7.31.2005

Legacies

My paternal grandfather died today. He lives in the Phillipines and I hadn't seen him in almost 20 years. He had been ill for some time, and very ill the past three weeks. I can only think of my father, my poor father. His mom died about 10 years ago, and now his dad is gone too.

I did not know my paternal grandfather as well as I should have. My maternal grandfather died while my mother was young during the war, and my step-grandfather on my mom's side died while I was young. I do remember him vividly. He was always smiling, and even when he was sick he was joking around with me. My maternal grandmother is still alive, and so is my great-grandmother. Yes, my great-grandmother. She turns 102 this year. She is amazing. Mind like a steel trap and sassy as ever.

I have memories of my paternal grandfather, and they make me a little ill. I was not the nicest kid to him. A little bratty, which they attributed to me being raised in America, and kids simply speak and act a little bit differently than they do back in the Phillipines. Respect of elders is part of life back there, much more so than it is here. I remember telling my maternal grandmother once "yeah, I know" as a response to something she was telling me, and she was incredulous that I would say that to her. I also told her "I heard you the first time" when she repeated something to me, and the look on her face was complete disbelief. I remember being in the Phillipines and having a total breakdown. I was sweaty and hot and had a million big bug bites all over me. I hadn't taken a real shower in days, and I wasn't used to the food. My dad's dad said something to me and I just went off. A little 11-year-old, cursing up a storm. My grandfather started laughing. Hysterically. I guess it must have been a site to see - this tiny little girl swearing like a trucker. I remember that laugh well, and I still feel horrible about that episode to this day.

I also remember my paternal grandparents talking to me about my future. About taking advantage of the life my parents were able to give me in the United States. About working hard, and always putting family first. About being respectful and kind to not only my elders, but everyone. They talked to me about studying hard in school so I could get a great job and make a difference and give back to my community. They were well known in their own community. They gave back, a lot, to everyone. My maternal grandmother was a teacher, and my grandfather was a journalist at one point in his life. When I started to really show an interest in writing around first grade, my parents told me I probably got it from my grandpa. He was a great writer. And my father, while a total gadgets guy and an electrical engineer, is equally creative and insightful; he once showed me a stack of cards that he carved out of wood and poems that he wrote for my mother while they were dating. They were beautiful. I had no idea.

When loved ones die, they also take with them the possibilities and hope for better memories and better relationships. I wish I had visited my dad's parents again when I was older and not as bratty, when I could truly appreciate the experience and the love and knowledge they had to offer. My grandfather's passing is hard. My father does not have as much family in the States as my mother does, and those that are here don't live close by. I know he knew this day would come soon, but I cannot imagine what he is experiencing right now. He loved them very much. I wish I knew them better, and I know he wishes the same.

Goodbye, Grandpa. You are well-loved and very missed. I will pass on your history and your stories to my own son, so he can know you through me, and perhaps understand his mama a little better as well. I will take him and my husband to the Philippines so they can see why my family is the way we are, and they can appreciate everything you and grandma did for my own father and for me. We'll come visit you and grandma someday again. For all the lost moments when I should have said it, Salamat - thank you.

3 comments:

Kirsten said...

I am so sorry about your grandfather. Your post really makes me think about those in my life where there is still hope to make better relationships and memories.

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betty said...

I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your grandfather.

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Mama M said...

Thanks for your kind comments. I really appreciate them.

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