No, not the party game. I’ve been thinking this week about consequences of choices we make. I’m still trying to figure out a coherent way of expressing these thoughts, but hey, I’m a story teller, so I figure I’ll use borrow some tools from fiction-writing. First, the inciting incident:
My Grandad died last week.
Context: He was 89, but his death came as a surprise to all of us and I wasn’t any more prepared to hear this news as I was when my colleague died last year.
I never got to know him as much as I would have liked to, and I rarely visited him. There’s reasons, and if I say it’s mostly linked to self-confidence you can probably guess them. The other reasons are to do with that side of the family being a little bit competitive, and really my achievements as an adult can be summed up as: graduated (2001), got married (2003), bought a house (2008), being a published author (1st short story in anthology 2012, solo work 2016).
But I never told him about my writing. Never told him about the thing of which I am most proud, and which brings me so much joy & fulfilment. And so, it’s not just that I never really felt I knew him that well: there’s no way he could have known me, who I am as an adult.
I guess you might be wondering at this point: Why?
Back when I was a teenager, I studied A Level Music, and there were some seriously talented students in that class (erm… not me, in case you’re wondering). So onetime my grandparents were over at ours for afternoon tea, and conversation stumbles onto the topic of talented people, and people who achieve a lot at a young age so I mention there’s a lad in my music class called Kotaro who’s a really talented pianist and composer, and I’d love to have as much talent as he has, and can you believe it: he’s writing a sonata for his composition coursework!
“I don’t want any Japanese grandchildren,” said my Grandma.
Initially, what stopped me in my tracks was her assumption that I was enthusing about this lad’s talent because I fancied him. I didn’t, and it still baffles me why people draw this conclusion. But then, of course, there’s the even bigger issue of racism.
I’ve never since assumed that other family members view people as individuals like I do.
I didn’t address it. Didn’t question her as to why she would judge someone like that. I’ve never brought it up with any of my family. Grandma died in 2002, but there’s always a bitter edge to my laughter at all those “Grandma’s a racist!?” jokes one sees & hears flitting around the internet.
Back to now…
I never told Grandad about my writing because it hurt so much to stumble across my Grandma’s prejudice. I didn’t want to learn that my Grandad held any prejudice against LGBTQ people.
I’m not saying he did. Perhaps if I’d mentioned it, he might have told me stories about gay men he knew when he served in the army during & after WW2? Or other people he met during his life?
Either way, it was actually the not knowing which stopped me. The fact I would have to prepare myself for either reaction. The fear that me telling him about my greatest achievement to date would result in a less-than-positive discovery for both of us that the other was not the person we’d supposed them to be.
I wasn’t as close to my Grandad as I would have liked to have been, but that was a consequence of choices made by both of us throughout our lives.