An Ode To My Grandfather
“Granddaughter. Finally. I meet you”. With a pat on the back, a hug and so much food.. I was able to learn my grandfather. Hear my grandfather. See my grandfather. Who later would become one of the strongest human beings I’d ever meet.
At 60, he was still building a concrete wall, by himself, because he wanted to. It was an addition to the house, that he built with his bare hands. His garden, filled with cilantro and bananas, was his pride and joy. The garden he cared for, with so much patience, tender love and energy. Now, the climate where he lived was a weird juxtapose of dry and humid. The heat is heavy, so not much plant life, or vegetation can live there however, with the moisture that sticks in the air after a downpour of rain, plants can easily thrive. So my grandpa, indubitably is the original plant lover of my family. His cooking, was rare, but when he cooked, it would be a night of delicious celebration.
Every morning, he’d be up before the sun, had coffee ready at the dinning table, and had already picked the freshest baked goods from the local bakery. At 60 he rode his bike everywhere. Sometimes just to wave at people. And whenever he’d ask me to tag along, I was his mini me, his American granddaughter how spoke the funniest language. He’d ask me to say words in English, just so he’d try pronouncing them and would always roll over laughing at his own pronunciations.
Every Wednesday evening, he’d have me sit with him and watch Mass via the TV. Every Sunday we’d watch soccer, and after, attend mass at church. And each time after Church he’d buy me dinner, at the local food truck. Nights when he could not sleep, or waited for my aunties to come home, he’d sit outside the front gate, with his mini radio blaring his music or even a gospel, he’d stare at the stars. Count the constellations. And question life. My fondest memories were spent with him on that bench. The milky way glittering across the sky. I’ll never forget how bright and clear the sky would always be.. and I’ll also never forget how I learned about light pollution, here in the US. And why the stars never shine as bright as they do on the country, less polluted, side of Brazil.
The last time I saw my grandfather, was when I was going through a heavy heart break, and what now I know, was a downward spiral into depression. Trauma that I endured as a child, was forced to resurface because of the heart break from my first romantic relationship. A relationship that I poured my all into, only to be blindsided and have it ripped away from me. This moment in my life was meant to be a learning process filled with college foolery. Which ultimately it was. I was living with my best friend in San Francisco, and going to school. And school should have been my only priority, but this heart break shattered me into a million pieces. I felt lost, confused and just sad. I remember the moment I reached out to my mom, for help. Her exact response was “honey, take a semester off, and go live with grandpa”.
That same month, I requested time off and was flying to Brazil. This time alone. And although I was fearful of traveling internationally alone, the journey was so familiar. I’ve done it so many times, and I know the language. The only fear I’d have is missing a connecting flight, which I almost did, if it weren’t for my quick thinking and fast feet.
Before arriving to my grandpas house, he already knew of the struggles I was going through. He didn’t judge me, didn’t force me to do anything. But he did remind me of the simplicities of life. His talks on life, and the infinite wonders of the world beyond his house. The sky was always his guidance for every question he has ever had. He reminded me to keep faith, and to believe in myself. To trust myself. To laugh at myself. And to understand, that it is always ok to take time for myself.
That month I spent with my grandpa, and my family, reassured me that everything will be ok, and that I am stronger than I make myself out to believe. My grandpa would tell me stories of his hardships, his struggles and frustrations. But he also showed me that I am worthy of love and of trust. Now my grandpa didn’t spoil me with material items or money, like most grandparents do. He instead spoiled me with love, attention and pride. Which has always weighed more to me than anything else. He gave me the love that my own father kept from me; with a simply hug, a pat on the back, he made me feel safe. From always saving and hiding me a bag of my favorite cookies, in the highest shelf, away from my cousins, to saving my favorite piece of baked good, to even saving a seat next to him, always patting it and saying “come granddaughter. Sit here with me”. I never told my grandpa my deepest secrets, or confided him for advice. His presence alone, was all I ever needed. We could sit in silence, for hours, and it felt comfortable. That’s how my grandpa spoiled me. After that month, I came back with so much eagerness to finish my studies and to live.
My grandpa passed before I graduated from college. He passed away on his favorite yellow hammock. Alone. After receiving that news, I swear, time stood still. It felt like fake news. Like it wasn’t real. But it was real. Although I was physically here, and he was in Brazil, his absence, hurt. Not being able to attend his burial ceremony, was hard. But it was harder, going to Brazil, and he wasn’t physically there. His music wasn’t blaring throughout the house, his plants were all slowly drying out and dying. His voice and that deep laugh was not heard throughout the house. At night, I’d find myself sitting at his bench and looking up at the sky, alone. Having to say my goodbye to him, at his grave sight, was emotional.
My grandpa inspired me.
I am so grateful to have met him, and to have spent time with him. I do believe that I was his best friend too, and that I somehow gave him the comfort, love and attention that he also needed.
Writing about my grandfather will always be endless. These are memories I choose to never forget. He is somebody I will honor. Somebody that I am fortunate to have spent every summer with.
Thank you Vovô- for being my best friend, my protector, and for being you.