I need to find a good mousetrap. Not the killing kind, the catch-and-release kind before my mouse problem gets out of hand. With mice on my mind, I think of my grandfather and an experience we had together.
I was a kid when Grandpa flipped over a hay bale and scooped up a mouse crushing it with his bare hands, laughing while he did it. I watched in horror. Over the years, I was a witness to many killings. The ones I didn’t see, he liked to describe in gory detail, and then he would chuckle. He said the killing was necessary to prevent crop damage, but his laughter betrayed him. He enjoyed it.
Because he was my grandfather and I was raised to respect my elders, I felt I had to stand and listen to his grisly stories. I stood there not wanting to listen, my stomach in knots, the tears welling up. I willed myself not to cry because he would have taken pleasure in that as well.
My grandfather was a cruel, hard-hearted man. He was a terrible husband and father. He had no friends. He was a bully, a racist, and a bigot who liked to settle his issues with a gun.
He apprehended trespassers and scared off young couples parked late at night. He once stuck the barrel of his gun in the car and told them to “get the hell out of here!” The police were always showing up to remind Grampa that he couldn’t point his gun at people.
He had a reputation. In high school, I was telling my friends about something my grandpa did. A kid I didn’t know heard the conversation and asked me if ‘that guy’ was my grandfather. He told me my grandpa was nuts.
Grandpa spent the last few years of his life in an assisted living home. He menaced other residents and punched a nurse. The home threatened expulsion if there was another incident. He was a bully right to the end.
He was the most unloveable person I have ever known and yet, I loved him and I’m not sure why. After 93 years he died with no one to mourn him. His funeral was a sombre event with little emotion. I cried, not out of grief, but out of pity. Pity for a man who used his time to make everyone around him miserable. Pity for a man who, after a long life, had nothing to show for it. He squandered the opportunity to live a rich, vibrant life filled with love and generosity and instead chose to be miserly, uncharitable, and unloving.
I use my grandfather’s life as an example of how not to live. A life filled with love for family, friends, and creatures of all kinds is the best kind of love. Love is like a boomerang, you send it out and it returns to you.
I can’t undo the cruelty my grandfather inflicted on the world around him, but I can make my world a kinder, gentler place. Even if all I do is save a mouse life or two.