Grandmothers should love their grandchildren. Grandmothers should know how to knit sweaters and bake cookies. Grandmothers should have gentle and tender hearts.
Grandma Lola had none of these qualities. She was a frail, stooped woman who poked naughty children in the belly with her cane and laughed the scariest laugh when she looked at her antique television.
“Grandma!”, her laughter used to scare me sometimes, “you… you scare me, grandma!”, I would say to her.
“Oh, Marcos, my son!” she would laugh. “Life is too short for that. Come with me. Let’s watch this program together.”
I would sit next to her, hugging my teddy bear, terrified that it would turn into a monster and devour me. I was only four years old when my mother died, and then Dad brought home Clara, who became my stepmother.
Clara was no good. She only loved me when Dad was home, and then she forgot I existed. Because Clara and Dad worked, they would send me and my stepsister, Andy, to Grandma’s house while they were away.
Grandma Lola cooked the worst and most tasteless meals, but she fed us with love. Although she pretended to be a rough, tough and sassy granny, she had a lovely heart that knew how to love everyone around her. What a fool I was not to realize that!
“Have you seen all the chicken I’ve prepared for them?” she boasted one day after spoiling the chicken curry. “If you eat it, you’ll grow as big as a giraffe!”. And she let out that terrifying laugh again.
I was afraid of Grandma Lola until I was ten years old. Six years, that’s how long it took me to adjust to her cooking, her laughter and her bad jokes. But by then, I couldn’t imagine my life without her.
She protected me from everything bad like a mother protects her child. She saw the bad things that happened to me and defended me.
Andy and Clara hated me. They loved my father and wanted me out of their lives. So when Dad wasn’t around, they would say hurtful things to me and tease me. One night Clara didn’t even feed me dinner. Dad was away on business and she was taking care of us.
When I went to Grandma Lola’s house the next morning, I hugged her and cried. And with my tears flowing freely, all my fear vanished too.
“Oh, honey!” she asked me worriedly. “Why are you crying, Marcos?”.
I will never forget the love and warmth I felt in her embrace that day. It was the first time I felt so safe and loved after my mother’s death.
“She did what?” asked Grandma Lola.
“Clara didn’t feed me dinner, Grandma,” I sobbed. “And I was so hungry…”.
“Liar!” cried Andy. “Don’t believe him Grandma! He’s lying!”
“Well,” said Grandma Lola wisely, “We’ll find out who’s telling the truth and who’s not!”.
Grandma Lola went into the kitchen, prepared a big pot of her chicken curry and toasted bread.
“Eat!” she said, serving us both huge portions of food.
I was so hungry that I pounced on the food. The chicken was awful, as usual, but I was starving and ate it all in one sitting. Normally, I could only eat a few bites.
Grandma was furious that day. Her eyes showed her rage.
“How dare you and your mother do this to my grandson!” she yelled at Andy, who was barely eating. “What else have they been doing to you, Marcos?”.
That day I Grandma told Dad about Clara and Andy. But Clara faked an apology in front of Dad and managed once again to pass herself off as a “good” woman.
After that, nothing changed. The only difference was that I started spending more time with Grandma Lola and her friend, Mr. Tomas. He was Grandma Lola’s neighbor, and she took care of him after his family abandoned him.
Andy and Clara, as well as the rest of our relatives, made fun of Grandma Lola for taking care of Mr. Tomas and called her names.
“She’s sleeping with that rich and lonely neighbor!”. Clara said of Grandma and Mr. Tomás. “That old hag has no shame!”.
I felt terrible when they said that about Grandma, but Dad… I don’t know what happened to him. Clara seemed to have changed him. He didn’t care about anything that was going on around him. Grandma Lola was his mother, and he didn’t even care about her!
In fact, when Grandma got sick and became bedridden, no one came to see her. I was 15 years old and the only one who took care of her.
“You’re a loving boy, Marcos!”. Grandma Lola said to me one day. “You’ll see, honey, all your love and care will be rewarded one day. Kindness is priceless, but it can also bring unexpected retribution.”
Thirty-two years later, I looked at the piggy bank she had left me and remembered her shrill, terrifying laughter. Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized what a fool I had been to think she was a scary woman who would turn into a monster and eat me.
When Grandma Lola died, I discovered that she had divided her inheritance equally between Andy and me. But she had left me one more thing: her old piggy bank, which adorned the bookshelf in my room.
One day, I was cleaning the shelf when I accidentally dropped it. As it broke into pieces, I was petrified. Along with the broken pieces, on the floor were stones… shiny, glittering pieces… lots of them!
Am I dreaming, are they… diamonds?
Grandma Lola lived a fairly simple life. She had an old broken television set at home that she had been using since she got married. She had never changed it, nor had she ever moved. In her old house she had spent her whole life.
I sat down, cleaned up the broken pieces and sorted through the “stones”. I had read somewhere that real diamonds don’t tarnish when you breathe on them, and I was surprised to discover that those stones were…diamonds!
I couldn’t understand how they had ended up in Grandma Lola’s hands. That was until I picked up a huge broken piece of the piggy bank and found Grandma Lola’s note.
The note read:
“My dear Mark,
Thank you for being the lovely grandson you were. Remember I told you that love and kindness would be rewarded? Well, Mr. Tomas left this to me before he died. They are his family heirlooms that were passed down from generation to generation. He gave them to me as a thanks for taking care of him, and I wanted to give them to you as a reward for being my best grandson.
They will come in handy whenever you need help. I have always loved you, my little boy. I’m sorry Grandma couldn’t make you cookies and knit you sweaters like other grandmothers. But do grandmothers stop being grandmothers if they don’t do all that?”.