The Impact of Grandad On My LIfe
In life, if you are lucky, you get to meet an angel. I called mine “Grandad”.
Grandad was my mother’s father. My heartbeat. He would smuggle food onto your plate if you looked like you wanted more chicken. He would give secret handshakes with money in his palm. He would make sure that you were not only physically but also spiritually ok by praying for his family morning and night.
I loved that man with all my heart.
I’ve met my father’s father. He was a quiet man, nearing the end of his life, who liked alcohol. I have no memories of him and honestly, I so seldom refer to him that I have no name to call him. He is not my “Grandad”.
Grandad smelled of Old Spice and goodness. Some of my earliest memories involve him saving me from some punishment I may have deserved or picking me up from school in his silver Toyota Corolla.
He was the man who raised my mother, my three aunts, me, my brother, and my two baby cousins. For all of us, he was the stable father and grandfather figure that taught us how to love ourselves, and each other. He is the man that connected personal development with human rights for me to see.
My Grandmother, Pearl, was the light and delight of his life. His precious “Pearl”. I had the chance to watch that amazing love up close.
In my life, I lived to make by grandparents, and especially my Grandad, proud.
2 Major Lessons Grandad Taught Me About Life
Grandad’s life was the kind of life that was an instruction manual on every page. He was a Christian who believed in Jesus, and truly and honestly tried to live a life that would be pleasing to his Lord and according to God’s word. His path to personal development was all about being more like Jesus and as a result, he lived the sort of life that reflected his devotion.
Lesson #1: There is no such thing as being “too kind”.
I would always meet people who knew Grandad. When they found out we were related, they would feel compelled to tell me a story. And invariably, the story would be how Grandad did something for them that benefitted them to that day. They constantly spoke of his kindness.
Whether it was helping someone out with cash while they were going through a rough period in their life, providing advice, or praying for them, each of these people shared with me ways in which he made their lives better. Not by being a rock star but just by being him.
Case in point is “Ricky”. Ricky is a man who has never appeared to have many advantages in life. He would do well for a while but would get caught up in something that would lead him to spend all his money, get in fights, or get drunk. But Ricky could garden. So, Ricky became Grandad’s gardener.
I can’t quite say when Grandad moved from just giving Ricky money to making him work for it through gardening but Ricky took pride in his work. And so, Grandad retained him. But then, something would happen. Ricky wouldn’t show up when he should OR would show up drunk.
And you know what, Grandad’s kindness showed up too. Ricky would get food, a glass of water, and tools to clean up the yard. Those tools were necessary because Ricky, at some point, had lost his own. Later, he would come to borrow Grandad’s tools to work at other houses.
Show, Don’t Tell Kindness
That for me was TOO KIND. Grandad saw it is modeling kindness for us to see. That giving, when you have clear boundaries about the most important things, isn’t “too” anything. It’s just kind enough.
I recommend Dr. Henry Cloud’s “Boundaries” [Amazon affiliate link] every time I meet someone who complains of being overworked and exhausted. Much of the time, those issues are caused by having poor boundaries and an inability to prioritize the things most important to you.
Grandad had boundaries. Some mega-boundaries. God came first, then Grandma, then family. Because he had a decision-making system, he could give and be kind, even if it looked to others like he was being taken advantage of.
His life was a constant reflection of people remembering him for the goodness and the kindness they needed that he was able to provide.
Lesson #2: The decision to do the right thing will cost you. Do it anyway.
For a long time, Grandad worked at one company. He was a simple man who, while supporting his wife and four daughters, very slowly went to a college to upgrade his skills. He, therefore, worked his way up the company, and did far greater than many had expected of him.
Near the end of his time there, however, he became aware of practices at the company. Practices that he thought were corrupt and dishonest. Practices that he was absolutely unwilling to take part in.
But corruption only happens well when everyone is in on it. So he started to receive pressure to conform, to take part, and to keep his mouth shut. And for Grandad, doing those things was not, and was never going to be, in line with his beliefs and his sense of fairness and justice.
So, he retired earlier than planned.
He made the decision that, exposing himself to the situation would only lead to potential retaliation by those frustrated that he wouldn’t fall in line. But he was absolutely not willing to do that.
I’m sure he retired with less benefits than he could have but he was 100% certain that he did the right thing. And he slept like a baby because of it.
I Lived For Him To Be Proud Of Me
In 2013, I was chosen as one of the two students from the Norman Manley Law School to intern at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). It was a HUGE deal for me. I had wanted to go so much. And when I told Grandad, he couldn’t have been more proud.
He listened to the news every night so he knew that the CCJ was the final Court of Appeal for Belize, Barbados, and Guyana, and the regional court in charge of CARICOM. He also knew that it was across the Caribbean in Trinidad and Tobago.
He had no clue what I was going there to do but his pride was the sun. Just the utter joy that, even if he didn’t understand WHY it was important to me, it was important. And that was enough for him.
He had been in pain for a few weeks prior to me leaving. And while he didn’t say a word in complaint, the fact that we could tell he was in pain meant it was serious. This man lived his life so his family, and especially his darling Pearl, his wife, would never worry.
So when he was rushed to the hospital the night before I was to go to Trinidad, I wasn’t going to go. My mother and I had an argument where she threatened to put me on that blasted plane herself. That conversation was borne of terror. He had always been healthy. And me staying would mean I was admitting that something bad, serious, horrific, and awful could happen.
