A peculiar, interesting relationship.
This vacation photo was taken in a theme park, Busch Gardens, at Virginia in 1990 of September.
He is the only grandparent I have ever bonded with. Grandpa is from my dad's side. Everybody else passed away, before I was born. I was a very shy and quiet kid. (I come from a family, where we rarely, verbally express our feelings to each other. Instead, we show it by only hugging each other.) Grandpa did not really speak English that well, when he arrived here from the Philippines. Our means of communication was very limited.
Importantly, my dad petitioned him to come here. My parents called him, "Papa," thus I had a habit of calling him that too. My dad, a US Navy sailor, was stationed from New York to Texas, then he retired his last years in California. (Back in 1981, my parents bought a brand new house in Vallejo, California. Then, they had it rented out.)
While my parents were working in New York, Papa was my babysitter. At the city of East Meadow (about an hour away from the US Open, but I did not know tennis at that time), Papa stayed with us in 1991-1992. My mom took my sister to school, since it was the same route heading to her work. Every morning, during my preschool and kindergarten days, Papa and I rode the public transit to my school. In the bus, we always encountered a sweet old lady, who I recalled, "Grandma." She was always located near the left window, and sat three rows behind the bus driver. Every time I checked in and out of the bus, I always greeted and hugged Grandma.
Every time, Papa and I walked together, he grabbed and held my hand. A sign of being physically safe and emotionally secure. The photo pictured from above says it all.
(Papa stayed in NY for his job, while we moved to Portland, Texas. In 1995-1997, Papa reunited with us in Vallejo. Then, he decided to come back home. He no longer needed to babysit me anymore, as I was growing older. In 2001-2002, he visited us, since my dad also petitioned his younger sister and her family.)
Surprisingly, I have never been in an argument with Papa. When I disobeyed my parents, he would comfort me. He was my peacemaker. Also, he was always a huge supporter. As a kid growing up, I needed somebody optimistic, like Papa, since I had a very low self-esteem. For example, I told him, "When I grow up, I want to become an NBA player." Papa confidently answered, "Go ahead and live the dream." Even though, I never pursued it. (I certainly started playing better after high school. Thanks Coach Willie.)
For those of you who do not know me, I am the slowest eater ever. Every dinner time, Papa always told me his past stories and jokes. I enjoyed hearing them. Papa regularly told me, "Eat a lot of chicken legs. That way you can run really, really fast." No wonder, I have always been fast and quick in tennis and basketball.
Furthermore, he was a carpenter. He creatively made me something special. If only, I took a picture of it. What matters is I still remember it.
He cleanly ripped the tongue part in one of my worn out shoes. On each end of the tongue was tied to a rubber band. Then, rubber band was tied to wooden, carved slingshot. Have yourself a gift. (Bad news: Where's my slingshot? My dog ate it. I accidentally left it in my backyard. Sorry, Papa.)
Every weeknight, Papa and I watched the TV trivial game show, Jeopardy. He told me, "Try keeping up with the game show host, Alex Trebek. Read out the next form of answer word-to-word, loudly and clearly, and try to beat him if you can. Then, respond it in the form of a question." Surely, this has improved my reading skills.
After 2002, Papa currently resides in his hometown, Bicol, Philippines, to this day. 13 years later, he came to visit me and my family. He stayed with us for about 3 weeks, and he softly told me, "You are finally talking now, and I cannot understand your language. You talk fast."
This selfie (done by me) photo below was taken on January 4, 2016 in San Francisco International Airport. Sadly, Papa has poor vision. You can rarely take the best picture with him. Our first ever selfie together happened to be the best picture of us staring down at the camera. My family and I said our goodbyes to him, before he departs from SF to Philippines.
At the airport, I told 84-year-old Papa, "I love you, Papa. When are you coming back?"
He jokingly answered, "Once you get married."
I smiled at him, then answered, "I have not found that somebody just yet."
We hugged each other, then we slowly parted ways.