I was going to save this post for a while because I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to say about it. But today would have been my step-grandpa’s birthday so I thought it was appropriate. See…my dad’s mom, and step dad (Charles) lived in Texas while I was growing up. We used to go visit them for a week, and Charles always seemed to understand me and the situation regarding my father better than anyone else on that side of the family.
Charles was one of the sweetest people I ever met. He was patient, and seemingly quiet. He never really got in the middle of arguments, and would keep to himself. But there are a few distinct memories I have where he would get me out of bad situations when no one else seemed to really care or notice that something was wrong.
As always, my father used to go off on me randomly. It didn’t matter where we were, who was around, or what was going on. He would just lose it and go on a rampage of either yelling at me, or threatening me quietly under his breath. I was constantly walking on eggshells, and I never knew what exactly was going to send him off the deep end.
When we were in Texas things were normally calm. I would spend my days by the pool with my grandma diving for coins, or in the courtyard searching for lizards, frogs, or hummingbirds. At night we would sit around and watch Shirley Temple movies or play cards. But every once in a while my father would get on some tangent. It didn’t happen as often when we were visiting there, I assume because he wanted to hide his real personality from his mom. But occasionally, something would happen and he would snap as usual.
There’s one day in particular where I don’t remember what triggered his freak out…but my dad was screaming at me in the laundry room of their house. Charles had been in their room, and my grandma had gone out to the backyard to sit by the pool or something. She had no idea anything was going on…and my father loved to wait until there was no one around to witness anything. To this day I haven’t a clue what he was yelling about…but he was pissed. He was red in the face, yelling, and I was just trying to stay out of arm’s reach of him. He shoved me twice, once into a wall, and once into the door. I was sobbing and just trying to calm him down, but the more upset I got, the angrier he got at me. I finally shut down…as I’d learned to do…and calmed myself to get him to calm as well. He finished his tangent, stormed out of the room, and then out of the house. I heard the outside door shut and I lost it all over again. I was curled up in a ball on the floor sobbing, when I heard the door open again. I jumped and expected to see him there, even more worked up…when I saw Charles walking in the room. He walked in with a Klondike bar…which anyone who knew the man…knew he always kept a stash of those things in the garage. I don’t remember him saying anything to me, he just walked over, smiled, handed it to me, and gave me a hug. Now…keep in mind…the idea of chocolate and ice cream would have been a deathly sin to my father short of some super special occasion…but I sat there and calmed down with Charles in the room.
Another time I remember being sick with the flu or food poisoning, and I didn’t want to eat anything. My dad kept trying to get me to eat things, and all I could stand the thought of was soup. But of course that wasn’t an option…wasn’t “healthy enough” for me being sick. I remember multiple things he made me eat that I ended up throwing up shortly after. He would yell at me, and tell me to go back to bed. I finally settled into bed, kind of hungry but afraid to eat anything else and get sick again…when my dad left with his mom. I don’t remember where they went or why…but I do remember that not even ten minutes after they left…Charles appeared in my room with soup. He never said a word about the situation, but sat with me as I ate, went back to the kitchen, washed the bowl, and put it back in the cupboard. I fell asleep not long after…and that’s the last I remember. I was so thankful for how quiet he was about it. I didn’t want to talk, and I knew that I could trust him to keep me out of more trouble with my dad.
It’s strange to me. I rarely remember Charles talking about anything. He had had a few strokes when I was young, so he had a hard time speaking clearly. He used to answer the phone when I called down to Texas…and very quickly would respond with “let me get your grandmother.” My conversations would always be with her…and very rarely do I remember having any real conversation with Charles. But I didn’t need to. I have this extremely soft spot in my heart for that man…and all that he did for me. He made me feel safe and that someone understood that I was in a hard situation. He may not have said much…but he protected me. Not necessarily in a physical sense…but just in the sense that he gave me a sense of peace when I was visiting. He made me feel smart, and appreciated no matter the situation. Even when my father was being a raving lunatic…I had a friend there. Whether it was for a quick smile across the dinner table when no one was looking…a hug after being yelled at…or a secret Klondike bar…he was there.
So while this post was originally going to be about my father’s way of secretly hiding the fights and the threats…it’s about something more important. Watch me get all philosophical here. It doesn’t take much to help someone going through a hard time, and I wish people understood that idea. You don’t have to be able to fix someone’s situation, in most cases there probably isn’t much you can do whether you want to or not. A lot of times, nothing you say will help. But being there…being a stable person in their environment can make a big difference. Everyone needs a Charles in their life.
Happy Birthday grandpa <3