Learning how to disagree

By Kelly Vinett

My grandfather went vegan the third time he got cancer. One of my last memories of him is picking at a tofu scramble wearing his “Make America Great Again” baseball hat. He was a life-long conservative Republican — and a devout Catholic. In the months before his death, he ate strictly whole foods and attended yoga classes.

Cancer either takes hold of you, or it doesn’t. You have time, or there’s little left. I can’t imagine the suffering my grandfather had to go through: three different diseases and three different treatments.

At one point Grandpa was my idol, being the first to teach me how to ski and how to sing. However, as I got older, I started thinking with more independence. Some cynicism crept in, and my grandpa’s virtues began to fade.

Our family tree on my grandfather’s side primarily consists of politically conservative jocks. Although I was on the taller side growing up, I never became a basketball star like many of my 23 other cousins. I suppose my affinity for playing classical piano didn’t receive the same reaction from my grandfather. He couldn’t say, “She scored 3 goals,” to his many listeners. Grandpa barely bragged about me. Luckily, I liked it that way, since I was never attracted to the spotlight. I loved to play the piano but hated to perform. Applause never felt like a true reward.

On one of Grandpa’s last days, we spent it fighting about politics. It began with my grandfather reminding me he grew up poor but found status in the white middle class after completing an engineering degree. Somehow, we got to where he was voicing his staunch opposition to Mexican immigrants “taking our jobs”, and arguing that “slavery wasn’t all that bad,” because, after all, India’s hierarchical caste system still exists. Before this moment, I’d never had the guts to express my personal views to my grandfather, although he knew they weighed liberal. Instead of remaining silent and uncomfortable as always, I finally told my grandfather, “I disagree.”

Whether to forgive and forget is a question I have grappled with following his funeral. How can I love someone with blatantly opposite views about the world, about humanity? My mother told me I didn’t have to like my grandfather but she found it unfathomable for me to say I couldn’t love him.

Do I have to make a choice?

Facing the dichotomy between my moral and emotional compasses hurts a little too much— and I haven’t yet found my way.  

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