Friday, March 4, 2016

An Ode to My Grandfather, Charles S. Daniels, My First Storyteller

Good morning Facebook. Random thoughts popped into my head that must be shared.

1-Me at about 4 years old on Saturday and weekday mornings with my grandfather watching morning children's programming on PBS Channel 13, or Saturday morning cartoons (when they were good). He's in the kitchen frying bacon and eggs, with buttered toast and a large enamel mug of sweetened and creamed coffee that I will get just a few sips of. I was not in school yet, at this point, and distinctly remember everyone else in the house had already got up and left for their respective work and school, so it was just me and him those times.
2- A few years later, still with the Saturday morning cartoons. Around noon or 1pm, though, it was Grandad's turn to watch tv. The choice was either boxing on Spanish Language Channel 41 or 47 (Telemundo?), or whatever old rerun movie they were showing on Channel 7 (ABC) or 11(WPIX), which meant a lot of western movies, or Matlock. I would laugh when I watched Grandad's rapt attention to the small TV screen, feigning boxing himself, as we tried to decipher rapid-fire Spanish commentary.
3- We lived in The Bronx, and I was going to Brooklyn Technical High School. Any of you out there have a clue what kind of commute I endured for four years (in a two-fare zone, no less) will understand. It seemed like every month I found myself being excused from class to lay on a cot in the infirmary that first grueling day of my monthlies. My grandfather used to come from The Bronx and pick me up when I was too sick and delirious to go back to class. He went to the drugstore and bought my lady products.
4- Grandad was old and one year from dying of cancer at this point. But he was well and alert enough in 1999 to be a part of the family crew that escorted me to college way out in Southampton, Long Island. I have a picture of him with everybody else in the public quad area of my dormroom, outside the computer center, looking a little out of place, a shrinking dark-skinned black man whom I rarely saw smile. He was smiling and proud on that day.

2018 Update on his 101st birthday: In the midst of and beyond these specific events, Charles Daniels weaved a great yarn! He was a masterful storyteller, and kept meticulous notes that I find myself poring over as I work on a personal heritage project. It is because of him that I started remembering birthdates of my extended family, and tracing my lineage to four continents. Even when I wasn't certain whether I was hearing entire truth or embellishments of memory, I knew that I had a treasure trove of information from the stories my grandfather's oral and written traditions. My recent journey to Cyprus brought a lot of these thoughts back, and talking with my older cousin "Uncle" Walter D'Aguiar helped to fill in many gaps to the timelines.

The point of citing these distinct memories is that I want to promote and support the Men of Facebook that I know to emulate this kind of dedication and tenderness to their daughters, granddaughters nieces, step-children, any girl that you come across for a time, that you can influence with your authority, your love, your very presence. Aside from the 1st day of college, these were all fairly mundane days in my life, in his life. It rained, it snowed, he went to work, I woke up or went to school. But they will always be treasured memories for me. My grandfather had one daughter. I am her eldest of two. He had her over twenty years later in his life than my mother had me, so the age gap was pretty distinct in terms of parenting styles, but the values still stuck.

Credit where credit is due: this post was made possible by a particularly quiet and pleasant weekend morning, free from immediate pressing obligations and a full spirit. I attribute the manifestation of this from a Facebook status update to an actual blog post to two special ladies, however; my best friend @littlefootlady, and the awesome @Luvvie, for the gentle kicks in the pants!


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