Jack This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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      I never really got to know all my Kentucky relatives, my mother’s father’s family. I remember meeting them once and not liking them very much. They weren’t clean and pretty like my other relatives, they were back-country folks living in a place where braces were foreign and the closest doctor was too far to set broken bones. They lived in houses that could best be described as shacks. They didn’t have candy or fun toys, and being young, that was all that mattered.

I’m not even sure why we were there, probably to visit Jack, my infamous grandfather. He was in the military and the first six years of my mom’s life were spent on Army bases. My mom didn’t really see him much, since her mother had taken her daughters and fled when my mom was young. He was most likely too drunk to be conversational anyway.

Ever since I learned about Jack, his questionable habits and what he did under the influence of liquor, I hated him. I hated him because of what he did to my mother and aunts. I hated that everyone has to go to a class to get a driver’s license, but anyone can be a parent. I hated him because only such a despicable and terrible man could force a mother to smuggle her three daughters away with only a change of clothes and a gold necklace. I hated that even when they did run, he found them. I hated that he kidnapped his own daughters and drove them from Oregon to Kentucky, sipping a bottle of whiskey the whole way.

I never even met Jack, I stayed in the car with my dad while Mom went into his place, yet I hated him. I know it sounds judgmental, but I felt it was what he deserved. With everything he put them through, I felt like the least he deserved was hate. And I won’t lie, part of me still hates him.

But the thing is, Jack’s dead now.

Jack’s death has some shady details, but from what I understand, it was a drunken death. I remember Mom leaving for Kentucky to clear up Jack’s debts and figure out what to do with what he left behind. I didn’t really care that this man I had never met had died. All I cared was that my mommy wasn’t happy and she had to leave me for a while.

Then, not so long ago, I realized that Jack wasn’t just a drunk, he was also a father and my grandfather. My mom told me that in the early days, before the drinking got bad, he would take them on road trips. He would take his three little girls fishing, and I can only imagine him showing a four-year-old how to use a fishing pole. I think, secretly, he longed for a son, and since he never had one, he had to make due with taking his girls out. My mom said Jack wasn’t usually a patient man, but when it came to showing them how to fish, he was a father with an endless supply of patience.

I guess it took that story for me to see Jack’s human side. He will always be my grandfather and I will always be related to him, whether I like it or not. It took that story for me to see Jack as a scared young private in the Air Force, stationed in Morocco far from his back-country home. The mentality was “Hell, you might die tomorrow, go and get in your fun while you can.” Jack always seemed more like the boogie man or that shadow that chases you in your dreams - you can say you hate them, but it doesn’t harm them, and it doesn’t make them go away.

And how do you know? Maybe the boogie man really had a rough childhood and he’s not trying to scare children, he wants to play with them, but he doesn’t know how. His voice has been silenced by a thousand judgments, and he isn’t around to defend or discredit himself. Only we are - the ones who are told his story.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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