Two days ago my grandpa died and for the first time in over a decade I entered his study.
It was old age the doctors said. He was seventy-two years old when his heart simply stopped working. Grandpa was a really nice man. As long as I can think back I lived with him and my mom. I never got to know my real father. All I know about him is that he was a good for nothing drunk who had left as soon as he found out my mom was pregnant.
Things weren’t that different for me though. My grandpa did his best to fill the void my father had left. I really loved the old man. He was amazing and told me many stories about his life. He had been a sailor for a year, worked as a cowboy and did many other, similar things.
He was the smartest man alive to me when I was a kid. Whatever question I asked him, he was able to answer it.
Even when I got older and went to school and later college I was still really close to the old man. He’d often tell me about my grandma. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his whole life. He never told me what happened to her though and I just kept quiet about it. When I asked my mom about it, she told me that grandma had died a long time ago, due to a fatal illness.
There was one thing I found a little strange about grandpa. It was his study. I was not allowed to enter it. Not at any time. There were no exceptions. It was simply off limits. As a kid I had snuck into it once to find out what he was keeping in there. I was expecting grandpa to hide secret treasures or old artifacts, things he had found in his youth. When he entered and saw me in there, he freaked out, got really mad and gave me the beating of a lifetime. I wasn’t able to go to school for a whole week. I remember my mother and him getting into a huge fight because of it. As soon as I got better I apologized to grandpa and told him I’d never do it again. I kept my word until yesterday.
I had found grandpa’s body in the hallway where he must have collapsed in the middle of the night. We called the doctor right away and soon after the mortician. My mother told me she’d take care of things and later went out with the mortician to discuss the details of the funeral. She only came back for a short time and told me she had to take care of a few more things and had get into contact with relatives because of the funeral.
I was all alone in the house. It felt pretty weird to be honest. Before there were always the three of us here. Now it was only me, even if only for a day or two. As I walked through the living room and saw grandpa’s books and his reading chair I remembered the study. I thought about the promise I had given him, but I guess he wouldn’t be too mad at me now. I had been curious about it all my life and why I wasn’t allowed to enter.
Now that I was older I wondered about it even more. Had it something to do with his past? Or maybe with his wife, my grandma? He had always talked about her in the highest regards. It could be that he had dedicated the room to her and it was filled with mementos of their life together.
When I opened the door I felt as if I was doing something forbidden. I hesitated for a short moment and murmured an apology to grandpa, then I stepped inside.
I saw nothing unusual. There were more books in here, which didn’t surprise me. He had liked to read. There were old notes and maps stacked away, that might have been from the times of his youth when he worked in various fields. These things couldn’t be the reason.
As I opened one of the cabinets in the room I found a number of photo albums. The first one had the name Emily on it. For a moment I wondered who Emily was, before I remembered that it was my grandma’s name. It was a topic that simply never came up and looking back I hadn’t heard the name more than a couple of times.
I opened the album and for the first time I saw what my grandma really looked like. She had been beautiful and I saw where my mom had gotten her good looks from. There were pictures of her and my grandpa together and I could see how happy and in love they were. There were only three albums dedicated to her though and the last one was quite depressing. From page to page my grandma transformed from a beautiful, young woman to a sickly, thin shadow of her former self. I don’t know what sort of illness it was, but it must have progressed quickly.
I closed the albums and carefully placed them on his desk before I went back to the cabinet. There were many other albums in there and they all had the name Rebecca on it, my mother’s name. Many of them showed her as a child. I had heard that grandma died when my mom was only four years old. After that grandpa had most likely devoted his life to his daughter.
There were just so many albums. At least one for every year of her life. I sat down and started to go through them page by page. Seeing my mom as a little girl made me smile. I saw her driving her first little bike and laughed as I saw how grumpy she looked on her first day of school. There were many other events, like holidays and Christmas. As I continued on I could see my mom slowly getting older and reaching puberty.
It was here that I noticed the albums getting more personal and intimate. Before it had been pictures of grandpa playing with her and pictures of her with family or friends. Now, at the age of fifteen, there were more and more pictures of her alone. I noticed that while she was smiling in most of them, there were a couple of others in which she seemed annoyed at him. I felt a little awkward looking at these pictures.
It was the next album when things started to get disturbing. Why were there so many pictures of my mom in a bikini? It was almost half the album that was filled with pictures of her wearing one. The pictures themselves weren’t normal at all either. Many showed her in strange poses: bending over, laying on her towel or running towards the water.
The rest of the album consisted of the occasional pictures of normal events. It seemed as if grandpa had been mostly interested in taking pictures during summer. I told myself that they might have been on a summer vacation together, maybe in the Caribbean or another exotic location and he just wanted to keep the memory fresh. I tried to believe it and told myself that there was nothing wrong. It was just a coincidence.
When I started the next album, all my doubts vanished instantly. After the third picture of my mom sleeping in her underwear I closed the album.
“Oh grandpa what is this?”
Then it hit me. I opened my grandma’s album again and looked at the pictures of my mother in her late teens. They looked almost identical.
“Oh god no”, I said to myself.
I had enough of the albums for now. I couldn’t bring myself to open any more of them.
It wasn’t long before I found a stack of notebooks in his desk. I opened the first one and started to read it. I knew I had found my grandpas diaries. I spent the next hours reading through them and it was in there that I found out who he really was and read about all the immoralities he had committed.
He hadn’t taken his wife’s death well and many of the early diaries went on and on about her. In time this changed though and the topic shifted from his wife to his daughter. He developed a sort of obsession with her wellbeing. As my mom became a teenager and reached puberty, fatherly love slowly replaced by an attraction and soon a desire.
I started crying, when I reached the parts in which he talked about the things he wanted to do with her and later did. All those forbidden things that no father should ever do with his daughter.
It wasn’t long before I reached the pregnancy. My mother didn’t want an abortion and grandpa was furious about it. She wanted to keep her little girl, she said. It hit me right away.
I vomited right there in the study and was shacking uncontrollably. It took me a long time to calm down.
There was a reason why I never heard so much as a name about my father who had left when my mom was pregnant. There was a reason my mom never got child support. Right here was the reason why grandpa never wanted me to enter his study.
I shouldn’t find out that he raped his daughter every night and got her pregnant. I shouldn’t find out that my father, who I hated so much for abandoning us, was not a good-for-nothing but instead my own grandpa. I shouldn’t find out that the man who I loved all my life was my mom’s rapist. In the diaries he talked about what he’d do if my mother ever tried to leave him or tell anyone about what he did.
He’d do the same things to me.
I can only imagine what sufferings my mom went through, living with this man all her life and seeing her own child playing with him every day. I can only imagine what hell my happy childhood and teenage years were for her. The fear she must have felt about what grandpa would do to me every single day.
It was today that I got a call from the police. They needed me to identify someone. I didn’t have to ask. As I stood there crying in the middle of the living room, I knew that mom had finally been able to leave this wretched life of hers behind.
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