My granddad is the person I sometimes try to model myself after. He’s 96 and has many decades of practice on me but still, I find it hard to believe he conducted himself much differently when he was my age. He’s the one who taught me to be self reliant, considerate and generous. Always be generous, no matter how much you are financially worth. There’s always something you can offer someone. If not money, there’s always something you can do for them. Give your time, your thoughts, your warm wishes, your care, your food, your wine….I hope I get there someday.
I’ve just had one of the most satisfying 17 hours of my life. And it didn’t even involve all that much. Like most of the things that I’ve noticed that I cherish, the past 17 hours consisted of life’s simplest…
Yesterday while at work, I had the intention of stopping by granddad’s house, also known as ‘121’. I try to stop by 121 once or twice a week to spend time with granddad. Even if it’s just for a quick dinner, it reminds me of my childhood dinners which were usually at 121 since my brother and I spent the better part of a decade living there.
By the time evening came, I was running around too much to make it in time for dinner but promised to stop by after to take him out for drinks or whatever he was in the mood for. I got there later than expected, around 9p, and he was in the mood for takeout instead. So health food aunt and I drove to get take out xo fish head noodles from dover rise (famous in some way, of course). By the time we got back to 121, it was close to 10p but as luck would have it, granddad was in a talkative mood and we sat around talking, drinking and eating till just past midnight. Sometimes, I get in melancholy moods like now when I’m overwhelmed with appreciation. Appreciative that I’m able to recognize just how awesome it is to be able to spend time with granddad and truly enjoy it. I think back to when I was living at 121, before going off to college; how I treated 121 as just a living space; a place to be taken for granted because it had always been there, unearned. Ungrateful is a strong word to describe my mental state then. But I was definitely far from being grateful. I was an unaware teenager and young adult. Someone who needed to go out and see the world, experience things on my own and finally return perhaps a little more enlightened.
Granddad, health food aunt and I sat around the same dining table that I had grown up around – the one that I loved to use for studying because it was large enough that I could spread all my notes and books out and was often left undisturbed at night except for the occasional lizard that would scurry below the lazy Susan (and leave me silently cursing in surprise). Granddad loves company. He’ll eat more, drink more and more importantly, talk more when people are around. Sometimes, he needs prodding to talk and tell stories and it’s not always that he’s in the mood for talking. I found him in a jolly mood last night. We spoke about menial things like how my work day was, how much I enjoyed work, how he was feeling (his head has been hurting for the past few weeks) and about the conversation I had with the taxi driver on the way over…which is of note actually.
Cabbie: if you don’t mind me being a busybody, can I ask why you’re not out (partying) at this time on a Saturday?
Me: I’m actually on my way home then I’m heading out again. I have a date with a 96 year old man (I’m that cool kid).
Cabbie: wow, really? A 96 year old?
Me: yup! I have a date with my granddad. I’m taking him out for beers.
Cabbie: wow. Instead of lecturing you about the perils of drinking, he’s actually drinking with you?
Me: yup. And I’m looking forward to it.
I share conversations like that with granddad because he finds them amusing and it gives him something about me to laugh about.
Another conversation that is one of my all time favorites…
Granddad: am I the best father or what?
Health food aunt: um, actually, I think I could do better if I looked.
Granddad: pfft (with accompanying dismissive hand gesture). I knew I should never have saved you from the trashcan (which is a joke, of course).
And that inevitably sparks off the discussion about how good his kids are. Like Goldilocks, his kids are good, but not good enough; bad, but not too bad. Which in his cryptic language means they’re somewhere in the middle, balanced. And even though he never says it, the kids know that he’s proud of them and loves them all equally. The same goes for his grandkids.
My favorite part about hanging out with granddad is hearing him tell stories. It doesn’t matter if I’ve heard the same story dozens of times. That’s not the point. My enjoyment comes from everything else that accompanies our conversations. Watching him tell a story with pleasure and working in moral lessons at the same time is his special trait, I think. I’d like to think that I have a somewhat decent moral compass; the ability to at least identify the right decision (or feeling guilty knowing that there is a right decision to be made but making the opposite one instead). And I believe I learned this from granddad.
He leads by example. For me at least, he’s always been that way. Always attentive to minute details, he never lets anything slip by unnoticed. People always make the mistake of assuming he’s missed something until he tells them to clean the table again because they’ve missed a tiny sauce spot. He’s also extremely generous – when he was younger and less financially stable, he used to loan needy friends his last dollars and not think twice about whether they would even be able to return the favor (much to the dismay of my grandmother, I imagine). But he’s never lectured anyone about not being giving enough.
He secretly likes to call himself the poor rich man (coined by one of my cousins) because he’s not cash rich but yet he often doesn’t have to pay for anything when he goes places. I’m not religious (and neither is granddad), but I believe in karma, to a certain extent. And I believe that karma is paying him back for all the positive energy he’s invested previously.
I digress. Back to my perfect 17 hours. By the time I went to bed, it was close to 2am. But I thought, ‘granddad’s a late sleeper. I’ll get to sleep for at least 8 hours before I even need to worry about getting up.’ Wrong. Just after 8am, health food aunt came into the room I was sleeping in, turned on the lights and said, ‘let’s go, granddad’s ready.’ WTF? Since when does he rise before noon? Today was my lucky day, apparently. And truthfully, I was quite ecstatic. I (sometimes) enjoy the part of the morning just before the majority of people are even thinking of going out yet. It’s peaceful and quiet and one feels special being in a place that isn’t overrun by crowds. Fast forward an hour and we’re at some coffee shop along Zion road with a spread of coffee, kaya + butter toast, half boiled eggs and wanton noodles before us. Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve felt so disproportionately content. I can’t remember the last time we were out with granddad at that hour – he had even voluntarily come along. He usually has to be coaxed into going out and his appetite has spiked recently which has made everyone happy. Then we went to Cedele across the street for more sitting and coffee where I read the newspaper, granddad people watched and health food aunt got her hair done. There was some shopping in between coffee and lunch but it was basically a whole morning of granddad time. And it was awesome. I felt so lucky to have been there.
To other people, granddad might come across as being just an ordinary 96 year old man. And maybe he is. But to me, he’s far from that; too special and amazing to be taken for granted. I’ve written before that I’ve never looked forward to my trips home. But time with granddad has always been the ‘right thing to do’ and it’s one of the primary reasons I visit. For the first time ever, it’s become not only the right thing to do but what I want to do and I’m completely content with being home. Because it means getting to spend precious time with someone I’ve realized has helped shape the person that I’ve become. And for now, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.