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It's not my fault, blame my grandfather

Today is my maternal grandfather’s birthday. If he were alive he would be 98-years-old. I thank God I had the privilege of knowing him and even living with him for a short period of time. One of the last things he said to me was “NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS!” If you’ve experienced the powerful emotional rollercoaster that is my new novel “Married in the Nick of Nine,” you need to give my grandfather some props! LOL!

When I was fourteen my mother died and my siblings and I moved from San Francisco to Compton to live with my grandparents. It wasn’t an easy transition for me. I have to admit, it was one of the worse times of my life. I had just lost my mother and was about to start high school in a strange city, and I was living with my grandfather, a man I had heard a lot about, but who I didn’t really know very well. The thing that stayed at the forefront of my mind was that he and my mother had been estranged right up to the time of her death. I know he loved my mother, and she loved him, but like many father-daughter relationships, theirs had been difficult. I believe my grandfather saw a lot of my mother in me and this made our getting to know one another a bit rocky if you will. For a long time he referred to me as “That girl.”

Wanting to gain his love and adoration, I went out of my way to please him. I excelled in school and made straight A’s. I even graduated second in my class. As a member of the speech team, I won many trophies, and I even worked at his Laundromat on the weekends.  I was slowly and surely gaining a place in his heart. Then one of my speech conquests led to an invite to Mayor Bradley’s office. My grandparents were invited, too, and my grandfather was beyond ecstatic about meeting the first and only black mayor of Los Angeles. It was a great day. By now I was no longer “That girl.” If anything I was the “It girl.” I was my “Grandfather’s girl” and he let it be known.

I don’t believe that my marks in school or even my meeting the mayor is what caused my grandfather to finally let me in his heart. I believe I was there all along, right there in the small compartment where he had placed my mother. I believe my grandfather was afraid to fall head over heels for his granddaughter. I believe he didn’t want to get hurt again. After all, my mother was his second child, and like all of his other thirteen children, he wanted the best for her, but she made certain choices, like we all do, that were not in her best interest. And this caused my grandfather a lot of pain.

I’ll never forget the smile on his face while we stood there in the mayor’s office, light bulbs flashing. I could feel the pride emanating from every pore of his body. Yes, that was a great day, but it can’t compare to an even more startling event. One night at my grandfather’s Laundromat I noticed him slurring his words and tripping over his feet. I had just started learning to drive and we were closing up for the night. I instantly knew something was wrong. I called my grandmother and I told her what was going on. She told me it sounded like he was having a diabetic reaction. Upon hearing this, I locked up the Laundromat, put my grandfather in the car, and drove him home, which thank goodness was just around the corner. My grandmother took care of him. She knew just want to do. He recovered and thanked me for being there for him. And in that moment, I believed any anger or resentment he felt for my mother melted away. How could he continue to be angry with his daughter, a woman who gave birth to the girl who came to his aid when he needed help the most?

At my grandfather’s funeral I couldn’t help but think about my mother. I imagined her standing at the pearly gates, accompanied by God and a host of angels, arms extended, with a big smile plastered on her face, looking expectantly at her father, my grandfather, as he approached. I could see him standing there, tears of joy streaming down his face. Then God nods and they hug hard and tight, no longer father and daughter but brother and sister under the loving watchful eyes of God.

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