01 Apr Grandma (Part II)
I heard my dad walk down the hallway. I could feel the vibrations from the terrazzo laden floor as he took each footstep down the hall. A sturdy man, my father was. About five feet eleven, light complexioned, and well-built but not overweight. At thirty-two, he seemed bigger than he was which could be attributed to the way he walked and talked. He walked like a giant and spoke like a king, born with a rare enchanting charisma. He knew who he was, and never settled for less. I thought he was the strongest man that I’d ever seen. He was fierce, brave, and never showed any sign of pain or weakness no matter what. “My father could move mountains,” I ‘d boast about him amidst friends. “The ground trembles at the steps of my dad, while the world quivers at the sound of his roaring voice when angered,” I often added.
Grandma must have invited him over to the living room. He walked in and sat on a couch across from where I was sitting. Grandma returned to her seat that was next to mine. There was a center table between my father and us.
“Your son wants to know how much time I have left before I leave them. In essence, he wants to know when I ‘m going to die!”
She announced to my dad like they hadn’t debated the issue in private. I understood it was role play. They figured it was the simplest way to present a topic as complicated as death to a child.
My father paused for a moment. He allowed some silence to settle in after tuning the television volume down. He leaned forward as much as he could from the couch like my understanding of what he was about to say depended on it. He smiled gently. This was one of the few intimate moments I ever got to share with my father. He stared into my eyes so that he had my full attention.
“Grandma is going nowhere, Ramon. She will always be around and will be for a very long time. I can assure you there is nothing to worry about. Grandma will be around long enough to see your children. You see, that’s a very long time.”
He must have noticed my dissatisfaction, so he added; “you see when we are young, it’s okay to think older folks are more aged than they really are. Notwithstanding, they are much younger than they seem, and you will grow up to see them age lesser than you will grow to become a father someday.”
A little confused about dad’s explanation, grandma intervened.
“I love you, Ramon. I love you all. I will always be around. If I have to leave for any reason, nothing will happen to you. Nothing will change.”
I knew she understood the implication of my question better than my father ever would. She was the pillar that held my family together in an enormous house. Not my dad, mom or my aunt. She made the house a home. Even when everyone else forgot to show love while they were busy with the different challenges life was hurling at them, grandma never faltered. So, should grandma departs for any reason, be it death or illness, nothing would ever be the same.
Grandma would often encourage us to dream, stressing that; “A dream is like a roadmap, without it, you will be lost in mottles of life purposes. You know, like when you watch a mouse on the tv, adrift in a maze. The mouse either keeps treading the same path over and over again or makes a wrong turn when it’s closest to its destination. Even when you think you have goals, without dreams, it might be harder to realize your true purpose in life.” However, she warned, “beware of chasing after dreams that already came true, it’s like placing a roadblock on your destiny with your hands.”
Grandma loved differently. She showed it. She lived it. Her love felt tangible. She gave us reasons to believe in love. On the other hand, my father showed love by providing for his family. He believed fatherly love rests on fulfilling his responsibilities. He would go to any length to protect his family. His interpretation of love was different. Fortunately, he was blessed to have children who understood him quite a bit. We totally believed in his advice despite his contradicting way of life.
My father was very unpredictable. He was more strict and short-tempered. Nothing about him was passive. His anger quickly soared into aggression that frequently ended in violence. His temper was uncontrollable each time it rose to a boiling point, so those that knew him well did their best to avoid prolonged arguments with him. The older children had the luxury of avoiding my father, but the younger ones weren’t that lucky. After an episode of bellowing in anger, he would reach for his whip which we called Koboko. His whip was a few inches shorter than Australian Stockwhip. A single stroke capable of inflicting more pain and wounds than you could imagine. However, countless times, we were subjected to physical pain and wounds by my father. He kept his whip beneath his favorite couch from where he pulls it to punish us at the slightest aggravation. Once, when I was fourteen, he had my shirt removed and beat me to the point where I stopped crying in pain. He was enraged, completely out of control. No one dared mention a word or tried to stop him. He continued to flog me as mercilessly as he could like he desperately needed to beat the life out of me. You’re probably wondering “Why?”, but that will be a story for another time.
My siblings would later explain to me how they had lost count of how many strokes landed on my back. They thought I was dead when they stopped hearing my screams. They started to cry when he kept thrashing despite. I tried lying on my back after teetering back to my room, but the sheets stuck to the bleeding bruises on my back. The bleeding from my back continued for days while it took weeks of lying procumbent for my wounds to heal. Most scars from my father’s whip healed over time, most disappeared from sight completely into my skin, but not from memory. On my back, I still bear the scars that won’t go away no matter what I do.
I have no idea how we made it through such degree of physical and psychological abuse, though corporal punishment was a norm both in school and in my tribe during this time. Apparently, in today’s society especially in the United States, my father would by no means be considered fit to be a father, worse-still raise children? There were times when we doubted if he was truly our father. He never treated any child differently from the other. There were five of us from two wives and three other kids from my late uncle. My cousins desperately sought to escape to their mom. They would rather go through a financial struggle with her than to continue to suffer from recurring abuse from my father. At least, they had a second option. It was not the same for the rest of us. My dad will not entertain the idea of his kids sleeping over at someone else’s house not to speak of traveling for holidays.
Look out for “Grandma (Part III)” ……. The story continues …..