Growing up I always looked forward to those times when Grandpop would visit. He always watched the Muppets with me and enjoyed playing with my pet parakeets. He often told me about the parakeet he once had – Pretty Boy – and how he was so well trained that he was allowed to roam freely around the house. His life was a mystery. I knew he was an amazing piano player, but I didn’t know why nobody in the family took up lessons from him. He and my grandma married and had five kids together, but I didn’t know why he lived on one end of town and he on another, and both had significant others.
Of course, kids can’t ask these kinds of things without being brushed off or being told to stop being grown. So I just relied on my instincts to piece things together. Grandma never cracked a smile when he was around. My mom treated him as politely as she would any guest. My aunts and uncle smirked whenever he told one of his stories. And then my older cousin – who often played the role of Evil Older Brother in my life – told me that no one liked Grandpop and that half of the stories he told were lies. I told him to shut up, which was pretty much all I had to say to him in those days.
Years went by and I saw Grandpop less and less. When I did see him, he was the same happy man, just smaller and older. It was easier to distinguish his tall tales from the truth. The whisperings among my mom’s siblings got louder. I concluded that Grandpop had a way with the ladies. He left a trail of broken hearts, and in some cases, he also left babies.
So, I wasn’t surprised when my aunt got a phone call alerting her to an adult brother who lives down south. She confronted Grandpop, who admitted this guy was his son. Then auntie noticed a picture of a young woman with our trademark nose. Grandpop reluctantly admitted that was her sister. She stormed off. Another cousin visited Grandpop and he was in full confession mode, with his version of the truth. From that, we learned that there is another daughter in the Midwest.
And now the plot thickens. There are three camps. Camp A is through with Grandpa and his rollin’ stone ways. Camp B doesn’t see how this is different from anything else he’s done and learning about these other siblings doesn’t take them by surprise. And then there’s me and the next generation who are in Camp C. We’d like to know how many other children there are, their ages (new uncle is only four years older than me) and their current location. I’m tempted to go over to Grandpop’s with a map and have him tell me all the places he visited. I will dispatch all of my cousins to each location and have them be on the lookout for anyone who could be family. I’m trying to prevent incest before it happens. That is not a good look for the 21st century.