July 12, 2009

A moral dilemma that my grandmother is going through: My grandfather died over just a year ago, and I don’t know how long after the funeral it was but she received a letter not long after his death from his nephew Marco asking about the house in Italy.  My grandfather’s father owned the house, and eventually it became the property of my grandfather, and now he has died, it’s the property of my nan. Apparently, Marco cannot take this and is desperate for the house for some reason, and he basically asked my nan in this letter to give him the house because of the family connection and because it was his grandfather’s and all this business.  Of course, my nan was upset and angry because a) it is her house! b) how dare he ask such a question, let alone at such a vulnerable moment and c) who does he think he is?

I have never met Marco in my 23 years of life.  Not while my grandfather was well and I was a child, not during my adolescence and when he was beginning to get ill, and certainly not in his last year or so of life when my grandad was bedridden and my nan was his carer, nor when he was more or less a permanent resident at the hospital moved from ward to ward.  My mother had a bad relationship with her father (“distant” is probably a good word) and she still visited him.  I would go and visit him in my lunch breaks at the Perfume Shop; when I was home for the weekend during my final year of university (when I had dissertations and finals revision), I made the time to go and visit him with my grandmother and great-aunt.  I never met this Marco once, so why is he suddenly so interested in my grandfather?  He never was when he was alive.

The premise now is this: Marco was on the phone to my nan on Friday and decided that he wanted to make a plaque down in Fanna (the village in Italy where my family is from) honouring the memory of his mother and uncles, one of whom is my grandfather.  According to what my grandmother has told me, these plaques involve a short message and a photograph in memory of the deceased.  It sounds pretty tasteful, but what I don’t understand is that it has been a year and 3 months since my grandfather passed away, and he was the last of his generation to die.  What has suddenly inspired this idea in Marco?  Anyways, all Marco reportedly wants from my grandmother is a specific photo of my grandad which was included in the pamphlet at the funeral – he wants the full-size version emailed to him, or something.  But me and my family are wondering what his true motives are.  If he was genuinely interested in honouring his family, a) he would not have taken so long to think of the idea, and b) he would not have written last year’s disrespectful letter to my nan asking her for the house in Fanna in the first place.  Moreover, my nan was my grandad’s wife; she decided to have him cremated here in Bristol, and the funeral was held here, as was the burial of his ashes.  If she had wanted to have a plaque to his memory down in Italy, she would have done it by now and she certainly doesn’t need Marco to think of the idea for her.

So here is the dilemma: what does she do?  Does she go ahead and give him the picture, even though it is not really his place to honour her husband? (He is only her nephew and he never made any effort while he was alive)  Or does she refuse to give him the photo, creating more bad blood (under a serene-looking surface, of course).  Either way, from the viewpoint of the people in her village in Fanna, she would look bad: if she refuses to give the photograph, my grandfather will be omitted from the plaque and it will be made known that that was at my grandmother’s request, making her look like she didn’t care for my grandfather that she didn’t want a plaque put in his memory when it was offered to her.  Obviously, the complete opposite was true because she basically nursed him for the past 18 years and was his full-time carer for the past 5.  But that would be conveniently forgotten.  However, if she consents and gives Marco the photograph, obviously the villagers would say that it had to take a suggestion from his nephew to make her want to commemorate my grandfather, which suggests she couldn’t be bothered to put anything in his memory.  Where it wasn’t that she couldn’t be bothered, but she has decided to commemorate him here in Bristol where they have lived for 45 years and where she can visit him 2 or 3 times a week as she wishes (which she does).  So what is she to do?  The only other option I can think of is for my nan to decline to give Marco the photograph, and decide to erect a separate plaque to my grandfather commissioned by her.  It would steal Marco’s thunder in one way, but this would look a bit late (over a year after his death) and a feeble gesture.  And of course, it would be viewed as a competition to the plaque that Marco would place in memory of his mother and his other uncle.  Plus again, if my nan wanted to put a plaque down in Fanna, she would have done it by now – so she is being pressured into it.  What do you think is the best thing to do?  In any case people are going to say what they want to say, but when it comes to family, we already know the truth about who really cared about my grandfather… it’s more a case of not wanting a manipulative relative to sully my grandmother’s reputation and my grandfather’s memory.

One comment

  1. […] façades. July 18, 2009 Driving home on the way back from my nan’s (oh, conundrum solved; we decided to choose a picture of my grandad for the funeral plaque after all), i catch […]

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