Patria-Kaye Aarons | My grandpa
The year 2016, for me, like many others, delivered a swift kick to the behind. A series of unfortunate events made me think twice about rubbishing those who said leap years bring crosses. Personal, financial and business issues set out to either toughen my mettle or ruin me.
In one big last lick, 2016 took not only my grandfather, but also my boyfriend's grandfather on the same day, December 30.
Today, I want to pay tribute to my grandfather; a good, gentle, decent superhero.
Whether you called him Airy, Lucky Boy, Tailor, Ply Ply, Daddy or Grandpa, Walter Morris Aarons earned two things from you - your respect and your love.
The only son for Ina and Daniel Aarons, who also had five girls collectively, he was born in St Ann but spent most of his life in St Mary.
According to his sisters, Grandpa didn't like school. But while other kids played hooky to get up to some kind of trouble, Grandpa 'skulled' school to plant sweet potato behind the house. He loved to farm.
His love of farming was not enough for Miss Ina, who decided that if he wasn't going to learn his book, he had to learn a skill. She sent him to train with the local tailor. Grandpa was excellent at it. He had a keen eye for perfectly fitted garments and had a steady hand with scissors and a sewing machine.
But his love for the earth kept calling him. After his tailoring apprenticeship, he went to live with his sister Iris in St Thomas to try farming there.
"Pops, St Thomas is cane .. and cane work hard. This isn't planting sweet potato in the backyard. I don't think you can manage." That was the concern expressed by his big sister.
However, Grandpa was never one to be defeated by a problem. So he conditioned his mind and took on the challenge of working in the cane field.
He should have listened to his sister. Very quickly in the experiment, he realised that he really couldn't manage cane-piece work and packed up his things and returned to St Mary.
RETURN TO HOME
He did return to St Thomas, though this time to practise the trade his mother insisted he learnt: tailoring. Grandpa loved tailoring - and the ladies loved the tailor. That gave birth to his 16 blessings (his children): eight with his wife, Winnie, and eight with the women who loved him.
Nothing in this world was more important to him than his children. He believed that as a man, it was his duty to provide for them. Grandpa couldn't knead a dumpling, but he was going to ensure he bought the flour for the mothers to cook. No job was too big or small for him to do to ensure his children ate, taking part-time gigs as a bread shop assistant or a banana plantation hand just to make ends meet.
Grandpa believed that you should get up and work for what you want. It's a trait he taught his children; and they taught their children. He may not have liked school, but he made sure his children did. And he saw every single one of them through to success.
When the relevance of a tailor had diminished, Grandpa needed a new full-time income source. He saw an opportunity to provide transportation to his community of Dressikie. Problem is, he couldn't drive. My grandfather bought a bus and learnt to drive at the same time. Problem solved.
Skanky was his first bus. And nothing broke down more than Skanky. It didn't deter my grandpa. He pushed though the challenges and, over time, bought bigger and better buses. Every child in the district took Grandpa's bus to school. Money or no money, he would never leave you on the side of the road.
For the community, Grandpa's bus was their favourite method of transportation. But for us, his grandkids, it was Marble, his donkey. We all loved going to bush on Marble, with Grandpa's calm voice telling us the secret commands, letting Marble know when to go and when to stop.
My grandpa knew he was loved. We celebrated his life when he turned 60, and again when he turned 80. And there were no words left unsaid.
When he could no longer be fiercely independent Airy, he made his peace with his God and he was ready. He died where he wanted to be: at home, in his bed at Dressikie, just as the sun was setting on his Sabbath. After 83 years of sacrifice, and farming, and sewing, and love and laughter, and serving his fellow man and his God, my grandpa now sleeps.
And it is well.