I’m sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table. A plate of mangoes set before me.

Hmmm…this mango is surely sweet. A dribble of sweet mango juice flows down my chin and I wipe it with the back of my hand. I’m so engrossed with what I’m eating that I’m startled when a finger makes a quick swipe behind my ear.

I look behind me but grandpa is busy reading his newspaper, oblivious to the world around him. He is sitting in his favourite chair, one leg crossed over the other, swinging up and down. No one else is sited near me and I narrow my eyes at him suspiciously.

I turn my head back and continue enjoying my fruit.

Swish!

There it goes again, that finger swiping. This time it’s at the back of my head, touching my hair. I quickly look back, but grandpa is still reading his newspaper. His leg still swinging.

I carry on eating, but I look behind me out of the corner of my eyes. My focus is no longer on what I’m eating. I’m intent on catching grandpa red handed. Before I know it, the fruit is gone and it’s time to bring the plate back to the kitchen and wash my hands.

Lolita, the housekeeper, helps me reach the sink so I could wash my hands. It’s not easy for an eight year old.

I go back to the living room and sit beside him. It’s not even five minutes and I feel the swipe again. I quickly look and I could see the twinkle in his eyes now. I smile and hug his neck tight. He encircles me with his arms and squeezes gently.

I love my grandpa. He was the best. In my entire life, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him lose his temper. He was always jovial, rarely formal. What I always saw was his love for his grandkids. He would do anything for us.

He and my grandma had nine kids. That’s right, nine! And his grandchildren? There were 32 of us, ranging in age from 2 to 19 years old.

We used to have family vacations at the beach every year. Each family would have their own vehicle, though grandpa used to have a driver who took him everywhere in a jeep. When it was time to go swimming, it was a race to get a spot in that particular jeep. Regardless of how many other vehicles were available, a spot in grandpa’s jeep was always in demand.

However, as the number of grandkids grew, he realized that there was no way his grandchildren would fit in his tiny jeep. One summer, he arrived with a Jeepney that could seat 19 adults including the driver. 😂 With kids, he could practically fit almost all of us in there.

Memories of our younger days fleetingly cross my mind every once in a while. We are all grown up now, some of us even have grandkids of our own. Yet those moments will always stay in our hearts.

Grandpa’s been gone for more than twenty years, but I still miss him. There was no denying his love for all of us. Looking back now I realize that we were his life and joy.

When he passed on, it was the darkest day in all of our lives. Each of his 32 grandkids felt the loss. We were all adults then, maybe one or two who were teens, but it was as if we all wanted to turn back time and be kids again…racing for the prime spots in his jeep.

Last night, I dreamt of grandpa. And when I close my eyes, I can still see the smile he used to give us…full of love and some mischief.

I miss you, Grandpa. Wish I’d get a chance to hug you even for just a minute or two.

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