Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chatting it up with Grandpa

I don't know if I was just born this way or if it was the way I was raised, but I have a secret fascination with talking to old people. I'm not talking mere card-carrying senior citizens. I love talking to people 70 and above.  I've yet to have the pleasure of chatting it up with a centenarian but I'd love to one day. The closest I got was in high school when I had to put in some volunteer hours in order to meet the requirements of a school club. While other kids were tutoring kids and helping at homeless shelters, I was wheeling sedated seniors around a local nursing home. There were no fun stories there. Just funny yet sad incidents of saggy old men walking around with their pants around their ankles or the little old lady that tried to make a run for it but instead got scared and started yelling from outside the emergency door. Fun times.

Maybe it's the ache in my heart for my long gone grandfather whose memory brings me to tears on occasion. That doesn't quite explain though, exactly why, since birth (probably), I would almost always prefer to hang out with my parents and their friends instead of going to play with other kids. If I had the option, I'd choose the adults. I could sit and listen to their stories of youth, recounting events that took place in their lives, most of them really funny or scary. It must be a Mexican thing or more specifically, people from the ranch life that have these awesome scary ghost, devil, evil dog, witch lady stories that frightened the heck out of me. My grandfather once told me that there was buried treasure under the tree in his back yard. We'd sit out there enjoying the summer weather and he'd point, "Ahi!! Ahi se aparecio la cabeza de una mujer y me dijo que habia tesoro." "There! That is where a woman's head appeared to me and told me. This is were the treasure is buried." I'd look at the patch of dry patted down dirt wondering if she would appear to us then but nothing. Nevertheless, I'd speed by that spot on my way across his yard and never pass by there at night. Noooo way! My parents, aunts, uncles and older cousins have tons of great stories that my grandfather told. I guess I'm just very jealous to be one of the youngest of his grandkids that didn't get to enjoy his stories as an adult. Couple that with my fascination with history and culture and well, you had me at "when I was a kid".

A few days ago, an older friend of my husbands (in his 70s, not quite 80) was telling a joke about a man picking up a hooker. I especially liked his choice of words. "A man picks up a woman on the street. Takes her back to a hotel. Has her way with her. When he finished, he said to her, 'in exactly nine months, you will have a baby'. She turned to him and said, 'in exactly 3 days, you're going to have a rash'." The joke was priceless. It's so hard to get old folks to relax and curse or tell dirty jokes around young folks especially us woman. I was giddy that he shared that with ladies present.

At my daughter's gymnastics class just last week, a tall elderly man wearing a cowboy hat, face rugged from decades of hard labor, wearing a jacket with a big "Hecho en Mexico"/ "Made in Mexico" logo on his back slowly strutted into the gym. I was instantly fixated on him. He was with one of the mom's I didn't really know. I had to talk to him. I struck up a conversation with the mom in Spanish so that he could understand as well. Moments later the woman's daughter started doing the "gotz to go potty" dance and off they went. I asked if he was visiting and made other small talk. Next thing you know he's telling me about where he's from in Mexico, how long he's been in the US, where the states are located in Mexico drawing circles and lines on the steps where we sat. The mom returned and tried to shush him thinking he was bothering me. I explained to her that I really enjoyed talking with him but she persisted. I chose to ignore her and kept asking Gramps questions. He was more than willing to continue the conversation not really caring to watch his granddaughter fall off the mats. (sorry kid) He tells me about a very old marketplace in Mexico where all the crops from across the country are taken after they are harvested. It's been there for about 100 years but after about noon, the morning buzz of the crowd is gone and everything is sold. I can't remember the name of the town even after I asked him twice. (I'm so bad at remembering names.) He also told me about this type of cheese called aƱejo they used to make in Durango. They dig a hole along the hillside, place the cheese in there, cover it with a tarp, and bury it for roughly twelve months. After a year, a distinct cheesy smell starts to creep into the air and that's when they know it's ready. They don't make this cheese anymore since most of the younger generations chose to leave the small towns and traditions behind in search of a better living and more money across the border. Long gone are the days of horseback riding, burros, and neighbors helping neighbors. He lamented the passing of time and the good ole' days. Now the drug war and drug lords have taken over these norther territories and made people scared to visit or live there.

We can learn quite a bit about ourselves and society by talking to people that are blessed to be living long lives. Just imagine what they have seen in a 70 year span---a few wars, defeated presidents, natural disasters, encounters with famous people, or perhaps they themselves did something adventurous. You never know until you ask. Everyone has an interesting story to tell and older people have simply had more experiences with the passing of time. I want to hear them all.

What about you? Do you have an interesting story to tell? Did you ever do something wildly adventurous or fascinating that when you reach your silver years you will be recounting those adventures to your grandchildren or the perhaps to that nosey stranger sitting next to you? I'd love to hear your stories too!


  1. I always felt the same way, and it's weird to now be an elder! But I do have stories . . . and maybe I'll tell you some of them sometime! :-)

  2. feel the same way....our elders have the best stories and a lot of the times no one wants to sit and listen to what they have to say and all they want is for someone to listen in a conversational way and not to be overlooked as they often are.