I still hold fond memories of him. My grandfather, that is.
He was a funny man. Maybe not all the time, but you tell me, how funny can you get when faced with the responsibility of raising ten kids? Yet with us, his grand-kids, my grandfather let the mask of seriousness fall off. With us, he let the clown in him come to life.
You see, grandparents are some of those people you find already exiting in this world after we are born. They’ve been there for as long as everyone can remember but we never really know how they came to be or even, what they were like as children. What they looked like before gravity caught up with the skin around their lips and eyes. Even the black and white pictures they show us of themselves in their hay days are like small, scattered pieces of a big jigsaw puzzle. They do not give us the big picture. We wonder if they have always been such good storytellers. We wonder why everyone listens when they speak, and we make a mental note to be like them someday – people who others listen to.
My grandfather, he liked to dance. He’d try to sway to the beats of Franco’s Mamou but he was a man born in a generation where when people danced, it was either they danced till the ground shook or they simply took a back seat. And my grandpa was anything but a quitter. So even in dance, he challenged defeat and the alcohol in his feet. He’d shake his knees and throw his hands in the air rhythmically and sometimes not so much as he danced to music. Even when a song was slow paced, he’d move both his hands and feet. As the song came to an end, he’d then shift to moving his hands like one rolling a large piece of dough, back and forth, all that time, throwing his head from side to side like a tipsy man. If my grandma happened to walk into the room at that moment, she’d scoff playfully at my grandpa’s madness but deep down, she thought him funny. Fun even.
Do you guys remember those small round biscuits that used to be sold when we were young before slay queens like Britania and Nuvita came into being and ruined the market and our teeth as well? If the amount of their biscuits he’d buy were anything to go buy, then I can safely say that my grandfather deserved to be a shareholder in that biscuit company. When returning from his visits to the shop, he’d walk down to his house, stopping at every gate to call each of us by name and deliver the goodies. And my, how we lived for those biscuits and sweets! The green mint sweets and the small round biscuits.
I still remember the first time he held a phone in his hands and made a call. It was accidental of course, but just listen. The glee in his eyes as he explained how he had accidentally pressed the green button only to hear the beeping sound and a few seconds later, my dad’s voice on the other end is simply unforgettable. That incident left him believing that the green button on the mobile phone was simply the best thing to ever happen to the world, technology-wise. But that belief lasted for only so long. The song Kanungo, where women and men shook their waists like they had no bones soon took over as the new magic. However, the excitement with which he celebrated that small win of dialing a number, remains etched in the minds of many. I can tell you for free, every other person who paid him a visit ever since, never got to hear the end of that story. And now that I look back, that is how each of us should celebrate the small wins in our lives.
If my grandfather happened to like you, then he’d like you to death. Otherwise…you’d have a difficult ride with him. Some took that wrongly since grandparents are generally expected to be the few people in the family who never take sides, never having favorites. In my case, I chose to believe that my grandfather had his own idea of loyalty. Just like any ordinary person out there, he was doing the best with his knowledge of loyalty and the prevailing circumstances. In case you doubt that, you should see his bathing karai. He owned that metal since I was little and chasing chicken from pecking at corn while it dried to when I became an adult. Even when it began rusting, he still kept it. To him, it was like that particular black bra every lady owns. You own 50 other bras, all clean and functional, but you still find yourself dry cleaning that black one every other time you need to go out.
But then we grew up. And boarding school happened. And we saw him for only a few weeks in a year. By the time we were leaving for boarding school in grade 4, he still was in the habit of sitting on his wooden chair, outside his house, staring ahead into the main gate. From that seat, he could very well see who came into or who went out of his clan. When we returned from boarding, he was not doing that anymore. Of course, he went out a few times to enjoy the sun like a normal human but mostly spent his days listening to the radio. When we went to boarding, he was listening to KBC radio station but on returning, he had switched to Egesa FM, a local channel that broadcasts in vernacular. Eventually he ceased listening to radio altogether since Kanungo proved more enjoyable.
Over his lifetime, he has had his fair share of visits to the doctor. But at some point, the sickness occurred more frequently. And then his memory turned dimmer. His sight, blurrier. His gait, more bent. It was just 3 months ago when I last saw him. My grandfather looked small. So small that his once fitting clothes hung so loosely on his weak frame. His eyes that once carried a spark within them had become the calm eyes of a man who had made peace with life. Eyes that could not see well enough but carried within them the peace of one who has accepted his mistakes in life. And I wondered where the grandpa of my childhood had disappeared to. Because the funny man whose dance moves we once thought hilarious now needed support to move around.
Yet surprisingly, none of that made me sad. See, at the end of the day, old age is creeping up on us – all of us. Even those who’ve pledged undying allegiance to the gym. What saddened me was the way he held no fascination towards anything around him. He rarely smiled and no, I do not blame him. Old age sometimes comes with erosion of memories of even that which we held dear. He could not remember most of us. But as long as we had him there, awake, drinking porridge or eating fruits while watching Kanungo, we were more than content.
But life at its best is very brief. He rested, a few days ago.
They keep saying that he rested but my mind can’t seem to wrap its head around that resting concept when someone never opens his eyes at all. Isn’t rest supposed to be a momentary thing? I even dread logging into my social media because the first picture that pops up on my news feed is his, perched on a chair, basking in the sun. With the words RIP next to it. And the pain starts all over again. This gnawing endless pain that might never go away.
Look, he fought a good fight. I know we say that about every other deceased. But my grandpa, he truly put one hell of a good fight. And, we his family, joined him in the fight. Even those of us who dislike porridge drank it to motivate him to do the same on the days he didn’t feel like it. We ensured he took his meds and naps on time. But sometimes, life is more than timely naps and meds. And it definitely is more than good diet. And when that point came, the curtain somehow fell on him.