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Tommy's Tales: The Grudge

Updated: Feb 21, 2022

There were a bunch of Italian families on my block when I was growing up, including my own. My grandfather was friends with the patriarchs of two of them, Sal and Vito. They would visit each other throughout the week for coffee and conversation. Occasionally they would give each other advice on garden and lawn care. Every now and then I'd find one of them in the garden with Grandpa Tommy, securing the tomato plants and string beans or sitting and talking at the patio table.

There was one guy whose name I still don't know to this day, and he lived across the street on the corner. What I can tell you about him is that my grandfather didn't like him at all. I can also tell you what my grandfather would say every time he walked out front and looked at the guy's house: "Look at this friggin' Italian. He always has to have such a big ass." Then I'd ask him, "Why are you complaining about him being Italian. We're Italian, too. Are we bad?"

Grandpa's Response:

"No, but there are bad apples in every bunch. You'll understand when you get older. And that guy? He has a big ass."

When Grandpa used the term "big ass" he wasn't referring to a large rear-end. It was a term that he used to refer to a person who thought he or she was a big shot. Over the years, I've tried to figure out what made the guy across the street "have a big ass". I never saw any fancy cars and their house was not ridiculously huge. To my knowledge, there was never any fight between the both of them. The only thing that I could see was that this guy's property was very well maintained. I got to thinking: does that make you "have a big ass"? It was the only obvious thing that might make someone slightly envious, but it's normal for an Italian to be obsessed with their lawn and garden. So, it couldn't be the bright green color of the neighbor's front lawn. Or his perfectly manicured bushes and flower beds. Or even the enormous concrete statue of Blessed Mother Mary on a Half Shell. Could it?

Oddly enough, the grudge my grandfather had against this guy has been passed down to me. I'm not even the type who holds grudges! However, I don't like the guy, and I'm pretty sure isn't even alive anymore, yet I get annoyed whenever I see anyone from that household standing outside. I feel irritated when I see their perfectly trimmed shrubbery and flourishing flower beds. And the concrete statue of the Blessed Mother is completely on my nerves.

I recently did some research on the matter and I've discovered that, in addition to having a big ass, the guy was what Grandpa called "a nasty bastard". I think the title is self explanatory, but according to my mom, the guy snubbed my grandfather on several occasions and even shot some dirty looks in my grandfather's general direction for no apparent reason.

So, why do we hold these grudges towards people? And, in my case, why do we hold grudges against people because of situations that had nothing to do with us?

I was able to find a number of articles written about the topic of grudges. One article from Psychology Today says it comes from our identity as a person who has been wronged in some manner. It goes on to state, "In truth, our grudge, and the identity that accompanies it, is an attempt to get the comfort and compassion we didn’t get in the past, the empathy for what happened to us at the hands of this 'other,' the experience that our suffering matters." To let go of the grudge, "we need to move the focus off of the one who 'wronged' us, off of the story of our suffering, and into the felt experience of what we actually lived."

Okay. That seems logical, but I wasn't able to find anything specifically about being irked by the landscaping of a guy who pissed off your grandfather. I guess it's because I know that Grandpa always tried to do the right thing and was kind to a lot of people, so the thought of someone being rude to him is upsetting. Maybe I need to forgive, heal, and let it go.

Although, I can just imagine trying to explain this to my grandfather today:


Holding a grudge is really not good for you.

He wouldn't give me a verbal response. Instead I'd get a look that screamed, "What the hell is wrong with you?"


I read somewhere that you should try to shift your focus onto yourself and not the guy across the street. Deal with how you feel about the way he wronged you.


Shift my focus?


Ya' know - stop thinking so much about him or what he did to you, and let yourself heal.


Is this what you went to school for? I thought it was to learn how to speech people, not this psychology mumbo jumbo.


No, but I read about it somewhere. Maybe you should think about it, though. It might help you feel better.


I'm not that upset about the guy, Gina.


Well, you seem to hold a lot of resentment toward him.


He's an asshole. How am I gonna' heal from that? That's a problem HE needs to heal from so he can stop pissin' everyone else off.

And Grandpa would have a very valid point.

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