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I dread the day, but I know it is coming. The day when she asks why she doesn’t know her grandpa, or if mommy has a daddy, or why grandpa doesn’t talk to mommy but he does talk to her uncle, or why grandpa doesn’t want to know her or love her. It is coming.

It would be so much easier to tell her he was dead. I wish I could say that were true. If it weren’t for the fact that he is still very much a part of my brother’s life, and the likelihood of her knowing that he does exist is high, I might have no qualms lying to her and telling her that grandpa is dead and gone. Because he is dead to me.

It will be six years in January since we spoke.

The angry phone call that started with me announcing our engagement and ended with him telling me “good luck with the rest of your life” was the last time I could feel the hate in his voice vibrating through my bones. After telling me he could never be happy for me and reminding me what a huge failure I was for marrying someone who doesn’t hunt or watch NASCAR or eat meat and has tattoos, the phone clicked and I knew that would be the last time I spoke to him.

At four months pregnant, I mulled over the idea of informing him about his future grandchild. I decided to do the responsible thing and write him a letter and tell him he is welcome to know future baby if he so chooses. Why I offered such a gracious peace offering to him is beyond me now. A month passed with no response and I assumed he just didn’t give a shit, which, he obviously did not.

When I received his three-page hate-letter, my heart stopped in my chest. All air escaped my lungs. The words I was reading were piercing, deliberate, familiar –filled with hate and such inconvenience– the way I felt my entire childhood under his rule. The words and filth and lies he wrote made me grateful to no longer know him. It made me realize that even though the choices I had made were difficult to make, and the process of breaking generational cycles felt like trying to run a marathon underwater, no one is destined for a life reflective of the one from which they came.

It really solidified the choices in life that I had made up to that point and showed me that I truly have been, and always will be, a better person than he could ever dream of becoming.

I know the day is coming, the day she asks who her grandpa is. If he isn’t dead by then, my only wish is to handle that conversation with truth, grace and compassion like a champ, in a way he never could.