He was my favorite person. During my younger years, I could barely contain my excitement when my parents said we were visiting my grandparents’ house. During the twenty minute drive, I would tremble in excitement and anticipation. When we got there, I’d take my grandfather by the hand and we’d run down the hallway to his den. There we created our own little world: sitting on the couch for hours making up stories with all the Disney stuffed animals he’d buy for me, watching movies I’d select from the shelves that reached the ceiling in this room, and talking about who I would be when I grew up. He always told me he believed in me.
I’d spend long summer days while my parents and grandmother were out at work. He used to create treasure hunts. My younger sisters and I would run through the house, looking for scraps of paper that would give us clues to the final hiding spot. There we would find Barbie dolls, candy, and other trinkets. When the treasure hunt was complete he’d pick each one of us up, kiss us on the forehead, and tell us how smart we were. Sometimes I’d feel a pang of jealousy as he congratulated my two little sisters. When we were back in the den, just the two of us, he would whisper in my ear, “You will always be my favorite.” I’d giggle and tell him that I knew that. “But one day you will have a boyfriend, and you’ll forget all about your old Grandpie,” he would then say. And I told him I wouldn’t, not ever.
Things changed as I got older. By the time I was eleven, I started to resent him. Almost every time I saw him we would fight. I would scream at him and he’d shout back. He’d tell me I was being selfish, that whatever I was saying was wrong. I don’t remember what we used to fight about. One lunch I was so angry I stormed out of the Wendy’s we were eating at. My grandfather and I had made a scene, screaming at each other from across the booth. My grandmother followed me out and I stood in the parking lot, sobbing so hard I couldn’t breathe. I refused to go back in.
I didn’t understand why these arguments kept happening. When I asked my mother or grandmother, they would tell me that my Grandfather and I had the exact same personality. We are both stubborn and have quick tempers. I take after him. I was a preteen by then, so most of the fights we had were soon blamed on my raging hormones. I’d walk by his den to see my youngest sister sitting on his lap. He would whisper in her ear. I knew what he was saying and I hated him for it.
As I entered high school, my relationship with my grandfather wasn’t as difficult. We got along more and he was always bragging about my high GPA and my constant list of accomplishments. He told everyone he knew about how I got into the first college of my choice, about how I was graduating at the top of my class. He attended every choir and orchestra recital and read every single issue of the high school newspaper, which I had become Editor-in-Chief of. I was going to write the next big novel, he told everyone. He was proud of me, and I felt so happy when I heard his words of admiration. Sometimes we still fought, sometimes we screamed at each other. But that was because we were alike. I take after him.
I was successful as a journalism major in college. I worked for the college newspaper and had a side job at one of the coffee shops on campus. My grandfather was supportive. My grandparents drove the two hours to visit every once in a while. I was always excited to see him.
I was a junior when I received the call from my mom. She told me that my sister was having nightmares and that they were about my grandfather. He had molested her, and she was reliving it. Right when she told me, I knew.
My grandfather was a drunk. He molested me, both my younger sisters, my father, my aunt and my uncle. None of us realized it until that moment. The human mind does amazing things, blocking out the most damaging of memories. I didn’t speak to him after that phone call. My grandmother moved in with us and he moved away. I don’t know where he is.
During the rest of my junior and senior years, my sisters saw a therapist every week. I’d drive home from college to hold the pieces together, to be the older sister. I didn’t discuss my emotions, my memories with anyone. I wasn’t ready and being the shoulder to cry on seemed easier. During the rest of my junior year and parts of my senior year I would get dangerously drunk. I’d wake up not remembering what I did the night before. My friends would joke with me, because I was the drunk one in the group. I was the friend with the drunk flings and stupid mistakes. And I didn’t really care. I stopped writing, which used to be as easy to me as breathing.
I graduated in spring of 2008 and was accepted into one of the most prestigious organizations for adults in their 20s. I moved out of the state, have a salary and my own apartment. Sometimes I wish I knew his phone number so I could call him. I’m proud of myself and I know he would be too. My boyfriend of the past year and a half has never met one of the most important people in my life, the person who used to be most important to me. I know I shouldn’t feel this way but it hurts. It hurts to know that he has no idea of what I’m up to, that this person who used to be at every school recital won’t be at my future wedding. My college graduation felt like it was missing something without him there. I’m embarrassed to tell anyone that.
About once a month I have nightmares. Nightmares about what happened in that den, during stories told by stuffed animals and movie nights in that darkened room. I don’t remember much but I know he did it, and that terrifies me. Sometimes I stop and think about wherever he is and I start crying. What I know is this man, this person who was supposed to take care of me, who was supposed to be a role model, is the reason why I keep going. He’s the reason why I’m successful. It’s hard to explain, but thinking about this horrible piece of my life pushes me to be a better person. Because as I am like him, I am different than him. I am better than him.
This is the first bit of writing I have completed for myself since that phone call almost three years ago. I feel shaky and unsure of myself. But it is a story I need to tell to move on, and because I believe I have to be greater than this.