Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Mina'kuatro na Lisayu: Matai Si Ukudu gi Kamyo


Mina'kuatro na Lisayu
12/18/13

My grandfather has a memory that would put elephants to shame. I imagine that he must have spent his youth eating elephant brains in order to develop his uncanny ability to remember what seems like every negative thing that has happened in his life. Good things fade and fizzle in his mind, they drip down his frame and never sink in, but a mistake, a slight, an insult, a lie, when someone has wronged him, those things become etched in his mind.

My grandfather can recall people who didn’t pay their fares when he drove a cab for a short period after World War II. He can remember people who cheated playing volleyball before the war. His memory is filled with family scandals over land, gifts that were never reciprocated and loans that were never paid back. Part of the reason grandpa has this personality is because he was the oldest of his siblings and has felt like he has given so much to his family over the years and not given his due respect. In a culture where people feel like we are losing the respect and the sense of mamahlao, those like my grandfather tend to feel the void the most.

I have lived most of my life with my grandparents in their house and I have always wondered how my grandmother could endure living for 60+ years with my grandfather, who has so much trouble letting go of things and moving on. But grandma was very adept at calming grandpa. When he would get into one of his moods, where he would get angry and emotional about something someone had done to him, grandma was so full of grace and intelligence as she would tame his rage.

The first Chamorro proverbs I ever heard would be at the dinning room table when my grandmother was trying to soothe the bitter mind of my grandfather. She had a collection of them and sometimes they seemed to work like magic. They would remind grandpa of what is supposed to truly matter in life, of how pettiness only leads to unhappiness, and how those who are blessed with much can only find happiness through helping others.

At the dinning table during these tense moments I learned sayings like “Todu un dåggao mo’na un sosodda’” and “Tåya’ apås-ña i yine’ase” and “Yanggen ñalang hao aligao i kinano’-mu, sa’ i minala’et ti un nina’haspok.” All meant to try and help grandpa see past the bitterness of the past. My favorite of all of these sayings was “Matai Si Ukudu gi kamyo” which she invoked to remind grandpa that those who seek happiness in material things will always try to live forever, but no one, not even the infamous Ukudu gets to live forever.

Grandpa would always calm down after hearing grandma. Not because he was ready to forgive and forget, but because he knew she was right.

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