Guilt. It is a powerful emotion isn't it? At least in most people. I am often amazed by the lack of guilt some people seem to feel. You know the ones...people sitting stoically in a courtroom as a verdict is read that proclaims them guilty of murder, child abuse, or some other heinous act. And yet, there they sit, seemingly without any remorse. It boggles the mind.
I myself have the opposite problem. I can bring up memories over 45 years old and feel the guilt as if it was only yesterday. That is a lifetime of guilt, and it is a heavy burden to bear. A lot of time and therapy went into vanquishing some of this guilt. Some I have simply learned to keep at bay...most of the time.
My first experience with guilt occurred at the tender age of 3 years old. Yes, I have memories of my life at this early age. Remember, memories are kept because they hold significance for us. The significance of these early memories are for the most part because they focus on my grandfather, Frank. Frank was actually my step-grandfather, but I do not believe I even knew that at the time. To me he was simply Grandpa Frank, a wonderfully kind man who loved and doted on me and gave me Dentyne gum when I came to visit. And the visits were often. See, Grandma & Grandpa Frank lived in a trailer next door to us, so I saw them at least once a day, and usually much more often.
My memories of Grandpa Frank are memories I have clung tightly to over the years. His smiling face, things he gave me, the time he took his teeth out for me! He was the perfect Grandpa. Unfortunately I only had 3 years with Grandpa Frank. During that time my Grandma was a shadowy background figure in my memories. Grandpa Frank took center stage. Grandpa Frank's death would change all of that.
It was fall, and my mother told me that Grandma wanted to talk to me. Grandma took me outside to the front yard. She asked if I had noticed that Grandpa Frank had been gone for a few days. She then proceeded to tell me that Grandpa Frank was never coming back. He had died. The remainder of the conversation was to be seared into my 3 year old brain for the rest of my life. Me, "Why did Grandpa have to die?" Grandma, "I don't know, probably because you were so mean to him."