Summer of ’91, Part 1

Last Saturday, I went to my stepmom’s house for our Christmas get-together. We all sat down to eat, and then I had a phone call come in. Not wanting to be rude, I let it go. Later, I received a text, which I peaked at. It was from my stepdad to my brother, cousins, and me, letting us know our grandpa had just passed.

The call was from my Aunt Lisa in Costa Rica, and I called her back, and she told me the news. It was pretty heartbreaking, but he had dementia pretty bad and wasn’t able to do much without assistance. He would constantly lament the fact that he was still alive, and though I was happy to be in his company, I couldn’t blame him.

My son and I had the pleasure of spending a few months with my grandparents in Costa Rica a while ago. A time which my son looks back on with a fondness. 

When I was the same age as he was, I spent the summer in Costa Rica, which I consider the most memorable of my entire childhood.

It started in Dallas, where my Grandpa picked me up, and we took a train ride to Houston. I remember he had brought a few Nature Valley granola bars for our trip. He asked if I wanted one, and I remember being excited because I had liked granola bars. But instead of the sweet, chewy ones I was used to, these were brittle and rough.

When we hit Houston, we went to the airport and got on a plane to Costa Rica. However, during that flight, we were told we had to land and make repairs to the airplane. 

I grew up on a small municipal airport, so I was used to seeing the runways which had lights on the sides to guide the planes in, but this runway was lined with guards holding machine guns. All were lining the sides like lights facing out to the forest beyond.

The airline put us up for the night at a hotel. My grandpa and I were sharing a room, and he told me to “brush my tuskers,” which I thought was hilarious. The following day, I looked out the window and saw a large white circular pool with El Presidente written with black tiles across the bottom. I thought it was fancy.

We were given a complimentary buffet breakfast, and I remember seeing Frosted Flakes in a tiny box. I was delighted at such a novelty as a single-serving box of cereal.

After a short bus ride and then back on the plane, we landed in Costa Rica, which was the beginning of my summer.

When in Costa Rica a few years ago, I heard my grandpa telling a tale of the time he landed in El Salvador after the plane he was on was experiencing issues. There had been a recent coupe and the government and the guerillas had to issue a ceasefire to let the busload of passengers from the disabled plane through to a hotel for the night. My grandpa finished the story with, “It was the most scared I have been in all my life.”

This was from a man who had swam with sharks, fought people, and had a prison ministry.

“Grandpa, I was there with you!” I said. I couldn’t believe he was scared at the time. Many things from that day I had in crystal clear memory but I didn’t ever get the sense he was scared. I had told the story of the armed guards and when we had to land in El Salvador many times to many people before but had never thought to talk to him about it.

When I was young, I always looked up to my grandpa. As a kid, I was told by other kids I was weird. My grandpa was strange and eccentric, other people seemed to like him, but you could tell he also really liked himself. 

An eccentric adult seemed like what a weird kid would grow into, so I always had an inner confidence that I would be okay, and I attribute a lot of that to him.

Here is to my grandpa. He was many things to me and taught me a lot about life. He was a good role model and a good role model of what not to be. I love you and was grateful to be your grandson.

By Sam Watson

I'm pretty good at Microsoft Excel but a freak in Google Sheets.

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