My Final Blessing From Grandad
In my family, we don’t travel without blessings from my grandparents. Naive little me thought that everybody went to see their grandparents before they took a trip to have them see you, pray over you, and give you their blessings. It just seemed…right. So going to Trinidad without the blessing of both my Grandmother AND Grandfather was to me, madness.
My amazing friends, therefore, got me into that hospital. My flight the next day was at 2 p.m. Through their network of people (some of whom they didn’t speak to and wouldn’t but for the fact that I needed to get into that hospital) they snuck me in and I was able to see him before visiting hours.
When I walked into the ward, I first saw a man with a million tubes and wires, and a neck brace. I nearly slid to the floor crying thinking it was him. But the doctor I was with assured me it wasn’t and took me to see my Grandad.
He looked small in the bed. Hospital beds are apparently huge in order to fit people of all sizes. My grandfather was a slender man and the white sheets on the bed swallowed him up. When he woke up and saw me, for a couple of seconds, he didn’t recognize me. Later I would realize that he had been drugged for surgery, but that lack of recognition and confusion brought tears to my eyes. But a few seconds later, he smiled at me.
The kind of smile you can only give when they took your teeth out for surgery and they haven’t given them back.
A smile that keeps your lips together but shows joy.
And I spoke to him and told him I loved him. And with his eyes, he blessed me. Lord knows I would not have gone on that plane without the blessing.
An hour later, in the departure lounge of the airport, I would find out that the night before, when he was rushed to the hospital, he had emergency surgery. When they opened him up, they saw that his prostate cancer had returned and had spread all over. They could therefore only close him up and make him comfortable. They gave him 6 months to live.
I felt peace though. I was going to Trinidad for two months. I’d be back super quickly and then I would spend the last four months of his life with him. He was my favourite man on the planet.
Grandad died five days before I came back to Jamaica. This August 26 makes 4 years.
My Blogging Manifesto: Inspired by Grandad
Four months after his death I started my first blog, the snazzily titled Caribbean Law Blog.
I’m a ball of creativity when it comes to naming blogs. What can I say?!
Back then I wrote a strident message about why I blog and write about the Caribbean. I wrote under the name “Their Granddaughter”, an indication of the importance of my Grandad and Grandma to my development, sense of justice and fairness, and sense of responsibility. A message I still believe in today.
I know millennials are much more willing to work for a purpose rather than a paycheck but before I could even spell “millennial”, I had been raised with a sense of purpose and fairness that isn’t just generational but also cultural.
Why I Write
I write in memory of my Grandad who recently passed away and my Grandma who struggles to cope with his absence. I write because they are simple people of humble beginnings who have worked hard to put their children and Grandchildren in a better place. And that is what Jamaican and Caribbean life is all about. I write because they remember a world in which gas prices were low, people were kind and children behaved. And maybe that world really did exist. But it certainly is not Caribbean reality today.
Why I Blog
I have wanted to do this for a very long time. Put out into the universe my thoughts on Caribbean reality through the lens of law. I love the law. I love what it forces us to think up and work toward and protect against. I however feel that the Caribbean, and especially my home Jamaica, is being shaped by external forces without us giving much thought to the direction WE would like to take. Without making conscious steps to shape and craft a future that we can be proud of.
Why I Write
I write because I have been given an excellent education by some of the finest schools in the region and it is my job to use that wisely. For every girl or boy who never got a chance to, I write to ensure that perhaps their children can. I struggle with the privilege that comes from a middle class in Jamaica that shrinks daily and the opportunities that God has given me to do what I love. But I do this because I cannot imagine Jamaica in 50 years being prosperous without the cadre of young professionals that this great country has produced not stepping up and playing their part in advancing the welfare of Jamaica first, then the whole human race.
Why I Blog
I think the Caribbean is filled with brilliant minds who do brilliant things without writing them down for future generations. We don’t have a culture of writing every little thing and it harms us. The victors get to make history and we have willfully given up a chance to even comment on it. I don’t believe that the first time a phenomenon is studied here, it should be done by a white man/woman from “foreign” talking about how quaint “island life” is. We have reached the stage of our development where we can take over that work now.
Why I Write
I write to clarify my thoughts on certain matters I see in Jamaica and in the wider Caribbean. Definitions of the Caribbean are muddy and complex and there are several schools of thought. I write to show that no matter what we feel, there is an interdependence in this region that defies any attempt to narrow how we all connect. I write to make sure that people are told what is going on. That governments are held accountable. That other young professionals can clarify their own thoughts on Jamaican and Caribbean life. I write so that I can have a voice in an increasingly repressive atmosphere where you have to look behind you before you speak and look into the shadows before you write.
Why I Blog
I blog to make sure we don’t forget. This is a public record of all the things that make the Caribbean beautiful. And all the things that we need to improve.
I WRITE AND I BLOG BECAUSE I HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO HELP MY PEOPLE, MY COUNTRY, MY REGION, ONE WORD AT A TIME.
Join me on this journey.
– Taken from my previous blog, Caribbean Law Blog
A Tribute to My Granddad
He never saw me become an attorney, never saw me get called in Barbados and Jamaica, never saw me become the first female English-speaking Caribbean Rómulo and go to D.C to work at the Inter-American Commission, never saw me as I am today.
But I am me today, with a sense of fairness and the need to right wrongs because of what he taught me.
And I miss you, Reginald Ansurd Black. My Grandad.