Saturday Thoughts … Traces and Happy Birthdays

29 Jan

I know very little about him, but he’s important. He has answers to questions I’d like to know, but now I’m just filling in blanks the best I can.

He was born on a coffee plantation in Guatemala to a mother of Mayan decent. He was taken from his mother by the owners and sailed off to Spain where he was raised.

My grandfather.

I don’t even know his mother’s name or what she looked like, or whether she spoke Kaqchikel or Quiché. Don’t know the color of the textiles she wore, or whether she was born in The Highlands, or Coban. That’d be my great-grandmother. Most people search the internet and find answers on a dot-com site. But there are no records or traces for that side of my ancestry.

This family tree questionnaire quest was brought to me by my son who asked about my dad’s family. He’s known stories of Papa for some time as I continue talking about his life and try to fill his heart with memories of good times, hard times, silly times, and adventurous times. Storytelling keeps my family alive.

I’d share about his never give up attitude and dislike for fast food money spending. I’d tell him about the time I told Papa I wanted the crunchy popcorn shrimp from the Sizzler and he was like you don’t want none of that. Then he’d make a giant mess in the kitchen with hot oil, smoke, and flour everywhere. He’d emerge, hair disheveled, holding a plate of fried shrimp and dipping sauce that looked nothing like the commercial but still nodding his head with pride … See, eh? See eh? Yeah …

And he was right … it was good. Then I’d have to wash all dishes before my mom came. Or else.

The kids know everyday stories of him dropping me off to school if I slept in late, or of his MacGyver ability of fixing the VCR-DVD-TV-Cable-Box connection with three separate remote controls. But they didn’t know much beyond that … of their great grandfather or great-great grandmother, or even beyond that.

I remember doing a family tree back in the day, but who knows where that circa 1980 Crayola crayon masterpiece ended up.

I knew my grandfather grew up in different parts of Spain but probably met my grandmother in Extremadura. I knew he died when my dad was 10, and my pops had a hard life after that, as did his siblings.

I know my great grandfather looked stylish in his black and white wedding photo, and he probably had many stories about his life, my grandma, and my dad. Stories I’d like to hear now that my dad’s birthday is coming up. Stories that celebrate his life that go best with birthday cake and coffee that he doesn’t get enjoy because he’s passed on, but we think of him as we blow out the candles.

And sometimes you don’t get answers after the smoke is gone. You have faded pictures of people that don’t look like you but they lived their life and you’re here because of their choices.

And sometimes you get partials, like pictures of your dad when he was 10, the empty bottle of his aftershave you keep in your drawer, the Parker pens he used for work inside his Samsonite briefcase, or the last message he left on your answering machine. And on days like his birthday you hold on tight to the memories you got. You keep telling stories so you remember the details, you sing happy birthday to a papa that would have been alive, and try to fill in the blanks of a grandfather you never knew. And you still search for clues because his story can tell you more about your own dad …

Happy Birthday to my pops. He would have been 74 …

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My Old Man — Zac Brown Band

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5 Responses to “Saturday Thoughts … Traces and Happy Birthdays”

  1. Sorryless January 30, 2022 at 2:11 AM #

    To be wrapped up in the embrace of your ode to Papa is a fine and beautiful place to find myself. And I won’t bore you with the “Cali, when you write about him, it’s the very best writing on WordPress . .” that I have told you countless times in the past, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

    Here’s to Papa.

    • The Guat February 10, 2022 at 7:15 AM #

      Thanks so much I really do appreciate it whenever you stop by with these encouraging comments. Appreciate the good vibes and always glad you enjoy stories like this.

    • The Guat February 10, 2022 at 7:16 AM #

      Many waves and sunshine your way 🙂

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