“How’s your lovely wife and your daughters?”
Every breakfast with Pops starts with this question. It’s the equivalent of ‘What’s up’, but very telling about an integral focus on the important people in my life. After this point, the conversation always forks in interesting directions.
After a quick update on my side, I flipped open my phone like a ninja and explained that I had written a post about one of our past breakfasts. I had been excited to show him. I hadn’t sent it to him purposefully to be able to deliver the news in person. I felt a lot like a student handing in the term paper at the end of the semester. A little proud, and a little unsure of what he would say.
He reached over and grabbed it out of my hands, he turned the screen towards his face. “The screen turned off.”
“Oh, here.” I quickly unlock my phone, and turn it back.
Pops methodologically read. He read every line. He read some of them twice. I got up, went to the bathroom, and came back to he seat awaiting the review. Another couple minutes passed, while he silently commented that it was really long. And then he looked up:
“Grammy would have loved this, she would love that you are writing.”
My grandmother, Phyllis Draper, who passed away last year was a writer, an amazing writer. She wrote a piece about dachshunds that is for the record books. My favorite is one called ‘Conversations’. She is a writer and I’m not sure she would love my poor grammar, but she would love that I’m writing.
My grandmother and grandfather were a unit. They both have gone to every one of the Boost VC demo days. EVERY ONE, always together. There is no one else who has gone to every one.
During our breakfasts, my grandpa still will smile while correcting my grammar and say “Grammy would want me to say ‘John and I, not John and me.’”, my Dad does it too, they both use Grammy (I call my grandma Grammy) as a scape goat to correct my English.
While Pops worked for the UNDP as the Under Secretary General, my grandmother and grandfather, together would go meet world leaders, like Fidel Castro and leader in 100 other countries… 100!
“What’s your favorite place you have every gone?”
My grandfather carefully considers the question. He weighs all the places he has gone in in his mind.
“You know I’ve been to 100 countries.”
He looks up for another minute. I patiently waited, owning the silence is something I’m working on as a human being, and I was genuinely interested in the answer.
“Bhutan I think.”
So I am admitting my ignorance here. I didn’t know that Bhutan was a country. I literally had never heard those letters aligned in that way. I can safely say that I think that was the first time I had ever heard that word. So I was a bit surprised. He had been everywhere in India, Cuba, Europe… I mean 100 countries is basically everywhere! And he chooses the most unassuming unknown country as his favorite.
“What was that word you said?”
“Bhutan. ‘B - H - U - T - A - N.’”
He spells it out either for him to remember how it is spelled, or because he seems to think I need to visualize the word to understand where it is.
“Grammy and I went there together once, and I got to meet with the Supreme Court Justice as my tour guide. He also took care of the king’s animals. His name was David I believe. It’s near Nepal.”
At the memory, my grandfather gets excited. He starts to use his hands to measure the story and taps the sides of his hands on the table and then points at me.
“Grammy and I were invited to this fancy party, and they delivered a specific blanket of cloth, that was customary for the culture of Bhutan. They all wore skirts, kind of like the Scottish Kilts.”
Pops, started to speak a little faster and more enthusiastically.
“Your grandmother picked up this piece of fabric, so confused and so nervous to offend the culture. And David noticed her hesitation. He said, ‘Don’t worry it’s easy.’”
“David takes off all of his clothing, revealing a tiny flap of underwear in front of us. And then does a very complicated flip of the clothing to put it back on.”
The time a Supreme Court justice mooned my grandfather and grandmother seemed to have never been a story we passed around the dinner table, not sure why we talk about how Fidel Castro still owes my grandfather $20, but the Supreme Justice of Bhutan mooning them never came up.
“But if I had 3 weeks to explore, I would explore there. There are so many hidden beautiful places. It was a different world.”