This article is written by AB at @happyops.
I wanted to write this article as a reflection on a personal matter rather than our typical group article. This article is just from me.
My Grandad was the last grandparent alive and he died this month. My Grandad was not an easy person to get along with. Certainly as he became older he became more difficult to get along with. Part of the transition to “cantankerous” status was his body slowly failing him even though his mind was so active. Another part of the transition was caused by the death of my Grandma a few years before, along with his friends, leaving him increasingly alone in a strange world. His body increasingly failed him making it so he was unable to participate in the modern world.
My Grandma was the one that read me bedtime stories as a child, the had kind-spoken words, and much more patience for the people around her. By comparison my Grandad was not an easy person to get along with, difficult to talk with, and often quick to anger. He placed many expectations on the people around him, finding it somewhat ridiculous that somebody would want to live their lives any differently to how he lived his life. The characteristic that bothered me the most was that he failed to recognise and appreciate what my Mom did for him. As his body increasingly failed him, my Mom did more and more to keep his quality of life high. But my Grandad only looked warmly upon my Uncle, who did very little by comparison. After my Grandad’s death my Mom still does not think that she did enough, by comparison my Uncle was hundreds of miles away at the time.
Despite his failings, my Grandad tried his best throughout his life. For example, coming from a working-class background he worked in an incredibly dangerous industry. That industry would leave him with the illnesses that would eventually eat away at his body and kill him. While working he studied for five years while working so that his career could progress into management. This meant that he could equip both his children with everything they would need in life. He was in the navy during World War 2, running dangerous patrols. He was Christian and tried to live his life according to what he thought was right, spending his time and money on the things that he thought were important. My Grandad didn’t have many vices – he didn’t drink too much and he didn’t smoke at all. But, as described above, he did have his failings.
Of course from this situation there are the Buddhist lessons into impermanence and death, leading us to the epiphany that we should live our lives with real love and meaning. That the overtime at work amount to little more than wasted precious hours. But it also reminds me that everybody is trying to do their best. Sometimes I might disagree or not understand what somebody else is doing, but everybody is trying their best. This applies to our family and friends, and particularly to our parents. Often my friends do not understand why one parent did one thing or another, and feel that their childhood had missing pieces. Upon reflecting on their parents’ actions, my friends see that their parents were only doing their best at the time. It is easy to judge others from the higher ground of hindsight. But that could have been the current thinking at the time, or with the money their parents had that was all they could afford, or in their lives that was all their parents knew.
My parents had their own failings, but they were doing their best at the time with what they had. If my parents had not cared for me 24/7 for the first 3-5 years of my life and ensured that I received vaccinations, then I would have easily died from malnutrition, exposure, diarrhea, polio, or a thousand other ways of dying. Although they got some things wrong, I am very grateful to my parents and my grandparents for everything that they got right. This has meant that I have been in a position to live my life how I have wanted.
May my Grandad and Grandma have precious human rebirths and every future happiness.
Wishing you every happiness, AB and @happyops.