Four A.M.

Growing up I kind of felt like a Gypsy, traveling back and forth across this vast country of ours. Like most of my family I was born in the beautiful state of California. When I was five I was taken to Texas, where I now live. I was taught the importance of family but at a great distance. While 95% of my family was still in California, we were all spread apart, living in other cities and opposite ends of the state.
One thing remanded the same, no matter where ANY of us were, we all longed for the affection of one person, my grandmother. She was the glue that kept our family together, or at the very least, kept us in line. We learned quickly, do NOT let this little lady fool you, after all dynamite comes in small packages and my grandmother was the ultimate firecracker.
My grandmother taught me that there is a huge difference between hearing and listening. Listening to her for five minutes, you knew she had a life time of stories to tell. The wonderful thing though, even in silence, she could speak volumes.
With everyone pawing for attention and we being half way across the country, my time was limited to short visits. A week, a month, a summer. It really did not matter; we always made the best of it. In 1989 the visit lasted a year, and when school started, I got four a.m.
It started with a summer visit, grandma taking my brother, my cousins, and myself to our huge family reunion at the largest park in Stockton, California. At the park we were allowed to go to the pool. Throughout the summer we went to the pool on our own, taking the city bus, but when grandma took us, there was no silence. Oh no, not my grandma, she taught us how to talk smack to the players.
The Stockton Ports was a minor league baseball team but they were OUR team and grandma said they needed OUR support. So to the game we went, buying a Coke and a hotdog or popcorn. It was un-American to go to a baseball game and NOT get a Coke and hotdog, a lesson I passed on to my own child.
Screaming at the other team, telling the ump he needed glasses, those were good times, and the ONLY time we were allowed to say things like that without getting our butts tanned.
Soon summer came to an end and it was time for school. Over ten people living under one roof, with three bedrooms and one shower, fighting for time was a big issue. I had to be out the door at six in the morning to catch the city bus to school. I took my showers in the morning before anyone else was awake. Four a.m. was my time to wake up.
With sleep in my eyes I stumbled into the shower with my school clothes, having to dress quickly in the bathroom. Wet towel in hand, I walked back to my room to put it into the hamper and grab my backpack. As I closed the door to the room I looked over to the kitchen to see the newspaper floating over the table, my grandmother hidden behind the pages.
Breakfast was sitting on the table waiting for me. Grandma made what she made and there was no complaining allowed. I could complain but it would result in getting slapped in the face, breakfast taken away, and having to wait until lunch for my next meal. Like I said, no complaining allowed.
I would sit down, good mornings were exchanged and I would begin to eat. No other words were spoken except an occasional, “Will you look at that…” “I can’t believe they did that…” or “Well, I’ll be…” Grandma never treated us like fragile children but more like young adults so she would read certain articles and ask my opinion.
We never had “conversations” per say but I learned a lot from grandma. At five a.m. the rest of the house would begin to wake up and I would have to clear my place from the table and finish getting ready for school back in my room. It was everyone else’s turn to spend the morning with grandma before she went to work. We all had to share this wonderful woman but at least I had her all to myself at four a.m.

Max M. Power
Written November 24, 2008

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