This blog entry is dedicated to my grandfather who passed away a few years back, Charlie Samuel.
I don’t know if it’s weird to write about this now, after so much time has passed since his death, but I’m sitting in the living room of my childhood home and there’s a picture of him on a table and it just made me think: “what do I really know about that man”. I know his name, I know he is my grandfather, I know he has three children, I know he used to serve in the army, I know his wife; Radha Samuel, and I know he died of cancer.I know the basic stuff. I didn’t keep track of the details and still to this day do not know (other than some things that my family has told me) what kind of person he was…what made him tick. I’m currently sitting in his house, well his and my grandmother’s house. A house they built from the ground up. A house where my dad and his two older siblings grew up. This was the house where I too was born. Where I learned to walk, to talk, to ride a bike, to start learning Odissi dancing. This house holds so many exquisite memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world. The one thing that bothers me is how many of those memories don’t include him. I hate to say it, but I only remember a few things about him. I remember as a child I used to steal his glasses and when he figured out it was me he’d yell and my grandmother would have to yell at him to not yell at me….well that I’m sure was frustrating to him. I remember he used to always wear shorts and a t-shirt, unless we were going out somewhere.I remember he was pretty much all bald with some white remaining on the sides of his head, BUT he had a full white beard and moustache! I remember him having the same thing for breakfast all the time: chuda (flattened rice used like a cereal) with milk and bananas. I also remember him sitting outside in his wooden chair reading something or the other. But amongst all those memories, I don’t remember having a meaningful conversation with him, and to this day, that’s something that really bothers me.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I’m not the type of person that outwardly shows emotions therefore people don’t usually know how I feel. When I learned that my grandfather died, I was at a video rental store with one of my best friends and we were picking out something fun to watch for our sleepover/chill night. As we’re walking through the store my phone rings, it’s my house. I pick up and my dad says: “just thought you would like to know that your grandfather passed away today”. His voice betrayed no hint of sadness or emotion because like me, my dad isn’t one to express his emotions. I have only EVER seen my dad cry once in my entire life, and that affected me more than anything else. So he told me what happened and that the funeral was to be arranged etc. Since we live in Canada it was impossible, actually more like improbable for us to come back to Orissa for the funeral processions.After hanging up the phone I was completely shaken and didn’t know how to handle it. It was when my friend asked me what was wrong, that I was able to say “my grandfather died” and then let out some tears. I knew it was coming, with him having cancer and the surgeries being unable to stop the spreading, but it didn’t make it any less shocking. But the reason that I cried was not because he was dead (I mean obviously that was upsetting) but I was more upset thinking of how my dad must have been feeling, for his loss, because in all honesty I hardly knew the man. That is when I started thinking about my grandfather. That was when I started feeling guilty about not wanting to know more about him when he was alive. Not taking the time to call or write to him to see if we may have anything in common. Not knowing if certain traits in my nature are traits that have been passed down from him.
I don’t want to make this blog longer than necessary, but it’s something that has been bugging me for years and since then I’ve taken advantage of the time I’ve been given with my other grandparents. Last year when I came back to Orissa (after previously having been here 6 years prior, but after my grandfather’s death) I took every opportunity that I could to spend any precious time that I had with my grandparents. I mean of course we should cherish any time we have with our loved ones, but I feel even more strongly about my grandparents because they’re older, and who knows how much time they’ll have left. I’m sure you’re all thinking “who knows how much time any of us will have left” but let’s not get into that! I don’t want to give any advice, but I would like to make a suggestion if I could. I would encourage all of you, if you have the opportunity to visit your family, DO IT! If your grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins live near you, GO VISIT! Don’t say next week or next weekend, do it any chance you get! If your family lives far away, SAVE YOUR MONEY and go visit! You never know what you can learn from your family. Even to sit with them and just enjoy each other’s company is a blessing. You don’t want to hear that your grandfather died and the last time you saw him was six years ago. You don’t want to regret not having asked him anything about his life. You don’t want to hear from other people the type of person he was and not be able to know for yourself. We may not all get along with every family member that we have, but we should cherish deeply and be grateful for the ones that we do. Because in the end, it’s always our families that will be there through thick and thin. They will always be the ones helping us to achieve our goals. And when we have finally accomplished everything they dreamed for us, they will never envy our success nor ask for anything in return.
To my grandfather that I never knew; “Dada, I’m so very sorry that I didn’t realize how little we knew about each other before you passed. I hope that you know how very much I regret not taking the initiative to sit down with you and just…talk. I promise that I will take use that regret to encourage me to spend timewith those who are left. I will never take for granted any time that I am fortunate to have. I’m sure I’ll see you again one day, and we can sit down and talk for hours then!”
I may not say it enough (or at all), again because I am slightly incapable of showing how I feel towards people all the time, BUT if any of my family (even friends) are reading this, I hope they all know that they each hold a very special place in my heart and that will never change. I am truly privileged to have you all in my life and I love you!