History is a strange thing. Family gatherings seem to be, for the most part, comprised of rehashed debates on the one thing family members have in common: History. These past two days have been spent at my grandfather’s funeral where I witnessed family members, with whom I share next to no history, plumb the depths of their common histories in remembrance.
I did learn some things. For instance, it was announced by the priest that my grandfather was apparently known to all my cousins as “Papa”. I, the first grandchild of the family, didn’t know we were calling him this. I believe I always addressed him as “Grandpa” if I ever addressed him at all. In fact, I didn’t know my grandfather and what I did know of him was that he told corny jokes and was slightly prone to moments of arrogant pettiness. Not that he wasn’t a generally good person, but someone I found a mere casual acquaintanceship with was more than enough of a good thing. So I have found his passing a non event. He will merely continue to not be a part of my life.
For my cousins though, the loss of our grandfather has been visibly significant. Tears flowed during the internment and during the memorial service. One cousin spoke at the service proclaiming my grandfather played a significant role in the development of his dreams and aspirations. It was strange to suddenly realize that this caricature who would pop up in my life once a year, was a real person to the rest of my family — one who’d played a role in their lives.
It was strange to reflect on this as I lowered his urn into the grave feeling no connection to him at all (this was a duty sprung upon me upon my arrival, I think mostly for my mother’s sake). It was strange to realize I didn’t feel uncomfortable about this or feel hypocritical. It was also strange to realize I did not feel bitter or that I’d really missed out on anything. I really felt nothing at all regarding the passing of the man himself.
The sorrow of my grandmother, mother, aunts, uncle, cousins and my grandfather’s friends did affect me. It’s touching to see people gathered together to form a new chapter in their collective history: the passing of a beloved friend.
But it’s not a history I play a role in. My history is set on a different stage.