My grandmother on my fathers’ side turned 88 this week. She lives in Jamaica and, most unfortunately, I have not seen her in over 10 years. I cannot describe or relationship as a very close one, as I really have not seen her much in my life. However, I could describe it as a special one. Special because she is such a special woman.
She has such a wonderful demeanor and grand smile and an air of love about her. When ever my family would visit her home, I always felt welcomed, loved, safe and taken care of, irrespective of the time between visits (which at times was years). We never had any great exchange of words, but this feeling was simply felt and understood.
Most of the greatest memories I have of my grandmother were created in the kitchen…her kitchen. When my family visited her home, the fist thing I would always request was one of her home-made “grater cakes”. These are coconut candies, made with nothing more than brown sugar and shredded coconut, and boy were they yummy! Oh, yes, and sometimes she would put ginger into them. Other times, she was would offer us her home-made hot chocolate, made from freshly ground cocoa beans, from the cocoa plants in her garden.
Visits to Grandma and grandpa’s place was always a huge family event. My 12 cousins and our parents would gather together, eat and just hang out. I recall that the food would be served buffet style along a table in the living room we (the grandkids) would hang outside on the patio, laughing away, exchanging stories of our lives…with interjections of melody from my grandfather.
I see the picture clearly before me now: Grandma in the kitchen or wherever, ensuring that her “family” was taken care of. Grandpa with his cassette tape singing along, albeit very out-of-tune, yet singing his heart out. My grandfather loved his music and was always composing various songs and pieces on the piano. I must sadly admit, that, as a child I never really appreciated his music. There was one particular composition which I shall never forget, because my Grandfather sang it over and over and over again. It was the feature item in his repertoire. The refrain was but one word “wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful…” and I think that each and every one of us felt as if we were listening to an old broken record.
As I grew older, however, I began to understand what this was all about. I began to appreciate all the countless refrains of “wonderful” because I finally realised and felt the profound passion he held for this art. I felt in in my bones, and saw it clearly on his face as he beamed it through his smile. He could honestly spend hours singing away to his music. He was in another zone. He was in his element-that place which I am looking for.
The last time I saw him was at his home….my grandmother had prepared lunch and we had grater cake for dessert. Or rather, I took some before we had lunch, but anyway…When we finished, my grandfather took his cassette out and sang along in his usual manner to his own compositions. I watched him attentively this time and soaked in as much as I could of the joy and “flow” that he was clearly experiencing and emitting. I wanted to show him that I understood and appreciated his “art” and began to ask him questions about his music. He then asked me questions about my own music. And with that, we engaged in what was perhaps the first and last real, meaningful conversation that I had ever had with him.
That was the last time I ever saw him. Im happy that I had that particular last experience with him, which I shall continue to hold dearly within my heat forever. I took pictures that day and asked him questions about his younger years and most interestingly for us cousins….how he first met my grandmother. As he related stories of courtship and love, we all saw and felt the love that the two of them had shared between them. My cousins and I looked at each other and I know that we were all thinking the same thing. I remember wishing to myself and hoping that one day I can retell such stories to my grandchildren. How wonderful…..wonderful…..wonderful……..
They were married for 60 years and had 8 children….my grandmother now has Alzheimers and I must admit that I have not spoken to her in over two years. I think that I am simply afraid of not knowing how to talk to her…..knowing very well that she will not even remember who I am.
As I write this, and tears are rolling down from my cheeks, and I realise what a weakling I am. I will call her right now. Just maybe, maybe, deep down in the subconscious regions of her brain, she will sense and know what I feel for her. As a little symbol of what my grandmother means to me and the love I hold for her, I made a raw version of her famous grater cake, with an extra ingredient. Chocolate of course!!! Happy Birthday Grandma!!!