On this Father’s Day I wish to recognize and honor the man to whom I owe my life, even though I only had a short time with him. That was my Granddaddy, my maternal great-grandfather. He was the only grandfather figure I knew. He managed to give me enormous gifts during the two or three weeks my mother, siblings and I lived with him and my great-grandmother. I loved going to Santiago Elementary School, but time with my Granddaddy after school and on weekends made me especially happy, because when I was with him everything was okay.
I felt safe at my great-grandparents’ house, in part because my father was on the other side of the country. That time away from my monster and with my Granddaddy gave me a sense of safety, even if transient.
Granddaddy gave me pure love and acceptance. I felt it in my body when I held his hand and walked down the sidewalk, palm to palm. The tender skin of age and youth pressed together in a communion of the heart and spirit born from deep abiding love for a child. My granddaddy gave that to me and because of that, I have it in me.
My great-grandfather changed my life because he showed me safety and connection with his touch, with the wrinkles in his eyes, the softness of his hands, and the firmness of his fingers around my own. His heartfelt kindness gave me a tiny spark of hope, love, and comfort to hang onto.
Granddaddy was the one adult who showed me tenderness, love, protection, and a reflection of my true worth. Without these, I would not have survived. Those few hours I was with my Granddaddy turned out to shape my life in countless invisible ways that sustained me through unspeakable cruelty and contempt. He helped me be stronger than all of that put together.
My great-grandfather’s love, magic, kindness, tenderness, and steadiness became something I could hold on to. Granddaddy showed me my instincts were right. Part of me knew that life couldn’t just be hell; there had to be some safety and love in it. He confirmed that. Even though I felt some degree of safety with other people sometimes, there was nobody else who was so lovingly there for me. Granddaddy showed me we all need to be lovingly there for each other.