me because I identify as a black feminist and the children he referred to as outside children were with black women but the three ‘inside children’ were biracial; it seemed to me that he had deemed them more deserving of his time or easier to spend time with. I got up to take a walk and call my grandmother, my dad's mom. I told her what he said and she told me he was lying his ass off because he was at the hospital when my dad was born and that she would take my dad for play dates with my oldest uncle when they were toddlers. We talked for a few more minutes and I hung up, confused as ever. Did he not remember? Was my dad not important to him? I was just so lost and wanted to be far away from this current situation. I got my wish a couple days later when my uncle and Squeegee drove me back to Atlanta. Even though this trip hadn't gone the way I imagined it would, I was hopeful about having a relationship with Squeegee when he returned to Australia. He wouldn't necessarily be an authority figure but it would be cool to know that side of the family and get to know my biological grandfather. It didn't happen. I never knew how much meeting him would impact me. None of my friends knew I was meeting him and my family didn't really ask about the experience so I didn't talk about it to anyone until months later. One of my male professors held an informal chat with students who just wanted to decompress during exams and talk about life. I don't remember the question or exact topic but I do remember ugly crying while explaining the situation. I couldn't understand why Squeegee seemed so disinterested in his oldest grandchild or why he never looked for me. What if I was an orphan who thought she was alone in the world while my grandfather is living life down under? I wondered why he didn't want to know who I was as a person or my ambitions; I really believed it was something about me personally or something that I did that made him not care. Until that day, I hadn't realized I had those feelings because I hadn't talked about it with anyone. The tears came like a flood and I rushed to grab tissue. When I came back, my teacher told me, "Sometimes men are really good at compartmentalizing. It's not you but your grandfather has made peace with not being around for your dad and it doesn't outwardly affect him anymore." I’d never heard the term compartmentalize and it helped me to understand Squeegee's demeanor. I forgive him but that pain is something I can't forget for so many reasons. It has been a little over seven years since we met and I've only talked to Squeegee once since then and that was because my uncle video called him so the kids could say hi and wish him a happy new year in 2017. It had been five years and he was still so aloof. Knowing your family is really important but I was shocked at the huge differences that existed between meeting my uncle and meeting my grandfather. I'm so thankful that I met my uncle first. After I met Squeegee, a friend of mine, who is adopted, mentioned to me wanting to find her birth mother. My advice to her still rings true and I'd give it to anyone seeking estranged family members. It can be great to find them; they may have been looking for you, not have known you existed or just be great people to know in general. But it's possible they have intentionally stayed away or they may not be the best people to know. It really is like opening a can of worms and you have to mentally prepare for just about anything. It's important not to go in with a romanticized view of who this person is or could be. Most importantly, do NOT shut out the people who have been there for you all along, whether it be friends or family, because you need a sounding board to talk through your feelings about the experience of meeting them.