Rainbows

Though this post has nothing to do with tiny houses, it is too awkward and long-winded for a mere Facebook status, and on a memorable day like… yesterday, I suppose, with the SCOTUS ruling, it’s relevant no matter what!

I have a story to share.

Back when I was around 7 years old (maybe 8 or 9, Mom would know for sure), I had a huge box of beads. This box had probably 24 compartments that held beads of all shapes and sizes in all the colors a little girl could want. I also had a ball of yarn that bled from one color to the next as you unraveled it. I would make figures and shapes by threading a bead and tying the yarn and threading more beads and tying another knot until the shapes became lizards and turtles and snakes.

The memories that I’m relishing today are of Grandpa Julio.

They start on a day when I made him a bead bracelet. I made sure to measure his wrist size with the yarn, give a little extra for the tie. I put the beads on, one by one: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, and back to red, orange…

I loved rainbows. Even more, I loved color. Colors in the order of the rainbow. I’d color anything in rainbow colors. I’d ask Mom for all of the rainbow school supplies, especially anything Lisa Frank. But on the day that I gave my grandpa that bracelet, I learned something about colors.

“What a nice bracelet,” he said. “I like it, but…” he hesitated, glancing at my mom.

“You can tell her,” she said.

“Can you make me another one, too? One that’s just one color?” he asked.

“What do you mean, grandpa?”

“I mean… can you make me one that’s not rainbow colors?”

“Oh, sure. Why?” I said. Rainbows are wonderful, I thought.

“Because, sweetheart, rainbows are for gay people.” I must not have understood. “You know, when a man likes a man…”

“Oh, ok.”

I must have made him another bracelet, maybe in all green. I do not remember. After that day, though, I wasn’t always so sure about rainbow colors. What did it mean, that rainbows are for gays? Why did they get the cool colors, in fact, why did they get ALL the colors? As the years went on, my understanding evolved. I didn’t want to be associated with being gay, though I didn’t think it was a bad thing. I was confused, but content to be grandpa’s cheerleader.

Jump ahead to when I was about 13.

My Grandma Rita had had too many strokes to be living alone, so she was in an assisted living facility. This was a special assisted living facility, one that looked more like a house than a hospital and had very few residents. The folks that took care of my grandma smiled a lot and said “hi” all the time. They were welcoming, always ready to please. They loved my grandfather. He visited every day, staying for most of the day as he was able. He had practically adopted the caretaker’s’ dog, learned how to cook the food they did, and helped them in every aspect when it came to making my grandma as comfortable as possible. In those first years, I remember my grandmother’s smile and nod as a sign that she felt loved and was content, even though she couldn’t talk or move at all. At the end of each day, Grandpa Julio went home, leaving Grandma in the care of the home.

May 2006 was my grandmother’s funeral, the first in my memory. I didn’t like it, seeing family so sad. Seeing my grandpa so sad. Missing my grandma. About a year later, my grandfather, due to a number of health issues, including a broken heart, was being taken care of in the same home by the same loving people. At some point, he told my Mom a story that she later told me. Then, in 2007, Grandpa Julio passed away.

I could go on about him, his life, how great he was, and so on. An infinite story. But this post is about that story he told my Mom who told me:

The wonderful folks that took care of my grandmother and my grandfather were Filipino.

A couple of things I knew: My Mom’s family is of Portuguese descent from Macau, China (a former colony of Portugal). My grandparents were both born in Hong Kong.

A couple of things I didn’t know: For some historical reason, the culture my grandparents grew up in had taught them prejudice toward the people from the Philippines. So, just like many cultures across the world, race and ethnicity were a barrier between people fueled by frivolous hate. Whatever it spawned from–war, economic issues, political issues, religious differences–it lasted within the regular citizen for much longer than morals and reason would have it.

The thing my grandfather told my Mom was that he had lived with this prejudice for almost his whole life and didn’t know why. When Grandma Rita entered the home, everything changed. He was unsure of changing his way of thinking in the beginning. Coming from his generation, born in the 1920s, it was hard to change his faith and his beliefs. But he did. Eventually, he felt a deep gratitude for the folks that took care of his wife and, later, him. He loved them. He could not have done it without them.

That change was the most important thing he could have done: Prejudice is nothing compared to love, and if love has a chance, it’ll overtake anything that comes in the way of abolishing judgement and hate.

In his last days, I was lucky enough to have a last special connection with him. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, he could only blink and smile. I’d like to think he was letting go of all his prejudices. The sparkle in his eyes meant he had taken back that bracelet I had made him.

Today, I wear my rainbow colors proudly, and hope that more prejudices can be forgotten everywhere.

Everything in life is a balance.

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