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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Some Thoughts on My Grandparents

As a woman in my 40’s I no longer have my grandparents around. Both sides of grandparents have passed away, with the most recent one being my maternal grandmother who died three years ago. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone else but I didn’t really know my grandparents. While I considered myself close to my paternal grandmother when I was younger, I never really knew her apart from being a doting grandmother who loved her coffee and soap operas. I never knew my paternal grandfather and did not know my maternal one well either (he was separated from my grandmother by the time I was in the picture). In short, my grandparents were mysteries to me apart from being actual grandparents. 

I never got the chance to know each grandparent as a person: as a human being who was also young once and lived a life full of experiences I would have, in hindsight, been interested to learn about. Now that I am older, I am fascinated about my family history. Looking at old pictures make me want to know more.  What kind of childhood did they have? What kind of kids were they? What made them into the people that I knew when I was growing up?

One thing I’ve been trying to do to learn more about who my grandparents are is by looking back at old records to find out about their families: their parents, siblings, their own grandparents...things like that. I feel like the more I can find out about that, the more I can find out about who they were when they were younger. 

My paternal grandparents are a big question mark. Aside from my grandfather’s siblings and everyone down the line, I don’t know much about him: who his parents are, where they were from originally, etc. With his wife, my grandmother, all I know of her background is her name. That’s it. No siblings, no parents, nothing. I feel bad not knowing anything and now that most of the people who knew her have passed, there is no one to ask. It’s such a weird thing that I wish I knew more. There aren’t even pictures of my paternal grandparents from when they were young, which is something my maternal grandparents (or grandmother, specifically) can boast of having – another weird thing since to my knowledge my paternal grandparents were the more financially abundant ones. 

My maternal grandmother Nanay at the right. Mamang, her sister, is at the left.

Photos aside, with my working in the town where she grew up, I feel that I have gotten to know not just my (maternal) grandmother (who I grew up calling Nanay), but her older sister (who we call Mamang) as well. Whenever I meet people who find out who my grandmother is, I always hear about how religious she is and how she served in the church when she was still alive. I also often hear about how my work ethic reminds them of Mamang; the way people say it gives me a sense of pride because I can tell that they had such high regard for her work ethic and integrity. Sometimes people tell fond stories of them, and I appreciate that. While I wish I could have known these things from Nanay or Mamang themselves, the former was not really much of a talker and the latter was only the type who would tell stories when I asked (and I hardly ever did).  

Now that I am older and my mother is a grandmother herself, it makes me think about the regret I feel that I did not get to know my grandparents more when I was younger. I wish I spent more time with them. I wish I asked them questions – the right kind of questions – while they were still alive. 

How many of us can say that we really know our grandparents? I hope that kids these days, considering that we are living with a generation practically glued to our phones, can still take the time to know their grandparents. There is so much history to discover and so much that we can learn from about ourselves through them.  Believe me, when you are older and need to understand why you act the way you do, you'd be surprised to know it's a personality trait you inherited from someone in your family far up the chain. Plus, it wouldn't hurt to know your family medical history from that far back too. 

If your grandparents are still alive, give them a call (or a text, or if they are not gadget-averse, a DM). Say hi. You don’t know how much time you have with them left so it’s best to enjoy whatever time you can share while you have it. 
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