My grandfather died Monday night, around 11pm in Georgia. My aunt and I were on our way to see him for the last time, but we were about half an hour too late.
My grandfather was born in Jamaica in 1921.
He has six children. Five girls and one son. In order, they are Shirley, Vilma, Lorna, Paulette (my mom), Angela, and Phillip.
For something like 40 years, my grandfather ran Lowe’s Woodworking on King Street in Kingston, Jamaica. He and his workmen built all manner of things, including furniture. This includes beds, shelves, mantles, etc. Anything with wood and they made it, the bulk of it designed by my grandfather on draft paper and with pencil.
In 1962 Jamaica gained independence from the British Empire. The first prime minister of the newly independent Jamaica, Alexander Bustamante, had his bed at the official residence built by my grandfather.
My grandfather had many of the traditional views of relations between men and women as someone from the era he was born in, but when it came to his daughters, he went against the tide. Not the greatest husband, he was an excellent father.
He had an amazing temper – I’ve seen it at full velocity in the woodshop – but when it came to his girls he was as soft as a down-filled teddy bear. My mother told me how he built a crib for her when she was born that was big enough where he could lie down next to her, and how he used to drive his girls to school every day, and hold their hands as he walked down the street – bear in mind this was in the 1950s and early ’60s when that kind of behavior wasn’t exactly the norm, even more so in a “machismo” country like Jamaica.
In 1982 my mom moved back to Jamaica with me (I was 3-4). My most vivid memory of my grandfather is this: One day we went to the woodworking shop, my mom helped him out from time to time with the accounting, and I did my usual thing and played with toys in the corner. Somehow the topic of toy guns came up and Nice Daddy asked me what kind of toy guns I had.
Well, my Mom didn’t believe in guns and so I didn’t have any. He was shocked, and angry — my grandfather is old school that way.
So he grabbed a piece of lumber and reached in his pocket for one of his pencils. He drew the outline of a gun on the wood, then walked with me in the back to the jigsaw where one of the workmen was.
He told the man to stop what he was doing and to right away cut out a gun for his grandson. He did, then Nice Daddy sanded it down and handed it to me as he muttered something about how his daughter was so smart but she was crazy not to have her son own a toy gun.
I have that wooden gun to this day, and it always goes with me wherever I live.
I love you, Nice Daddy.