My grandfather was a simple animal farmer. He raised chickens and pigs for a living , and there are still some roosters still wondering around. They didn’t crow, but they looked like they were taunting me to let me know that they could at any moment. Selling eggs and piglets is how he and my grandmother sent my aunts and uncles to college. He was a hard man. His main condition to his children was that they didn’t fraternize with the opposite sex until they were done with their education. It didn’t stop most of them, but he did bust one of my aunts. Upon discovery of her relationship, he gave her $100 (US) and a blanket, and promptly disowned her. He mellowed out years later, and eventually built her a house next to his.
A few years ago, my mother’s brothers and sisters (there are 10 total including my mom) decided to build a huge house on my grandfather’s land for him to live in and all of them to retire to. Grandpa objected at first, but his animal farming business went bankrupt after his health started to decline. He’s not doing very well these days, but he’s at home because there’s nowhere else to take him. He spends most of his days sitting on the porch in his wheelchair. He doesn’t remember very much anymore. My mother tells me that one of my aunts just finished a three week stay with him and he couldn’t remember who she was or that she was even there.
My grandfather’s English was never very good, and he’s now near deaf and blind. People still talk to him, but it usually involves repeatedly yelling, point blank into his ear. After numerous attempts to identify me, he asked how old I am. I told them and they loudly relayed that information to him. After about a minute, he turned in my general direction and and said in very clear english, “You’re old.”
I swear he had a glint in his eye, the same one I remember as a kid when he visited us in the states. My parents would normally speak in their home dialect, but they switched to English during an argument when he was there. I looked over the dinner table, and saw a little twinkle in his eye that seemed to tell me that he knew more than he let on.
I wrote that last Spring during my visit to the Phillipines. I wish I had more to say about my grandfather, but I only met him a few times and I pretty much used all the interesting stories I know about him. I’m sure I’ll hear more of them over the holidays.
As I waited Manila Airport for my flight out to Japan, I got some food from a small store attended by a young woman. From my incredibly privileged position, I couldn’t help but think how much it must suck to be up hours before dawn cooking for travelers in such a cramped space for not very much money. As I thanked her for my food, it occurred to me that she was relatively lucky compared to many of the people I had met there, living in poverty with little to no means of creating a better life.
I was able to visit my grandfather one more time before I left. This time around, he wasn’t very mobile and couldn’t leave the bed. Despite everything happening to him physically and mentally, he still recognized me which is remarkable since he didn’t recognize much of anything by that point. I could say I’m lucky, but a lot of that is because of the efforts of him and my grandmother to put most of their 11 children through college. Without that education, it would have been very difficult for my mother to come to the states where she would raise me to sit around and blog about Lindy Hop.
I spend quite a bit of time on this blog talking about the visual aspects of dance, but hardly anytime talking about the physical aspects of touch in social dancing. I noted in a recent post on Yehoodi that talking about dance has only become practical recently because technology now allows people in different places to see the same thing. This is part of the reason why I don’t address that physical aspect of touch. I just don’t feel I can do it justice with words.
I thought about this as I sat next to my grandfather isolated from the chatter around us because neither of us could participate in the conversation, albeit for very different reasons. At one point I put my hand on his arm because it was the only way I could let him know I was there.
The last thing I did before I left was hold his hand one more time. I consider myself very lucky for that opportunity.
Rest in peace Grandpa.