My Lola was a lovely woman, I think. The truth is, I never had a true conversation with my grandmother. She barely spoke a lick of English, although somehow she still loved watching her soap operas and the Price is Right. So growing up, that’s what we did together. She sat in her chair, my sister and I on the couch, and the three of us watched General Hospital.
Some people watched cartoons, my 9-year-old prepubescent self watched soap operas.
Despite our language barrier, she knew I loved eating that yellow poundcake, and I managed to learn some very important words in Tagalog from her, like tulog (sleep) and dugo (blood, because I had nosebleeds like, every day).
But I always had—and still do have—a pang of jealousy whenever I meet people who still have all four grandparents around. A grandpa who would sit in his rocking chair as his grandchildren gathered at his feet. He’d spin and weave tales of good and bad, love and sorrow, life and loss. Fact or fiction, he’d keep those hyperactive kids enraptured with every word.
Nate’s grandfather was that storyteller. Roy was his name (his twin brother aptly named Troy) and, as Nate’s family tells me, he could narrate stories of life on the farm in Arkansas for hours on end. About walking over the hill to his one-room schoolhouse every day. About meeting his wife Virginia (who’s still sharp as a pistol) at a bank in Oklahoma. About witnessing a game of marbles gone wrong that ended in a shoot-out. About finding God.
He was the kind of storyteller who would tell the same story over and over and you’d want to hear it just once more, because it was that damn good.
Even when I met him two years ago, his mind withered with age, he still tried to share his stories. But just as he got to the climax, just as he was about to rope you in, it was on to the next story. Blame it on the mind-crippling disease, but it was as if he knew time was short—he’d do all he could to fit in as many tales as he could.
During that same visit, there was one question grandpa Roy kept asking Nate: “Have you taken her to the farm?” It’s a very special place, he’d said, a twinkle returning to his eyes. I’m amazed by what one remembers once old age has won over: time and time again it’s the most precious, important people and things from their childhood. For grandpa Roy, his children, their children, even their children, they’ll remember the farm.
Although this time around grandpa Roy wasn’t there at the rickety gate to greet us, it was due time for a trip to the family farm on Baker Den Road. Nate and I left our respective cities and returned to a place where the only way to get cell phone service is by standing next to the toaster. Where mornings consist of drinking coffee while the sun’s rays seep through the trees and entertainment involves watching hummingbirds duke it out for sips of sweet nectar in the front yard. Where the road is still dirt and gravel, and cattle moo to each other across the pond, leaving dung patties for you to step in on your way to the river for a splash.
It’s a special place, indeed, and it’s not hard to feel like you’ve returned to a simpler time. Grandpa Roy’s truck, the one he used to teach all of his grandchildren to drive, still sits in its wooden garage. His straw hats still sit stacked on top of each other at the doorway, covered in mold and dust. In the shed, height markings of every offspring remain on the wall, written in pencil.
After a few mornings of that quiet bliss, the farm is a place where you start to think to yourself, “I could do this. I could live like this.”
And then, you walk through the woods to feast your eyes on that historic one-room schoolhouse that grandpa Roy always told stories about, and emerge covered in hundreds of ticks.
But that’s another story.