I remember being six years old.I remember waiting impatiently on that train’s door, behind my father, of course. I remember it being a dark summer night as we arrived in my hometown. The train slows down to a stop, real slow, as if it doesn’t want me to get down. But it stops anyway. And then, I remember running out from behind my dad’s legs, out on the already milling platform. Out,and directly into my grandfather’s arms.
My grandfather was as fair as the fictional Santa Claus; and like him, he liked to have a stubble as well. A stubble that I hated profusely. A stubble that was always used as a weapon to irritate me. And because he knew that it did, he never let go of an opportunity to guzzle my cheeks with those white tiny thorns that I cringed away from. Like Santa, he too had a tummy. And like the kids who loved Santa, I loved sitting on my own Santa’s lap.
When my father had an accident, I went to live at my mother’s ancestral home. I didn’t mind, because I loved my grandpa so much. He always came back from the Plant at around 5. He always had on him a reddish satchel. I like to think that the satchel still occupies a corner in that house where my grandmother lives. I don’t know what other kids’ grandfathers did, but I like to think that mine was different.
Those three months that I spent with them, I always got up to the sound of my grandma praying, and I’d join her. I’d see my grandpa off with her, and everyday I’d make the same request- “please bring me back a 5 star”. Now, I think any other grandparent would’ve complied, but mine never did. If I meet him in heaven(if I go to heaven) I’m telling him that the chocolate is still due. I would wait by the garden in the evening and he’d come home. I’d ask him about the chocolate, and like every other day, he’d say “I forgot!!” Maybe it was another way of teasing me, maybe he didn’t want my teeth to rot. Either way, I never did get that chocolate. This is why I think my granddad was different. I don’t hate him for doing this to me, I know he loved annoying me. I was just happy to get his attention.
He took me to my first ever dentist’s appointment for having a tooth pulled out. I was not scared, because he was there. My first ever tetanus shot was in a clinic with me holding on to his hand as if my life depended on it. I still bruise from that injection; psychologically, of course. Sitting with him I got to watch the first Die Hard movie;many Van Damme movies, and God Knows how many Bruce Lee movies. He let me watch all those action movies, and in return, he actually chuckled and watched the same old Tom & Jerry episodes with me. This was another one of those bonds that I shared with him.
Being the first born on my mother’s side of the family, I was the most loved. But I was never spoiled rotten, that he made sure of. I learned to be respectful, I learned to listen to my grandparents. They shaped me up, and gently thawed away the stubbornness I had in me. I was always afraid to cross him. I never wanted him mad at me.But with time I grew up, and unfortunately possessed those horrid teenager hormones. No, I did not stop respecting him, but the space between him and me grew. And like the teenager that I was, I did not notice.
One early morning I woke up to the sound of my mother gently crying over the phone, and I knew. He was gone. If there had been any signs of his ill health, we children were never told. He had still felt of the same age to me. He had been okay the last time I’d seen him. He had chuckled on the Tom & Jerry episodes, teased me, and even tickled me; even though my grandma had told him to lay off. What with me being a teenager and all. But he was gone. And I hadn’t said my goodbye. See, that’s the only thing that still bugs me. He had called a few days before his untimely demise, and I had thought that I’d talk to him when the weekend comes. I had had the opportunity to say some last words to him, and now I don’t even remember what I’d said to him before he died.
It makes me wonder, how we often sit and sulk. We get angry with the people we love, or we simply do not think we need to talk. Who knows, the next moment they’re gone, and we lost our chance. This made me remedy my hotheaded brain. I try to apologize whenever I learn of my mistakes. I try and talk nicely to everyone I love and care about. Not because, God forbid, they might drop dead any moment, but because these precious moments should never be wasted. We never know what may happen next.
I still put a pen in my mouth and pretend it is my pipe; because I know he smoked pipe, and looked so royal doing it. I still chuckle at those cartoons. And I still get down at that very station, whenever I go back to my hometown. You should know that that town isn’t my native place. They say the home is where your father was born. But I feel my grandfather’s town is my town. That heavenly place is my place. That house was my house. It still feels weird knowing that when I step off that train, he won’t be there to receive me. But whenever I do get down, the air still carries his scent. That is my only home. And always will be.