I’m from the southeast United States. I grew up in a rural area in Georgia. My hometown can be caricaturized as consisting of camouflage, biscuits, and churches.
I was raised by my loving Mom and grandparents (Nanny and Papa). My mom is a single mother, and I am an only child.
My family is poor, but cost of living is low enough in our area that it was okay.
I didn’t have a father-figure other than my grandfather. When I was 12 or 13, my grandfather began to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Over the last 8 years or so, it’s continued to worsen. He was a great influence on my throughout my childhood. He was a construction worker when he worked, and had a wood-shop. He’d make me wooden boat toys to play with and wooden swords. He would play Legos with me and Yu-Gi-Oh. I eventually got very into video games and played on my Gameboy a lot. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t played Gameboy at that age, because he still wanted to hang out with me. I was a kid, though, and I didn’t realize that most of the quality time I would get to spend with him was over.
He was a good Christian man. He raised six kids. He was a happy man, very calm.
Pop was also a preacher. I never saw him preach, but my mom told me that all the other preachers would preach that you would go to hell if you didn’t obey God, but Pop would preach that God loved us all. I distinctly remember my grandfather kneeling beside his bed to pray every night before he went to bed. He didn’t push Christianity onto others. He just loved you.
He chewed tobacco for most of the time I knew him, especially as his disease progressed. I think it helped keep him awake to have a repetitive activity of chewing. He would eat, then forget that he had eaten, then eat again. I’m sobbing frantically as I write this, really ugly crying. Every word about his illness just makes my nose run more and my face scrunch up with more pain. I never realized this was such a well of emotion for me.
I remember when I graduated from high school, he wrote me a letter telling me he was proud of me. I cried at the time because his spelling was so poor. He had dropped out of 8th grade to work. His dad was an alcoholic, and would beat him.
Pop grew up poor, and wouldn’t have enough to eat sometimes. When he had cereal, he was really happy. His family would eat corn puffs out of the cereal bag, and put the milk into the bag because they didn’t have bowls. I don’t know anything about his mother. Once, his dad bought him a toy, then a week later blew through all his money drinking, then took the toy from him and sold it.
Pop would always drive really fast when he was young. He had the fastest car in town and had a rule that anyone else that drove his car couldn’t let any car pass theirs. One time my Nanny was driving his car, she was a stunning redhead. She road-raced across a bridge side by side and won. She could have died, but it was okay.
I would sit on Pop’s desk and talk to him when I was really little. Life was so easy. My family loved me so much. My home life was so calm. My grandmother and mom didn’t like each other much, but overall, everything was always okay. We had 8 acres of land that my grandfather had bought when he married Nanny. He built the house I lived in with his own hands.
Pop loved God his whole life. No matter what happened, he loved God. He was a strong man for his family. He took care of everyone.
Even after his disease progressed to the point that he would just repeat questions over and over and listen to you as you answered them then ask again, he would tell me over and over that if I ever needed anything he would be there for me and do anything for me. He would always ask me to come home after I went to college, and ask why I didn’t spend more time with him. He’d always tell me the few weeks I spent per year with him wasn’t enough.
I was such an asshole after middle school.
I became an atheist in middle school, and my whole life dissolved into sin from there.
I stopped loving God, became disconnected from my family, stopped treating them as well, started trying to make more money, dove into computer programming, started trying to be sexual with girls my age, and got into hedonism. My life became empty, sad, and isolated for 5 years until I got into spirituality and Buddhism at 18.
I’m going to live through my Pop dying, Nanny dying, and my mom dying. The world is cyclical, and very difficult. It’s my day to take on the mantle of humanity now.
All of my experiences are both temporary and eternal. Temporary in the material world, and eternal as they are a part of God, the Creator.
I love God and my family. I’m going to die one day too, and that’s okay.
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