“Life has to end, love doesn’t.” -Tuesdays with Morrie
My grandfather's one and only love, my grandma.
12 years is such a short time to spend with someone you love. specially if you can hardly remember the first couple of years.yet for some people, 12 can also be a lifetime filled with happiness and no regrets depending on how you look at it. for me i still cannot decide. maybe by the end of this post i can say, whether i’m still bitter that we did not have enough time, or if I am just thankful for those 12 years.
It was November, 20 years ago to be exact, and i was 12. i had just finished writing a letter to this fourteen year old girl expressing undying love and devotion while sitting in math class when i suddenly felt very feverish. i asked to be excused and ran home as fast as i could. “No no no no no!” i kept screaming in my head, But as soon as i turned the corner and saw people milling around my grandparents ancestral house, i stopped and threw myself against a coconut tree and sat down to cry, hidden away from everyone. i just needed a moment to cry, the greatest man i have ever known, a giant amongst mortals, had just died.
And as im sitting here sifting through many memories to share i can’t help but tear up and feel a lump rise in my throat again. it’s been twenty years, but by god i still miss him so much. every fuckin day.
faded pictures of my childhood supplement the gaps of my infant memory. my grandfather holding me as a baby, cutting my hair when i was two, putting up my first basketball hoop when i was three. taking me home to the province for the first time and showing me off to everyone and asking an audience to gather round me while i tell them the story of little red riding hood in perfect english sitting on top of a billiards table with a coke bottle in one hand and a muffin in the other. and afterwards he’d tussle my hair and say, “very good nigel, very good.” i lived for those moments.
he protected me, even if he must’ve been accused of spoiling me. looking back now, being a child out of wedlock no one ever said an unkind word about my existence how no one looked down on me or called me a bastard spawn. funny because we lived in a very small provincial town, and everyone knows everyone else’s business. i realize that the answer lay in the fact that my grandfather would have killed anyone who would even think to try.
In school, i was the scrawniest and youngest in our class. there were a lot of times when i’d get bullied by older kids. one day coming home crying with a black eye, he wiped my tears and told me it was okay to cry. the next day, i come home to two pairs of boxing gloves and he’d teach me and my older cousin to box i’d still get beat up from time to time, but this time, at least i dished out as much as i took.
i remember the first time i told him i was able to shoot a free throw at the town plaza basketball court at age 6, he took a jeep to the capitol and came back home with a basketball, my first pair of rubber shoes (white mighty kids) and shorts and sando with the number 7, because he knew that jaworski was my favorite ball player. then he’d wake me up at six in the mornings and accompany me to the town plaza so i can shoot baskets. he’d sit there smoking his camels while i attempted shot after shot asking him if he was watching because i was gonna make this next one. he was my first coach.
my grandma would tell me in later years, that my grandpa looked “debonaire and handsome” all of six feet in his guerilla uniform during the war. and how although she was much younger than him, she would look forward to his visits where he would brief her father about the japanese movement, and how one day he came storming into the house telling them to start evacuating to the barrios because the japanese were coming, how she cried and thought she’d never see him or his other fellow guerillas again. i’m certainly glad thats not how their story ended.
Daddy King was what we all called him, and he fit that name right to a T. kind noble, temperamental, tender. loving, funny… honorable.
he’d bring me and my other cousins to the woods for picnics, or to harvest coffee beans and plant saplings.he’d teach us how to make fire, and cook so that my cousins and i could just go up to the mountain and cook picnics by ourselves. sometimes he’d allow us to handle his air gun and even shoot off a few rounds. At times when i was asked by my grandmother to bring him his food when he’s up there by himself we’d share the meal sitting silently then he’d take me by the hand and walk me around the perimeter and say, when i die, this will be yours, and i’d always reply, not for a very long while.
that day in 1992 when i overheard my mom crying on the phone, i just finished my high school freshman year in the city. When she entered my room to talk to me, i was already packing my bags. “i’m going back to school in the province mom, i want to take care of daddy.” i couldnt look her in the eye because i knew we’d both be crying if i did, she nodded and left to pack her own bags and we left for the province soon after.
i wont bore you with the details of how gaunt this giant of a man looked when i got back home but i will tell you of his fighting spirit. that summer of `92 he told my cousin and i to form a basketball team for the town summer league, and on nights when he still could, he’d be there watching and cheering us on. on other days he’d ask us to put on those vinyl records and play the songs that he loved, the songs and artists he taught us to love. our summer would be filled with the beatles; Elvis, the osmond brothers, the jackson 5 and Oliver the musical. my mom had to go back to work in the city but she would make the long commute home every month and my grandfather would open a can of peaches and with his grandchildren gathered around him, we’d eat and laugh and tell stories.
But when summer ended and the pain became unbearable, he’d usually lie in bed, or stay in. friends would visit him and talk to him while we took turns rubbing lotion on his ever thinning body. and he would always smile and thank us, even in pain.
I’d empty his colostomy bag and bed pans and sleep in his room, sometimes waking up to him crying silently asking for my grandmother to hold his hand when the pain got to be too much. he was given four months, he held on for eight.
i hated god then, for bringing this on to a man like my grandfather, but he never did curse his fate, he never did.
that afternoon in November, all his grandchildren entered his room like we would always do to kiss him goodbye on our way to school. his eyes were closed, and he was unconsciously mumbling in pain but as each pair of lips touched his forehead and each tear fell on his cheek, he would smile… i was foolish to believe that was not yet goodbye.
When we laid my grandfather to rest i couldn’t cry, people were looking at me as i just stood there unyielding, numb. some where even angrily whispering “why wont he cry?!”
over the course of the past twenty years i have cried a lot calling his name, at times when the world got too tough, or at times when im alone and a memory surfaces. I refused to cry that day, because what daddy king and i had was special, i didnt need to cry in front of the hundreds who came to his funeral, because i knew that he knew that my heart was numb and broken, and he was beside me at that very moment they were sealing his tomb, holding my hand telling me not to cry.
his will always be the memory that shall never fade. how he lived, how he loved will always be at the very summit of what i strive for and to be. he was the mountain i could stand on to reach out for the stars in my galaxy, he was the giant who slew the monsters of my nightmares. he has, is and to me, will always be, a simple and honorable King the best that ever lived.