There is no love like the love of a grandparent. I have had three and one great that I have been blessed to meet and get to know, and love. They have all passed away, and each one taught me something different.
Rafael Rodriguez, whom God called home January 4, 1988, was the only grandfather I had the pleasure of getting to know and cherish. He was tall, around 6’6″, I think, and the most gentle person I ever knew. He was soft spoken, laid back, funny, caring, fiercely loyal, and in love with a woman that did nothing but tear my mother down. I think the first lesson he taught me was that love knows no bounds, but I digress.
Abuelo, as I called him, would sit with me and watch The Pink Panther, Looney Tunes, and introduced me to Doctor Who. He would always ask me, with a smile on his face, how something could fall off a cliff or get something dropped on them and still walk around. He smirked when K-9 would say something to the Doctor and laugh at the Panther with me. We shared avocados with vinegar and oil, much to the contorted faces of my grandmother.
He taught me how to play dominoes, and when to make a strategic exit when my grandmother would start to rant about how dirty the spotless apartment was, and how no one helped her to clean it. We would go for walks, or he would sit outside the apartment in a sun chair “reading” (The paper would be upside-down.) as a strapped on my skates, in rapid fashion. He told me once that the best way to handle someone with a short temper was to let them blow off steam and them come back later when they had calmed down. It worked every time with grandma. He would take a different approach with me when my grandmother would insult my mother and infuriate me to the point where I left the room.
There were very few times he lost his temper, but it was always in defense of his family and loved ones. His voice, though smooth, would thunder when he spoke. He came across town to get me once when my aunt had miss treated me, and I called him crying. I had never seen him so angry. He roared at her not to ever lay a hand on me again, and then he turned to me, smiled, and took me back to the apartment where he and grandma lived.
He told me the importance of knowing where your roots lay, and taught me how to play all the traditional instruments of my Cuban heritage. He had friends that he would play with, and I would watch him when I could. He and his friends would have fun as they played, and joke with each other between songs. My grandmother couldn’t wait to leave. I could have sat and watched them play for hours.
The consummate comedian, he always found the humor in any given situation. If he couldn’t find a funny point, he had a cool way of getting out of the situation. I learned from him that I had to do the same. There is funny in every situation. You need only to look for it.
Having fled Cuba, they became naturalized American citizens. He always worked for what he had, and impressed upon me how much better it was here in the US, where you have plenty of opportunities to make something of yourself. You only had to put in the effort. If you weren’t afraid of a little hard work, you could be capable of doing and being anything. I was explained how Communism worked, and how it was much better here.
He had a deep faith in God, and it became very evident to me when I went to visit him as he lay dying from liver cancer. He told me not to cry. “I am going to a much better place when I leave here. That is until your grandmother dies and finds me in heaven. Then, the nagging will start over again.” (Told you he was a comedian, did I not?) He told me to remember the good times we had together and how he was while he lived.
The only regret that I have is that he couldn’t live long enough to know my son, Paul. The two would have been a sight to see.
Until next time, God Bless.