Little Kids

“What is it, Tatay?”, I said as I look over my grandfather’s shoulder who seems to be in surveillance by our bay window.

“I’m looking for the little kids. Where are they?”, my grandfather replied, unable to mask his concern.

Since my grandmother died in 1986, Dad’s youngest sister had lived with my grandfather in their family house. Even when my aunt (who also happens to be my godmother by baptism) got married two years after her mother’s death, she never moved out. She could have, but no one would keep her father company when every one of her siblings had settled down, too.

It was Holy Week, about ten or so years ago, when my aunt asked Dad if we could look after Tatay Inong while they were away for the holidays. My grandfather could no longer stand long drives then; and he was old enough to be left alone in their home, so we offered ours for a-few-days stay.

I’ve always been close to Tatay Inong. I wouldn’t say I was his favorite grandchild, but I won’t deny the fact that I did feel this way sometimes, especially on Christmas Day. Every one of his grandchildren would receive money as gifts on this day. After dinner, we queue up in front of our grandfather as he hands out white envelopes to each one of us. Most of my cousins would open it right away, but my brothers and I would wait until we reach home to see how much we’ve received.

“How much did Tatay give you?”, Mom would ask as I hand over the envelope to her.

She would gasp upon seeing that I got more than my brothers (and perhaps my other cousins) had been given. It’s a good thing my brothers were too young then to even know the difference.

I told my mother about that strange exchange my grandfather and I had that morning. Confused, I asked Mom why could Tatay Inong be looking for little children when he’s in a different house.

As if she knew this was coming, she replied, “Your grandfather may be searching for you (and your brothers)”, with a hint of sadness in her eyes.

In 1996, we moved to a new home which takes about two hours travel time from my grandfather’s house. Tatay Inong had this habit of going over our house on weekends to bring food and groceries he bought on his way. On one occasion, however, his unexpected visit left him otherwise surprised because no one was home. Luckily our neighbor saw him and invited him over to their house as he awaits for our arrival. Since then, Dad gave him duplicate copies of our house keys just in case.

According to Mom, my grandfather may have recalled the same time he were in this house, only we were younger. He did not even recognize that we were the same kids he used to take to McDonald’s on a Sunday afternoon. It was our first-hand experience with the onset of his Alzheimer’s disease, and it was heart-breaking.

It was also the first time we’ve seen him in his most stubborn state. He was too weak to come up a flight of stairs, so Dad made him sleep on our couch in the living room. Our room and my parents’ were upstairs, so he was all alone. He had become restless to the point that he tried to climb the stairs to his frustration. It was already two in the morning when Dad decided to set up the airbed in the living room, and requested my brother to sleep beside Tatay Inong only for the night. An hour before sunrise, my grandfather eventually laid down and fell asleep.

Today, four years since my grandfather’s passing, I still remember him to be the most generous and most loving of all my grandparents. Never did I see him lay a finger on his grandchildren nor raised his voice in anger. I will hold on to this wonderful memory the same way he held ours.

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