Respecting your roots: Stories of my grandparents
It’s been a few years since I last saw my grandpa. And the last time I saw my grandma was a little over a year ago. It’s a terrible thing to admit, but I’ve lost touch with them.
I kick myself every so often, telling myself, this is the day that I call them. But I never do. Instead, I push the thoughts away, saving them for another moment of stress. I fear that so much time has passed; what could I possibly do to prove to them that I respect and value them?
Does a simple “I love you” suffice? They are as much a part of my future as they are of my past. So why is it so difficult for me to embrace and understand my love for them?
My father’s parents, Isidro and Aurora
My dad’s parents moved from the Philippines to the US when I was a young girl, and they came to live with us in our 3-bedroom home. My siblings and I shared a room with them, which meant we got to stay up with our grandpa Isidro when he watched World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment Inc) late at night.
My dad’s family grew up in Pampanga, and as all Filipinos know, the best cooks in the Philippines come from Pampanga. My grandpa was skilled in the art of cooking. He always took his time in the kitchen, and would get upset if anyone (namely, my grandma) came to upstage his work by trying to “help” or alter his dishes.
One of my favorite dishes I remember him preparing was torta (or in Tagalog, giniling, but I know it by its Kapampangan name), which required that he carefully dice potatoes and carrots into uniform pieces. He’d spend hours in our garden in San Diego, carefully tending to our small fruit trees and vegetables that we managed to grow in the desert climate.
My grandpa took his time in every task that he did. He worked with focus, attentiveness to detail, and patience. In elementary school, I never wanted to use a pencil sharpener – unless it was to make colorful shreds of crayon for no real reason. Instead, I’d ask my grandpa for his help, and he would gladly sharpen my pencils with a knife from the kitchen. I would watch in amazement as he slowly shaved away bits of wood and graphite with precision.
My grandma Aurora and my grandpa helped raise my brothers and me, until my grandpa became quite ill. In 1999, my family lost him my grandpa to cancer. It was a devastating time for us, and it was my first encounter with the loss of a loved one.
I was young, but I can still clearly remember my grandpa’s presence in my life when I was in elementary school, and for that I am grateful.
My grandma has lived with my family on and off since then, working in elderly homes and caring for individuals who were older than her. She’s always been a hard worker, never really stopping to take a rest. She has “retired” more than a couple of times, and even chose to return to the Philippines last year, before moving back to California.
I’m pretty sure I got my sense of restlessness from her. I always feel like I have to be doing something productive with my time. Otherwise, I feel like I’m just being idle or lazy. I’ve been lucky to see her as often as I have, as she loves to visit my family and me. She even attended my graduation from university. I can only hope that I’ve done her proud.
My mother’s parents, Pedro and Thelma
When I was growing up, we’d drive hours to visit my mom’s dad, who worked at a home, caring for the elderly as well. We’d pile into the car and travel over 7 hours from San Diego to Gilroy, California.
During visits, my brothers and I would refer to him as “grandpa-daddy” – a nickname derived from the fact that he was our grandpa, and also the fact that our mom, aunts and uncles called him “daddy.”
The name stuck, and we still call him that. As a young man from Pangasinan with a boisterous personality, he served in the US Navy, and was able to provide incredible opportunities for my mom and her siblings here in America. I see his hard work and craving for independence in my mom. I see it in me as well.
It wasn’t until October 2012 that I visited the Philippines for the first time. I was working in Thailand at the time, and managed to visit with family once more before leaving Asia and returning to America.
In total, I spent about 5 weeks with family in Quezon City and Puerto Princesa. For the duration of that time, I was with my grandma’s side of the family. Out of all my grandparents, my grandma Thelma is the one that I never had the chance to meet; she passed away before I was born. I would have liked to know her in person. Still, I am grateful for all of the stories about her that my family has graciously shared with me.
From passing on recipes to my mom and her sisters, to collecting trinkets and souvenirs from her travels, to never raising her temper, I have seen a reflection of her in my mom and her brother and sisters. And I know these are habits that have defined me as well.
During my stay in Puerto Princesa this past April, I even began documenting as many anecdotes as I could about my grandma Thelma, her siblings, and their families. I hope to one day share all of these stories with my siblings, who still have not had the chance to visit the Philippines.
My grandparents are a part of me
The truth is, I may not have the relationships I used to have with some of my grandparents. And in the case of my grandma Thelma, I may not have a relationship with her at all. Some things are beyond my control, like moving across the country.
I fell into the hurdles of my own life. But it’s no one's fault – change and fluidity are necessary for growth. Despite feelings of regret that often find refuge in my mind, I know that some of my favorite childhood memories include those with my grandparents.
I was voicing my concerns with my little sister recently – she is a young middle school student. She had even less time with my grandparents, but for some reason, she managed to point out the big picture to her seemingly blind and unaware ate. When I told her of the shame I was feeling, she replied, “Just think about how you connect with them.”
She’s right, and wise beyond my understanding. In addition, not only should I be thinking about these relationships, I must act upon them. We are given so much in life, but time is what matters. We have to take advantage of the time we have, and spend it on those who we care about the most. And to me, those people right now are my grandparents.
Grandpa-daddy, I miss you and love you. I’m praying for you every single day, and hope our family reunion comes soon enough.
Grandma, I love you. And I miss your cassava cake! – Rappler.com