My grandfather turns 93 today.
In honour of his life (and what a life it has been) here are some of my best memories of growing up with him and my grandmother. 60 years of marriage, 6 children, 11 grandchildren and scores of years later their story has inspired so many.
My earliest memories of my grandparents (who I call Nana and Papa) include those of spending nights at their house, which for all practical purposes was my home-away-from-home! It was the most exciting thing for me to pack up my little bag with my toothbrush and PJs and head on over to 34 Prof. Almeida Rd where they live. The actual sleep part of the sleepover wasn’t all that much fun. For one thing, in spite of the abundance of beds, couches and plain old floor space in the house, I was always squished between Nana and Papa in their bed. That compounded by the fact that the fan was set to “slow” (even in summer) causing the mozzies to feast on my little legs, that Nana used a wool blanket (which I’m allergic to) and that Papa occasionally went “hrrrrumph” very loudly in his sleep… some times the night seemed never ending! Still, after plenty of tossing and turning … I eventually would fall asleep in some crazy position! Honestly, I’ll take the fact that they kept saying “yes” to sleepovers as an affirmation of their unconditional love. Only dotting grandparents would put up with a wriggling, squirming (not to mention) kicking being disturbing their precious sleep!
As we got older, sleepovers got a little more exciting as sometimes my cousins would also be there. On weekend, we were allowed to stay up a little later than usual to watch a movie, often one of the family videos like Annie, Swiss Family Robinson and our favourite – The Sound of Music. Sometimes, rarely, Papa would join us and then we’d end up watching one of his favourites – The Song of Bernadette or Miracle of the Sun.
Prayer has always been foremost in the Mendonca house, but at certain time of crisis - such as major exams- Nana and Papa go into novena overdrive! I remember back when I was about to appear for my SSC exams, Nana mentioned to me that all would be well coz she was making a novena to St. Jude in my name. Now usually Nana is all about the Sacred Heart novenas, so I was touched that she’d say a special novena just for me. It was only later that I found out that St. Jude is the Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases! Still, I passed with flying colours so it was obvious Nana knew what she was doing! ;)
The evening rosary has been a long time tradition in the Mendonca house. I remember clearly one incident when I was very young; 4, perhaps even 3 years old and I was sitting between Nana and Papa on the couch. We had got to the litany when suddenly, to the surprise of everyone, Papa started laughing! As everyone turned to him in shock – for of all people, Papa was one to take prayer VERY seriously – he explained that he had just heard my replies to the litany. Apparently instead of “Pray for Us” I had been blissfully answering “Wafers”!!
I could go on and on about my “ Nana - Papa stories”. I have so many memories of life with Nana and Papa that sorting through those to highlight just a few proved to be a daunting task. Nana and Papa are pretty much everything to me. They’ve been an integral part of my life since before I can even remember, and even these past 4 years, the miles that physically separate us have not dimmed our relationship. And although I hope they know just how I feel, this is the perfect opportunity to actually say “Thank You” – for everything; for just being you!