Respect and Relatives

It was an uncomfortably warm September Saturday and my neighborhood reveled in the heat, holding on to the memory of summer. The neighborhood porch sale was that day, and people had tables, chairs, and buckets of icy lemonade, and were selling whatever had been sitting around their house for too long. We knew well enough that we would see most of these stuffed animals and unworn pieces of jewelry being sold again next year, just by different people. Still, the Hamilton Street porch sale was a Powelton Village tradition. We had to take part.
My friend Avery dragged me up and down the 3500 block, searching for cheap jewelry I knew neither of us would ever wear. We stopped, chatting with our neighbor Josh Bruck over a table of my old clothes that my cousins were finally selling.

“Did you know that there’s a guy with a Trump table set up at the end of this block?”, He laughed.

“Yeah, I saw it this morning across the street from my house!” Avery laughed in agreement.

“No! What?”, I exclaimed in disbelief, slightly nauseous as I tried to find reason in his statement.

The notion that there was a table supporting Donald Trump today was highly disrespectful to our family-friendly neighborhood fun. Avery and I stormed down the 3400 block and my stomach began to sink and twist into knots of shame; I knew what was going on.

My heart jumped as we neared the end of the block, navigating through swarms of people shopping.

Avery continued her chatter, clearly oblivious to my dread, “Yeah, it’s an old white guy in a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat”

That confirmed it. “Oh crap. I know who it is.” I sighed. The only old crazy white guy left on this block was my grandfather. He was sitting at his folding table, the surface hidden under piles of flyers, rolls of stickers, and what looked to be a packet with a personal tribute to Trump. He grinned up at me from under his ridiculous hat as I approached him.

“Opa, I can’t let you do this”, I said, shaking my head in disapproval.

“Oh, am I embarrassing my granddaughter?” He laughed as he spoke, making it clear that he didn’t respect my stance.

I looked to my neighbors, trying to apologize for him with my wide eyes.

“Yes”, I finally replied.

I opened my mouth to say more but I knew better than to start this today. It was only weeks ago when we had last fought about this. We were having ‘tea time’ with my 86 year old great-great-aunt Elizabeth. I’d begun to realize my grandfather was turning her against my family politically. Knowing that Elizabeth respected what I said, I tried to reason with him, using her respect for my opinions as leverage. I had barely badmouthed his beloved candidate before he stormed off. His face went surprisingly red, or maybe that was just contrasting from his white hair, and left without a word. He didn’t speak to me for a long while after that.

This is when my mother brought up the idea of ‘respectfully disagreeing’ with him. My ideas on how to deal with him were slightly different, like my plan to lock him in his house on election day. I assume she meant just not bringing it up ever again with him. I still felt like I needed to help him understand, and that I had a right to argue with him. But my mother’s word is law, so I held my tongue that day. I resisted mentioning that most of his children and grandchildren relied on the program he so hated, ObamaCare. I resisted telling him that Trump was supported by white supremacists, and that his Chilean immigrant wife and black grandchildren would suffer in a Trump presidency. I really wanted to tell him so many things, hoping they would change his mind.

My grandfather spoke, “Please, just take this packet. I wrote it myself.”

The conversation we were having with our eyes had shifted. My stony stare had broken his gleeful gaze and he was now looking at me with pleading eyes. Sighing, I took his packet and quickly crumpled it in my bag, hoping that nobody had seen me take it. I left, smiling a smile that more resembled a grimace. I returned to Avery’s porch, where her mother and my father were basking in the shade. My dad asked for the packet after I read it, too embarrassed to cross the street.

“This is bullshit. I’m sorry, but it really is.”, My dad dropped the packet in disgust.

My dad’s retort changed something for me. I agreed with him and realized that if my grandpa’s actions disrespected my morals, then I could disrespect his actions. I decided to stop legitimizing my mother’s excuses about his old age and his over the top catholicism causing his bad choices; if my grandfather still has control over me, he has control over his actions. If he wants to throw away my last shreds of respect for him, he can, but next time he brings up Donald Trump, I’ll say what I mean.

Comments (1)

Kaitlyn Petroski-Rimmer (Student 2019)
Kaitlyn Petroski-Rimmer

I enjoyed reading your essay. I liked reading about how you decided that you would stand up to you grandfather in the future. The backstory to the last time you fought about political stances helped understand that this was an ongoing situation. I like that your writing flows, it very easy to read while still keeping my interest.